Knowing how to present a project plan to a client is an essential skill for project managers in any industry. When it’s done right, it can land your agency new long term clients. When done wrong it can pour cold water on your client retention or acquisition goals. 

Acquiring new clients is a massive headache for over half of all agencies, so it’s vital that your initial project presentations go off without a hitch. Presenting a project plan to a client is one of the first critical steps of any project or campaign, and poorly presented projects can cause a client to lose faith and walk away before you can prove your worth. 

Read on for our top tips on how to present a project proposal to your clients — plus advice on how to present a project without being nervous. 

How to present a project proposal to a prospective client

A project plan is a formal document with a consistent structure and flow. For the best results, your presentation should mimic this flow. 

Here are the seven steps you should cover when presenting a project plan:

  1. Provide an overview. Briefly describe the project, including the required outcomes and why the project is being undertaken. 
  2. Review the OKRs (objectives and key results). Discuss major deliverables and expected milestones. What essential information should you get from a client before you begin a project? Consider this before you dive into discussions.
  3. Cover expectations and exclusions. Clarify assumptions and reiterate items that are out of scope for the project. You may wonder when do you show the client the price of a project — now is the time to make sure expectations are clear between you both.
  4. Present a high-level schedule. Use a Gantt chart to illustrate key steps and dependencies in the project schedule
  5. Introduce your team. Introduce the client to any teammates they will be directly interacting with, and anyone whose background can add weight to your credibility (such as an experienced subject matter expert.)
  6. Define communications. Ensure your client understands how you will collaborate. Include how they will receive updates and how to reach out with questions and concerns.
  7. Discuss the unexpected. Review the process of how you’ll handle change requests and issues when they arise.   
  8. Q&A. Wrap up with a question and answer session to ensure nothing was overlooked. (Read on for more info on questions to ask and expect.) 

Best practices and effective ways to present a project virtually

Due to the COVID pandemic, in-person meetings may be out of the question in the near future. Fortunately, virtual project plan presentations are an excellent alternative. 

Here are some tips on how to present a project proposal by video conference:

  • Choose a well-lit, quiet area and place your camera at face level.
  • Dress professionally and treat the meeting with the same formality as you would if it were in-person.
  • Use a headset with a microphone for the best audio quality.
  • Practice using the software in advance, so you’re comfortable with navigation and options, such as muting and unmuting participants.
  • Send out a copy of your agenda and presentation beforehand in case you have issues sharing your screen.
  • Outline any technical expectations at the beginning of the conference (i.e., don’t use chat, leave questions to the end, etc.)
  • Ask for approval to record the meeting, so you can share it with participants who couldn’t attend or go back and review questions.

What essential information should you get from a client before you begin a project? Top questions to ask a client 

Generally, before you’ve created and presented your project plan, you will have already discussed key project expectations and requirements with your client. Objectives, milestones, acceptance criteria, etc., are all typically communicated in advance, which leads to what is client project focus — ensuring that your client’s business goals are adequately addressed and transparency is maintained throughout the project.

But, there are some questions you may still need to ask during the presentation; Here are the top five:

  1. Who in your organization are the project stakeholders? Who plans to be involved with the project and what is their level of authority and interest? 
  2. Have you contracted similar projects in the past? If so, what hurdles did you face? 
  3. What are the most important features, deliverables, or requirements that we should always focus on?
  4. Is there anything about this project that keeps you up at night? If so, what?
  5. Are there any risks, obstacles, or other aspects of the project we haven’t discussed that you would like to review? 

Questions clients might ask during a project presentation (and how to answer them)

The Q&A is often a huge concern for inexperienced presenters. This is the hardest section to prepare for, as you never know what questions a client might ask. 

Client questions will often center on their concerns about what may go wrong. The more you understand their priorities, the better you can predict what they may ask. Let’s assume your client has a strict deadline for when the project must be completed. Some questions they may ask are:

  • How will you ensure the project is finished on schedule?
  • What steps will you take if deadlines start to slip?
  • What risks do you see that could delay the project?

