Presenting your work

by Joe Gillespie — Jul 1, 2002

There was a time when presentations and interviews were all done in person. It still happens, but with the Web when you are looking for clients, the whole World is your marketplace and being 'local' hardly matters at all. If you are looking for a permanent employed position, you will most likely have to be physically present but you could still land that first interview from work you send in or show online.

In person

Of course, it's your work and abilities that matter, but having face-to-face contact with a potential client or employer adds an extra dimension - personality. Yes, it's possible to take an instant dislike to someone before they say two words. There are many reasons - they can be too overpowering or too shy, overdressed or scruffy, or it can be completely subliminal and instinctive. That's the way it has always been and, even with the Internet, will be for some time yet. The only good thing about such a situation is that it precludes a bad long-term relationship.

A more positive 'good' aspect is that you are in control - well hopefully. You have the opportunity to present your portfolio using your own laptop computer and with the browser that you know works. You don't have that advantage when you present in any other way.

You also have the chance to talk about what you have done, explaining why you took particular decisions and actions and to answer questions. Establishing a rapport with the person you are talking to can help reinforce their favorable impression of your work - and you as their partner in business.

Web sites are interactive. If you are working the mouse or trackpad, it removes the possibility that the interviewer might miss some vital part of your presentation. The fact that you are explaining as you go along provides an element of continuity that would be absent in a remote presentation. Use the situation to advantage. Given the choice between a 'local' designer and a 'virtual' one of a similar standard, the 'devil' you know is always preferable to one that you don't.

Online

With a Web-based portfolio, what you see is what you get. There is no 'chemistry' involved or personality likes or dislikes. You could be an individual working in a home study or a company with loads of resources and a fancy office - who knows? It's only what they see on their screen that matters. I have emphasised 'their' because you have to ever be aware that they could be seeing something quite different from what you see. It's all very well producing cutting-edge designs using DHTML, JavaScript and Flash MX movies. If the client is running Netscape 4 on Windows '95, you could have problems. If you are using a Mac and they are viewing on a PC, that alone can make a big difference!

More than any time, make sure you test your personal portfolio pages on as many systems as possible to make sure there are no nasty surprises.

If you don't have a lot of working sites under your belt, that doesn't matter too much. At this stage, it's more important to communicate your abilities rather than your track record. I would certainly prefer to see a personal home page that was carried out with skill and taste than half a dozen indifferent sites for real companies. It's not the sites that matter or who they were done for, it's how well you did them.

As your career progresses, it becomes increasingly necessary to show the quality of your client-base too, because that establishes your professional pedigree. A couple of sites for well-known companies, whether local, national or international, go a long way in convincing a potential client or employer that you are exactly what they need.

By mail

Another way to present your work is to send potential clients/employers a selection of your work on a CD-ROM. This has advantages and disadvantages.

The advantages are that you have virtually unlimited space and bandwidth and you can do what you want by way of a 'shell presentation'. Here is a chance to use Flash as a front-end, linking-off to conventional HTML pages as necessary.

Having the bandwidth means you can add voice-overs, music, animation – whatever you like, provided it leads the viewer into the work and doesn't just become a barrier that keeps them out. That is a fine distinction, but a very important one.

If you have any special requirements for plug-ins or even complete browsers, you can deliver them on the CD along with the necessary instructions for installing or using them. On the other hand, this could easily annoy the recipient. I know that if I was instructed to install an unfamiliar browser or other software on my machine, I would probably not go to the trouble. If that meant missing-out on an important part of the presentation, so be it.

If you do send potentials a CD-ROM, make it very clear how they should be used. It is surprising how many people provide a diskful of folders with no clue as to where to start. Consider also that a CD-ROM alone has very little presence or 'come-on' about it. Make sure you dress it up for the occasion.

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