Architects’ Presentations – Common Mistakes Part 1

We all have blind-spots, and the Architecture profession has many. How do we know? Because we have  sat in 1000 rooms and heard the same mistakes made by 1000 people.

If you can be the team that doesn’t fall into these traps then maybe you will win more new business.

Are we right? You judge and let us know.

CRITS are bad for selling

The crit system is embedded in the profession, and it is great for testing a design. But, and this is a HUGE but, it is totally, absolutely, completely wrong when dealing with clients. In crits you are taught to defend you ideas. Only by sticking to your guns will your ideas be fully tested.

This is a real story, and it perfectly illustrates how this doesn’t carry over into client meetings.

In preparation for a big presentation and engagement session on a very big schools project, we were practicing Q&A over a model of a school.

We asked the Architect. “This part of the building you show painted orange. Can that be another colour?”


There followed a short silence during which, had it been real life and had I been the head teacher of the school I would have asked the Architect to leave and never come back.

As a professional you bring your expertise to the project, which the client will, in most cases learn to value. But if the client feels they will have to fight over every small detail they will go elsewhere.

Imagine you chose a lovely new Audi in black and the salesman said you couldn’t have it in black because it looked better in blue. You’d buy a BMW wouldn’t you?

JARGON makes you look stupid not clever

This one is simple, and most of us already know this. There is a language we use to other professionals, and there is a language we use to everyone else. Forgetting this makes you sound foolish – like you have forgotten who you are speaking to – and if you are speaking to the client, that can’t be good.

I have never been in a vertical circulation space. I’ve been up and down in lifts, and I’m constantly going up and down stairs, so why would you use that term? Mostly because we forget who we’re speaking to, but it makes you sound foolish – like you’ve forgotten who you are speaking to, and if you’re speaking to the client that really isn’t a good thing, is it?

Another term that rankles is floor plate. Why plate? Because that’s what it is? But not to me. Not to an accountant, teacher, doctor, shopkeeper. We just have floors.

RUNNING TO TIME is just polite

You are asked to present for 30 mins. You present for 40 mins.

Well done. You have just perfectly demonstrated:

You don’t listen

You can’t follow simple instructions

Sometimes you get away with it, but isn’t that a bit like a child on a cliff saying, “I haven’t fallen off yet.” Why take the risk?

We once had a 20 minute presentation, and the first words the client spoke at the end were, “Nineteen minutes and 30 seconds, well done”. So why not get the quick win of being on time.

I think that’ll do for now. Love to hear what you think. Am I right, or am I being harsh?