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5 Top Tips to Presenting Your Work (For Architecture Students)

If you don’t have prior experience to public speaking or presenting your work in school or college, it can be really tough to be thrust into an environment where presenting your work is key to getting your work across.

Whether or not it’s in your architectural journey, these few tips can also apply to other fields and degree’s at university. Presenting your work is important when explaining it to other peers or tutors and lecturers. Doing this in a good way can help them better understand your work and show that you are passionate about it.

The following 5 tips aren’t obligatory for each and every person, but they can help you present better. They also aren’t the only ways of getting better at presenting, you can look at YouTube videos and other articles till you feel confident enough to present or until you start seeing results.

1. Be prepared – even for the feedback

In order to actually present, you need to do the work. Without it, you essentially have nothing to present. So, first things first make sure you have all your work in order, make sure you completed your list of tasks.

Keeping your presentation long can bore the critics and confuse them. If you want to get feedback on one particular thing, focus your presentation around the work related to that. On the other hand, it’s also good to have key pages that give context about your project.

Make sure you take the time to prepare what pages and work you want to display. You can even practice beforehand so you know which direction the presentation will go in.

Another important tip is to try and put up well presented work. Of course there is nothing wrong with showing your works-in-progress but for bigger crits, it can be better to have finished work. This is simply so that the critics aren’t busy pointing out mistakes or flaws in your ongoing work and can instead, focus on the work you want advice for.

It’s also a matter of showing your organisational skills and how much you value your own work. Passion can really come through when all your work is pinned up on a wall. By being spread out you can clearly see whether or not there is a theme or an interest in something such as photography or maps. Keeping your work up to a standard that you think is acceptable means that later on you won’t be wasting time ‘fixing’ things and re-printing pages.

Additionally, you need to be prepared for the feedback. Some tutors can be harsher than others and sometimes this isn’t a bad thing. It can help you to get back on track if it’s not going that well. So, go into a crit with an open mind and try and understand why they may or may not like your work.

You also need to realise that some people have good and bad crits. It happens. Yes, you will want to give up or question everything your tutors may have said, but later on you might even realise and understand what they were talking about. After your crit, take some time to evaluate your work while it’s still on the wall and try and distance yourself from it. If you were a critic, looking at this work, would you be able to understand without any explanation what the project may be about?

Tip: Take a photo of your work pinned up. You can refer back to it in future tutorials or even use it as a guideline for other crits. Each crit then becomes a lesson. If you didn’t refer to one of your pages maybe it’s not needed. On the other hand, if there was something you wanted to put up to explain but you didn’t, try and include that next time.

2. Organise your work

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Logistically, it’s also important to keep your work sorted. In architecture you will soon learn that the printers, as amazing as they are, can get overcrowded which means if you leave it till the morning of, there’s a good chance your work won’t be printed.

Obviously with deadlines, you want to work till the last minute, and for some people this can work and if you’re lucky you can most definitely figure out a way to get all your work sorted. But it’s a good habit to be prepared beforehand and it can be useful in the future.

So, make sure you have your work ready, in the best shape it can be, and that you know how you’re going to present, whether its on a table or pinning up your work. For the latter, you will need other items such as pins or masking tape but also you need to make sure you pin up the right amount of work as well as the right work.

For your crit, get all your pages sorted in order, clip them together and keep them at the start of your portfolio. If you can, try and do this the night before. It will make things so much easier on the day because there may be unforeseen things happening around you such as a cancellation or the person who was before you didn’t show up. This way you’re not wasting time sorting out your pages at the last minute.

Also, if you have made a list, try and make sure you have completed it. If you haven’t don’t worry and don’t take it hugely seriously, unless it’s the one thing you were supposed to do. You can always explain this to the critics and let them know what you have planned to do next.

3. Write what you want to say

Again, if you’re not too good with presenting, or if English isn’t your first language, it can be a great help to write out what you want to say in your sketchbook. If you get nervous, you can refer to your notes and carry on presenting.

This doesn’t have to be word for word of what you want to say because you don’t want to be glued to your notes and read like a robot. Think of it as a process to let you curate the best set of words that will help you, not speak for you. It also doesn’t need to take an hour of your time. Setting aside 15 or 20 minutes before your presentation can help keep it fresh in your mind and not take up too much of your time.

