In the world of design, the opportunities to turn lines into beautiful images are limitless. Many 3D-design programs like SketchUp can make a design representative of the future space, producing projects that range from rudimentary black-and-white objects to realistic space configurations. However, despite your skills and expertise in 3D design, sometimes getting your client’s vision just right can be difficult.
This is why it is imperative to master methods that will help you establish a space for effective communication between you and your client. Consistent and productive communication will be the starting point and foundation for a successful project.
Today, we’re going to dive into 3 simple interior design communication skills that will help set you up for success in your client meetings moving forward.
1. Exercise Active Listening when Hosting a Client Kick-Off Meeting
Active listening is an interpersonal skill that means you are putting in a conscious effort to hear, understand and analyze conveyed information. Even though most people practice listening in some capacity, becoming a pro in active listening requires time and effort.
Practicing active listening allows you to show your client you're listening, helping them trust you more during the design process. Retrieved from: https://bit.ly/2fklmIf
Applying active listening will make a world of a difference when you are meeting with your clients, especially a preliminary kick-off meeting. The whole purpose of this initial meeting is to give your clients the opportunity to communicate their needs for the project and to gather information to help you grasp their expectations. Keep in mind this may be your client’s first face-to-face impression - make it count.
Setting the tone of the meeting by exercising active listening is a crucial interior design communication skills. Without fully hearing and making an effort to understand your client’s vision, it will be very difficult to produce a project that meets their standards. Here are a few check-off items to help you develop your active listening skills:
- Make direct eye contact
- Pivot your body to face directly who you are listening to
- Use verbal affirmations to let your client know you’re following along
- Summarize a specific idea to make sure you understand their vision
- Ask questions for clarification
These simple steps can help build rapport and trust between you and your client, making communication much easier.
2. Clarify what you can Realistically Deliver Based on their Expectations
Aside from actively listening to your clients, being able to clearly and honestly share what you are able to achieve realistically is a key interior design communication skill. Nothing is more disappointing than a business promising services that they can’t deliver on. And the confusion sometimes comes from a misunderstanding of what you are committing to as the designer.
Your clients may not have a robust understanding of what it takes to produce their vision. What seems like a simple process of drawing objects and placing them in a space actually requires countless hours of tedious work from professional interior designers.
One tip we like to share with interior designers is to incorporate VR into their meetings with clients. Bringing in previous VR projects that highlight your design skills during the initial kick-off meeting could reinforce your client’s confidence in your expertise. Plus, it gives them the opportunity to point to places in your earlier designs for a “just like that” or “something similar to that” comment, helping you get a better idea of what they are hoping for. VR gives a greater sense of size and scale, and takes the ambiguity out of terms like “contemporary” or “elegant” so you can have a deeper conversation.
Bringing VR into your client meetings gives you a whole new way of effective communication with your clients.
Another way to use VR during client-facing meetings is to give a temperature check in between iterations of your client’s design with VR. We made this process much easier for interior designers with our free plugins that are compatible with various 3D design platforms like SketchUp, Revit, CET Designer, and Rhino. The plugins help designers create and stitch together a cubemap, ready to be viewed in VR. Not only can these steps be seamlessly integrated into any designer’s workflow, but bringing a “status report” to every meeting helps your clients understand where progress is at, as well as get their honest and concise feedback for necessary changes.
3. Outline Clear Deliverables
Although it might not always be feasible, giving your clients a working timeline from the get-go is our last tip to help you develop strong communication skills in interior design. With various projects pouring in, it can be difficult keeping up with a distinct timeline. However, having a general outline of what your clients can expect during this process will help you manage their expectations for their project.
Now, this may seem like a completely unreasonable task since there is a myriad of factors that could derail a project at any time. Plus, we understand the concern that constantly changing the projected timeline could affect the rapport established between you and your client. Although you may be apprehensive about defining dates for when certain tasks would be completed, there are key benefits to consider.
For one, setting clear deliverables helps your clients understand the design process better. Anyone without a background in design can take for granted the amount of time and expertise it takes for a designer to complete a project. Although the design process is now almost exclusively dependent on machines, it still requires the human touch and eye for design to execute projects that are above rudimentary. While this timeline mostly benefits your client, setting clear objectives can also help you stay on track with the project. As much as deadlines can be stressful, having key targets is necessary to keep the project moving and ensuring you are making room for the next project.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
At the end of the day, developing interior design communication skills takes time, and if you are reading this post, wanting to improve is a great place to start. If there’s one thing you must take away from this post is that starting a project on the right foot by encouraging a space for effective communication is of utmost importance. We’re definitely not advising you to talk more -- this could produce the adverse effect of an annoyed client. Having great interior design communication skills means knowing when to listen and when to speak. Honing these skills will be the heart and soul for starting and finishing a project well.
If you’re interested in kickstarting your VR journey, click here to discover all you need to know about using VR for business. To bring VR into your next client-facing meeting, sign up for our free 30-day free trial to show rather than tell your design story.