Chris Howard Q&A

January 14, 2022
Chris Howard is an expert at bringing projects over the finish line.

“The three most important ingredients of a successful team are communication, communication, and communication. You can apply that to any phase of a project, whether it be the initial kickoff/briefing to client reviews to keeping the team members informed on deadlines.”

What is the first question you ask yourself before starting a project of any size?

How much time don’t we have for this and how can we make it happen. All that aside, clients usually do not have a firm grasp on the amount of time it takes for an agency to work through concepts, design, production and final setups of a project/event. It’s part of the project management discipline to collect this information and present it in a digestible way so their teams have enough time to create properly for their client.

What is your most cherished memory of pulling a rabbit out of a hat and beating an impossible deadline?

There was a client project that was a trade show booth that was hosted by their parent company. They wanted to make a big splash with what they had in the booth and continuously changed direction to what the booth’s purpose was and what they wanted the experience of the trade show attendees to have when visiting. At the last second they asked to have a photo booth integrated into the experience. We put together a concept, a process/rig to get the photos taken and connect that to the experience/theme of the booth and lock a production partner within a two-week period … and we were three weeks out from the actual show. The booth was a big hit with the client and the show attendees and led to the client assigning us the booth development project for the next year during that show.

What are the hallmarks of a successful team?

Communication, communication, and communication. You can apply that to any phase of a project, whether it be the initial kickoff/briefing of the team to ensure all players know what the expectations are for their given assignments, during client reviews to make sure the team is getting clear direction for revisions vs. having more questions come back, keeping the team members informed on deadlines, and how long other departments/phases will be affected if deadlines or additional rounds are added.

Do you have phrases and tactics you can share for how to delicately help a team reframe their thinking?

More times than not, it’s directing that team back to the one source of truth when you have it: the brief. If we’re losing our way, I’ll have them pick that up and see how it’s being addressed with our concepts/design. Another partner in this is the ITL/Account helping to play the client filter card to review and help provide direction to where we can tighten up our thinking.

How do you coach people to give feedback directly and not fall back on “oh that’s interesting.”

I haven’t run into this issue a lot during my career but I would approach this using the project timeline leverage in getting that needle to move, knowing that we only have a few days/hours/minutes left before we need to present to client to help get that directed feedback integrated into the review.

What do you most enjoy about agency life?

The talent that you get to work with day in and out. Being part of a team that can take a client ask that has nothing physically created, and be able to build out any from an expansive campaign, or even just a few creative components, keep me motivated.

How do you unwind after a long day of deadlines?

Love me some golf. I’m not looking to join the PGA anytime soon, but it’s a great way to get away from the real world for a couple of hours, as well as down some beers/cocktails with good friends.