Rachel Gertz – Wake Up From Your Project Nightmares

Frustrated? You are not alone.

How to communicate better and reach project nirvana

You’ve lost that lovin’ feeling.

It didn’t start out this way. In the beginning there was so much potential. You could feel the magic in the air. Now it has faded. You aren’t being heard. You question your own judgement. You’re not sure if all your hard work really makes a difference anymore.

You sit, alone in the office at 3am in the morning, wondering…”how did it come to this?”

Did the above scenario hit a little close to home? It should, since similar communication breakdowns are happening in creative teams everywhere!

Working with other people doesn’t have to suck.

As creatives we all work in teams; I, for one, absolutely love working with a diverse group of people. Everyone brings their own perspectives to the project, and the end result is always so much more interesting than what I can do on my own. But when conflicts arise, a team can quickly become dysfunctional and the projects start to go awry.

In these situations I often can’t find the right words, so the problem snowballs into something unmanageable.

the key to effective communication is being proactive

It should be a no brainer – solve the problem while it’s small, or figure out a way to prevent it from happening altogether! Up to 75% of projects fail, and most of them because of bad communication. If we all communicate better, the world will be our oyster!

With this in mind, the Creative Pulse team got together with Rachel Gertz from Louder Than Ten, and planned an evening of interactive learning where we would tackle some of the project “horror stories” submitted by our attendees. We got a lot more than what we bargained for…

The Event That Was Almost Killed By Irony

As luck would have it, another group made an error and double-booked our venue. We had to come up with an alternative plan—fast.

We’d organized an event about communication breakdown, and we had an embarrassing case of it on our hands.

Talk about project horror stories.

Working under pressure, the Creative Pulse team divided up the tasks: some greeted attendees, some tried to contact alternate venues, and some talked with the organizers of the other event to try to work out a solution. After a flurry of phone calls (and Rachel working her PM magic), we secured an alternate location and moved our event, while being hardly behind schedule. Whew! (Big shout out to Peter McLachlan, co-founder of Mobify, for his generous help!)


Thank you to our sponsors

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After a field-trip to the new venue down the road, everyone settled in with beverage in hand. We huddled around a laptop (projector didn’t work, so we improvised again!) and kicked off the talk.

Rachel, being her signature energetic self, kept our energy high and our creative juices flowing with her humourous slides.

Here are a few key takeaways I got from the evening:

    1. Team members are people too! And yes, that includes clients.
      Empathy will go a long way.
    2. People take the driver’s seat when they think you can’t.
      Earn their trust, and show them you CAN with confidence.
    3. Business goals, business goals, business goals. It’s one of the key things everyone on the project team should be in agreement about early on. Framing your conversations around these makes big decisions easier to talk about.
    4. People have different communication styles: Director, Relator, Socializer, Thinker, and they all have different “wants”. I find this especially helpful myself; understanding how people think makes it easy to empathize with them (see point 1).

And finally, the mantra that we should all memorize when clients inundate us with requests:

“That’s a great idea! Let’s see how much time it’ll take, and how much it’ll cost!”
(Of course, I hope you do have an iron-clad contract that spells out clearly what’s “extra”!)

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Photo credit: Kylie Mangles | Letterpress Bakery

All in all it was a memorable evening, and I enjoyed catching up with our regulars as well as meeting new people. I can’t believe how well it turned out, considering how chaotic the night began! Goes to show that with great people and great project management, we can always work things out.

Keep in touch!

Don’t miss out April event on Wednesday, April 27th. And stay tuned for our Behance Portfolio Review in May!


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Celia Chung on Twitter
Celia Chung
Celia is a visual designer with a keen interest in crafting beautiful and functional things. The list of "things" is ever-growing; so far it includes (but by no means limited to) websites, knitted socks, and ditties on her baritone uke, just to name a few.