Architecture School Presentations: 10 Tips for Success

The final studio presentation is the climax of any design school project. It is the time during which you will have the opportunity to discuss your project with immediate instructors, as well as a variety of guest Critics. The Critics will be of a variety of different professional backgrounds and many may even represent design or architectural firms located locally, or within other cities or countries.

Ensuring a successful presentation will involve the clear communication of key elements of your project, as well as an openness to constructive feedback offered. So, how can you ensure that success?

One. The amount of sleep you have the night before your presentation will have a huge impact on your success. You must sleep, even if just for 30 minutes. In an ideal world you’d get your seven or eight hours of rest, but design school doesn’t often abide by the rules of the “ideal” world. I can assure you, if it comes down to panicking while trying to finish a deliverable in the last 30 minutes, or sleeping – opt to sleep. If you’re too disoriented to successfully present, the deliverables will no longer matter.

Two. Dress appropriately. The final studio crit is an opportunity to market yourself. Even as a student it is important to present yourself as a professional, especially when professionals are there to review your work. This doesn’t mean you have to suppress your personality either, feel free to get creative.

Three. Speak to your audience. On more than one occasion I have watched presentations where an individual would speak with their back to the audience, projecting their voice toward the boards. It’s ok to take cues from your boards, but once you have taken that glimpse back make sure to project your voice where it really counts.

Four. Take some time to organize your thoughts prior to your presentation. Even if just for five minutes, take a moment to jot down the general outline of how you want your presentation to flow. Communicate the most important information and make sure you don’t get wrapped up in minor details that do little to support the main concept.

Five. When introducing your project, state the idea in one clear sentence. Your concept statement should communicate to your audience what the primary intent of the building is. Without this statement, your audience may end up feeling confused for the first portion of your presentation while they try to piece together what exactly you’re talking about. I’m not just talking about the building type, but what the architecture intends to achieve. For example: “This residential care development is a place for individuals with limited mobility to call home, where connections within the residence and extending to the surrounding community and environment may be fostered.” Clear communication of the project intent will be an important skill to have both in school and as you move into the professional world, as I talk about in the post 8 tips for preparing for a design interview.

Six. Ensure that the location of the development is clear. This information can be delivered verbally and supported by various site plans, diagrams, and site photos. The site, on a variety of scales, will likely have informed your design. Communicate all of those influences – be concise!

Seven. Take some time to explain your process. Don’t just jump right to the final product. Once you have introduced your project, discuss how you developed the architecture over the semester. You might diagram this process, show progress photos, and even prior working models and other deliverables.

Eight. When speaking about the final design, focus on the big idea. How does the idea impact the overall form? How does the idea influence the User’s experience as they move through the space? Do not get hung up on technical details unless they have a direct and poetic connection to the idea.

Nine. Conclude your presentation and invite critic feedback. Just as you offered an introductory statement to your project, offer a concluding statement as well. Wrap up your presentation in such a way that the conclusion is clear and the audience is aware that they may now begin to engage in conversation.

Ten. Constructively listen to and discuss all feedback that you receive. If feedback opposes your opinion this can be difficult, especially if the Critic is harsh in their delivery. Above all else, keep your cool. One of the most awkward things to witness is a student arguing with a Critic. That doesn’t mean you can’t discuss opposing opinions, but be smart about how you respond. It helps to approach debates with modesty, particularly as a student there to learn. For more strategies on keeping your cool, click here.

I hope these ten tips were helpful. Do you have any tips to add to the list, or any questions? Comment below, or email me at





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