At the Portfolio Night held earlier this month by Happiness Saigon, more than a dozen creatives — some just starting out, some rising stars in the field — had the chance to meet with some of the most successful advertising and PR names in Vietnam.
The rule was simple: Participants went through 10 stations, where they had two minutes to present their portfolios, one minute to discuss their proposed UNICEF campaign on raising awareness about the lack of access to clean water in Vietnam, and one minute for Q&A.
Many first-time participants said it was an opportunity of a lifetime to pitch “who you are and what you’re capable of” in just four minutes. “It was a tough challenge, but to be given some life-changing feedback by people you look up to in the creative industry was a great experience,” said Sandy Urpis, a 23-year-old art director.
But for Bui Van Anh, four minutes was enough to make an impression. The 23-year-old graphic designer at The Lab Saigon, clad in a black shirt, pants, and a beanie, wowed the judges with her “Skip the Ad, Skip the Trip” campaign, highlighting real stories of remote Vietnamese villages’ struggle to get clean water.
“Not everyone can easily access clean water just by turning on the faucet at home. There are people who have to walk a long distance to get water to use. For many people, watching 30 seconds of an advertisement on Youtube is too much and they just want to skip it as quickly as possible. But have you ever imagined if you had to watch a 30-minute ad? In fact, the 30 minutes you watch this ad is equal to the real-time it takes for many people to access clean water.”
It was Van Anh’s first time solving an advertising brief. Despite “the trembling hands that couldn’t even go to the next slide properly,” the Visual Arts graduate from NYU Abu Dhabi used her burning passion to deliver what she had to say.
“I wouldn’t have imagined having a winning presentation. However, I did learn a few things along the way to be more at ease when it comes to presentations.”
What’s her secret? Bui Van Anh shares with Vietcetera some useful tips other creatives can get inspiration from on making their presentations and pitches stand out from the crowd.
Build a story
Your idea might feel intuitive to you, as you have followed through with it. But chances are, other people feel differently about it. As I build the outline for the presentation, I try to trace back what made me come to the idea and reiterate it as briefly as possible. Then I try to think about how to make it easier for others to understand. It might help to use different kinds of tools (text, image, videos, gifs, quotes, etc.) It might help not to show your process first but the idea first. Think how movies and stories don’t always obey chronology.
Coordinate image and speech
When presenting, we usually have two tools at hand: speech and visuals. These two elements should work in tandem, not substitute each other. That means the speech is not there to describe the image or to do karaoke, and the visuals are not there to do all the explaining. What I find helpful is to use visuals to give an impression, something that is thought-provoking, something that people can feel in just a couple of seconds. And then, the speech slowly fills in the gaps. It is similar to how paintings and labels function in museums. Paintings wow you first, then labels add an extra layer of meaning on top of the impression.
Go on autopilot
I learned that I couldn’t organize my thoughts and speak simultaneously. If I have to, I will stutter and fumble for words, so I try to prepare as much as possible so I won’t have to multitask, especially when I only have less than 5 minutes to talk to the creative directors about my career AND my response to the brief. This is when the story-building I mentioned before comes in handy. A good story is much easier to remember than my messy creative process. I build my slides as hints for myself so I don’t have to memorize them. I don’t rehearse my speech many times but I go through the flow in my head as I do other things, like brushing my teeth or washing dishes, so that it becomes more internalized rather than memorized. Then I just switch into auto-pilot when the time comes.