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Caroline Cole: ‘75 per cent of winning a job is down to chemistry’

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Confidence, chemistry and doing your research are key to successful presentations, according to the expert panel at the AJ’s recent Women in Architecture Masterclass

Architects and clients, including Marks Barfield co-founder Julia Barfield, creative director of Cathedral Martyn Evans, founder of Colander Caroline Cole and Natasha Wallace, director of HR at Hoare Lea, discussed their top tips for competition and job interviews.

Confidence was said to be one of the key issues holding women back – an issue which has also been highlighted in the AJ’s annual survey.

RIBA president elect Jane Duncan, who chaired the event, said: ‘Young women architects suffer with confidence to ask anything.’

While Wallace added: ‘Men are predisposed to be more confident in themselves whereas women are less so.’

But Evans said women architects were better at thinking about how people who would be affected by their designs. He said: ‘Talking about people comes much more naturally to women. We can tell the difference in projects by men and women.’

He added: ‘We need our architects to be storytellers, to speak to those affected by the development.’

All the panellists agreed that the key to a successful presentation lies in understanding who you are presenting to.

‘Find out who is on the jury and address the right person’, said Cole. ‘Understand that for the client or the jury the architect [appointment] is a means to an end, not the end in itself.

‘If your presentation is merely about appointing you as the architect then you are missing the point. Don’t just talk about yourself talk about them and their project.’

Evans added: ‘Understand your client. Developers have to understand that design adds value and that you can do that. Understand my language, inspire me, lead me and teach me.’

Wallace gave her tips on the best approach to presenting yourself at interview or when asking for a pay-rise or promotion.

‘Show that you are passionate. If you are positive about the outcome you are more likely to succeed’, she said.

An architect’s view: Julia Barfield’s tips for presentations

WIA Masterclass

  • Do your research. Find out about the judging panel and what interests them.
  • Write a storyboard to help plan what you will talk about and organise your thoughts.
  • Rehearse the presentation.
  • Time the presentation and make sure you keep to time.
  • Prepare answers to the questions you think the jury or client panel might ask.
  • Remember it is not about you. It is about the client. You are solving their problem.
  • Show relevant analysis and context.
  • Don’t tell the client when they are doing something wrong. Get the job and then you can talk about it.
  • Speak simply and clearly and avoid architectural jargon.
  • Think about using different mediums – instead of just using a powerpoint you could use video or models.
  • Smile, be yourself and relax.

A client’s view: Martyn Evans’ tips for presentations

WIA Masterclass

  • Tell me why what you do works. I want to know how you think.
  • Don’t tell me you do everything. Be honest. Show you can actually do the job.
  • Show me good pictures. Invest in good CGIs. Don’t show me plans and elevations. I want to be seduced.
  • Talk about people. As an architect you design buildings for people. How are they going to live, work and play in the spaces you are designing? Tell me about the people who are my customers.
  • Do your research.




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