Get That Awkward Team Member in Front of Your Clients

They'll Love Hearing From the Nerdy Expert Who's Working on Their Project

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Not everyone in our industry is a born communicator. It's common to find that the nerds of the creative digital industry are just a little bit uncomfortable when talking to other humans. But these are people we should embrace and show off to our clients.

It's become standard in the agency world to protect clients from the nerds' awkward ways by putting account people out front to talk agency-speak. Sent to the background are those who say "ummm" and stare at their shoes for too long. But the awkward don't always need protection.

My name is Darryl, and I'm socially awkward. I say "ummm" more than I'd like. I'm not always filled with dazzling, entertaining stories or jokes. And I've gotten along just fine.

One of the great differentiators between small and large agencies is that small agencies are more likely to operate like startups and put engineers, creative people and other "doers" in front of clients, even if they're not perfectly polished in their communication skills. This might scare the suits off many large agency-account people, but we've found that the majority of clients actually love it.

Marketing people on the brand side need to move faster than ever and don't have time for interpretations, layers of communication or "decks" that position everything just so. And with recently added social-media staff often leading the campaign charge, more people on the client side are awkward, too.

Creative directors have known the power of awkward since the beginning of time. Awkward headlines get attention. Awkward situations create humor for great ad executions. Awkward people help us identify with characters and stories as they are being told. But we often leave the awkward in the back room when it comes time to meet with our clients.

If you're an account person, find an awkward friend at the agency and incorporate him or her into your presentations and meetings. Bring some of the team that 's actually doing the work to the meeting. You'll find that having the creative, strategist or developer at your side will win you friends. You'll spend less time having to translate for your presentation the information that these people can explain easily. Imagine how much more time you can devote to moving things forward.

The result will almost always be spectacular. Clients get to work with the people doing the work. The people doing the work get to learn the perspectives of the clients. And the account teams keep everything moving, orderly, documented, on time and on budget.

This is the power of awkward: Awkward gets attention. Awkward is authentic. Awkward makes things happen.

Take it from someone who stares at his shoes too long: Awkward is awesome.

Darryl Ohrt is executive creative director at Carrot Creative in New York.
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