By considering their priorities and potential concerns in advance, you can prepare solid answers to their queries. But what about those questions from left-field that you can never predict? 

Here are three tips on how to answer unexpected client questions during a project presentation:

  1. First, thank them for raising the question. You want to encourage your client to communicate and voice concerns upfront. 
  2. Ask what’s driving the question. If a question seems trivial or bizarre, ask what the concern is behind it. Maybe the client has information you’re not aware of. This also gives you more time to think through your answer.
  3. Table it for later. If you’re not sure of an answer, tell the client you’ll look into it and get back to them. Make sure to give your client a timeline for when they can expect you to get back to them with an answer.  

How to present a project without being nervous: top tips!

Client presentations can be nerve-wracking, even for experienced project managers. Here are our top tips for eliminating nerves during your next project plan presentation:

  1. Be concise. Try to make your presentation as brief as possible while covering all the key topics. The less you talk, the less likely you are to ramble, get off-topic, or otherwise let your nerves get the best of you. 
  2. Pause when you need to. Don’t be afraid to pause, take a breath, and gather your thoughts. Consciously slowing your breathing can help calm your nerves.
  3. Have a clear agenda. Plan out what you will cover. Having a clear outline will make you feel and appear more confident.  
  4. Practice. The more you rehearse before the meeting, the less nervous you’ll feel. For best results, practice in front of an audience. Request that your volunteers ask questions you think the client may ask. 
  5. Attend other presentations. Watching other project presentations can help you feel more comfortable with the process, the flow, and the questions that may be asked. You can also pick up tips on what to do and not do. This experience will help combat nerves. 
  6. Get comfortable with the setup. Spend time in the meeting room and use the presentation tools before the meeting. The more you become used to the surroundings and tools, the more confident you’ll feel. 
  7. Take care of yourself. Exercise, a good night’s sleep, and drinking plenty of water can all help combat nerves. 

If you still feel nervous after incorporating these tips, consider joining a public speaking club such as Toastmasters. These clubs can help you practice speeches in front of an audience, improve your skills, and find even more ways to overcome nerves. 

What to do if your project presentation goes wrong

It's a possibility that we never want to think about when preparing to speak publicly, but there are lots of ways that your presentation may go wrong on the day. Technical difficulties, absent attendees, questions you weren't prepared for — these are scary prospects, but there is a formula for how to handle things if they go south.

  1. Stay calm: The worst thing you can do when faced with a hiccup in your presentation is panic. Remember that this is not the end of the world — your teammates will understand that some things are beyond your control and that you're doing your best. Take a deep breath, focus your mind on what you can control, and find a way to move on with your presentation. 
  2. Have a backup: It's always a good idea to have backups for when things go awry. Make sure your presentation is stored on the cloud as well as on your personal device, so you can access it if something goes wrong with your own. Invest in a power bank to avoid unfortunate outages, and consider printing some paper copies of your most important points, so attendees can still view your takeaways. 
  3. Crack a joke: It can be awkward when things aren't going the way you'd planned but try not to take yourself too seriously. A presentation, while important, is not the be-all and end-all of your career, and getting too wrapped up in things going perfectly will have your attendees tense up in no time. When things go wrong, smile and take the opportunity to laugh at yourself — it will endear you to your teammates and put everyone at ease. 
  4. Be honest: If you don't know the answer to a question, don't waste time scrambling. A good way to answer is: "I'm not sure of that right now, but I will absolutely find out and come back to you with more information". This shows that you're not someone who tries to spoof their way out of a sticky situation: you're mature and eager to learn. 

How to plan a project presentation with Wrike

Wrike can help you create and present your project plan in a way that exceeds your client’s expectations every time. Our templates will save you time and ensure each plan and presentation is always set up using the same framework. Wrike Gantt charts make sharing your project schedule a piece of cake. Plus, our collaboration software allows you to store and share agendas, slide decks, project documentation, previous communications, and more, so everything you need to wow your client is always at your fingertips. Sign up for a free trial today!