Even though YOU know the ins and outs of your design process, the others on your design team may not! Your clients and the rest of your design team, including the contractors, trades, designers and architects haven’t all worked together before. So, don’t take communication for granted.
Remember– they haven’t worked with YOU– and you haven’t all worked together as a team.
So, how do you build communication that is the stuff of dreams? Communication that prevents mistakes and mix-ups, delays and dissatisfaction?
Don’t worry! I’ve got the tips you need to pump-up your client communication and collaboration 🙂
Set Expectations from the Start
Time spent at the beginning of the project to get your communication ducks in a row, is time well spent. Can I get an “amen” people?!
Priority No. 1 is to communicate that ALL design projects are fluid. As you know, things will evolve for a variety of reasons – some good and some not so good. But no matter what, you are committed to the BEST possible outcome for your clients.
In our business, no matter how conscientious you are, curveballs will happen. The granite countertop gets dropped. There’s a delay from the manufacturer for the perfect pedestal sink. Your favorite painter is taking a once-in-a-lifetime month-long trip RIGHT WHEN YOU NEED HIM!
It’s life. And, the way you roll with those curveballs and find even BETTER solutions than before makes you a professional.
How do you keep communication on track? Here are some of my favorite ways.
Seeing is Believing: How I Share My Vision
Each person on your team and each one of your clients has different communication preferences. But, when it comes to sharing my vision for the project at the beginning, nothing beats visuals.
Many designers use Pinterest, cut-outs from magazines, drawings and photos. I like to put everything into PowerPoint and compliment that with material and product samples. The material and product samples really help my clients experience the texture and the feel of materials I suggest.
Document Decisions: How I Ensure We Remember
Don’t rely on your memory—or that of your team and clients—to remember EVERY decision made during your project. It’s impossible. And, just like the old game of “telephone,” the real version gets corrupted over time and you can easily confuse one project with another.
I use my meeting form to document EVERY meeting. I also rely on PowerPoint, Excel, Studio Webware and good old email to keep the communication lines open and have the project info (including schedules, materials and more) at EVERYONE’s fingertips.
Experiment to find the methods that work best for your clients, but whatever tool you use, be sure you document plans and decisions!
How do I store these documents? I LOVE to use Dropbox and Trello to manage and organize projects. In Trello, not only can I upload all of the documents, photos and emails, I can assign due dates and responsibilities! I also find that creating a binder to leave at the job site with critical information is also very helpful to keep communication on track. Sometimes, old school is better!
Face-to-Face (or Virtual Meetings): How We Connect
While there is certainly debate over the percentage of communication that is nonverbal, everyone agrees that body language, facial expressions and tone of voice are all crucial to communication. That’s why I LOVE to hold meetings (they can be in person or virtual), so everyone can see my arms gesturing and experience my excitement for the project first-hand.
BUT, we STILL document what is said and decided during the meeting. I create an agenda and I also give attendees a notebook or paper with a writing utensil so they can take notes, create doodles or otherwise engage during the meeting. Afterward, I follow-up with detailed meeting notes/minutes and send them over email.
So, do me a favor, OK? Don’t leave the communication of your team to chance. While you’ll need to modify your approach based on the communication preferences of your clients and team, be intentional about keeping the communication lines open and flowing. My Return on Interiors Sampler is also a great way to get organized.
How are you currently communicating with your team? What techniques would you add?