This method also depends on the way in which you learn best. Small concise notes or even one-word bullet point lists can help remind someone what the overall topic of a couple of sentences may be whereas others might need a phrase or a starting sentence to get them going.

Also, you will begin to notice that as time goes by, you may not even need to write down what you want to say. After all, it is your project, and the more time you spend on it the more familiar you become. Essentially you’re simply explaining your project and some of the decisions you decided to make.

A good question you can ask yourself whilst designing is ‘why should I design it like this?’. For example, if you wanted to have a large window on the east side of your building instead of the north, why do you want it that way? The answer doesn’t need to be complicated; it can simply be for allowing natural light in the building, making it that much more ‘sustainable’ and having it in that particular space can be good for the room.

This also means, when you are asked why you have designed something in a particular way, you have an answer ready. It can be really easy to fall prey to designing things because of aesthetic or just because you don’t know what else to do, so giving yourself a design check can be great and can help you not look unprepared when presenting.

4. Be clear and confident

A big problem we’ve noticed in architecture school is that during presentations, you can barely hear a word of what the person is saying. This doesn’t necessarily mean the person themselves is underprepared or not passionate about their project, but it means the audience will not engage and will most likely ignore what you are trying to say.

In some ways, this can be helped with your visuals. If you work is striking or you have multiple models you can pass around, it allows the audience to take more interest in your work.

Usually, during a crit, as well as guest critics, you will most likely have a handful of your peers also learning about your work. So, when you are presenting, make sure your voice reaches the back of the space. You don’t need to shout, but if you have some confidence, it will show through and could even attract others to your presentation.

Confidence can be difficult for some people. If you have tutors or critics you know that can be a bit harsh, don’t let it affect you too much. They are telling you their opinion of something so if anything, try and make it a learning experience. If you feel they are saying something you have shown and done, wait and let them know.

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Obviously, this takes a lot of time and practice. You could start off by discussing your projects with your friends and telling them about it, a bit like a mini presentation. Around your friends you will be a bit more confident and relaxed, so when you go and present, act like you’re talking to your friends.

If none of this works for you, there are many articles, videos and tutorials online to help you with public speaking. Remember it takes time and if it doesn’t come to you naturally, that’s okay.

TEDTalks are great, even if the topic doesn’t apply, just observe the way these people talk and present. Here’s a great one by Danish Dhamami:

How I Overcame My Fear of Public Speaking – Danish Dhamani

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=80UVjkcxGmA

Another good habit is not to fidget too much during your tutorial or crit. Having water is fine, but any snacks or chewing gum can be a distraction for yourself as well as the person in front of you.

If you can, get a friend to help you take notes during your crit. It can be hard to listen and write the feedback you get, and present on top of it. This way your hands will be free and you will be less focused on writing things down and more on presenting.

5. See it as a learning curve

By now, you kind of get the general idea for presenting work. You may have also realised that presenting your work as a whole is a crucial part of being an architect. The audience simply changes.

It’s important that you see presenting as a key aspect of the design process too. If you just ignore any feedback and carry on with your work, it won’t really get you anywhere and this practice is put in place to benefit everyone.

You will also have to accept that sometimes you do have bad presentations, in terms of the feedback. It might feel like you did everything necessary in order to have an amazing presentation, but the comments you received either didn’t help you, or were mostly negative. If you let yourself be affected in the wrong way, you might not feel like presenting well the next time round.

Of course, there will be some good and bad to each presentation and each one is unique and linked to the stage you’re at. Some may be more important than others but the central idea is that you need to convince the person in front of you that your design is great, that you’re passionate about it and you want to get some feedback and inspiration so that you can make it even better.

Tip: Watch other crits if you can. Not just the ones limited to your unit either. Even though each unit has a different brief, their ideas, drawings or methods might seem appealing to you. It can aslo be good to gauge how other’s present. Notice the work they have put up, how much, which drawing etc.

It can be a very informative process to watch another crit. Try and listen to the kinds of questions some tutors or critics might ask. This can help you be more prepared for future crits and similar questions. Finally, remember that these steps aren’t set in stone, but simply there as small tips that can make your presenting skills even better.

If you have any tips you could suggest for architecture students, leave a comment below so we can all learn from one another. Follow us on Instagram too @to.scale

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