To make a presentation of any sort as effective as it should be, you’ll need to paint a vivid image in the mind of your audience, be they client, boss, or colleague. Finalizing your initial ideas, though, can be tough without some input from your client.

The practice that’s arisen to address this pitch stage is called “comping,” short for comprehensive layout, a step in the creation process that will allow you the liberty to fill space with a proposed design, only intended for the client to review. This template offers your clients a brief, cohesive insight into what you’re proposing, layout-, text-, and design-wise, and how the overall concept will play out before beginning to create the final piece. Then, once the structure is agreed upon, together you can determine the right style and tone for the final version.

Taking measures to include this draft will award you the opportunity to brainstorm, discuss, and rethink (in some cases) the approach. Mockups like these could save you time and resources while you focus on making something dynamic and promising — and ultimately helping you give your clients exactly what they want.

If keeping the client happy is the number one goal, showcasing the right images to reflect his or her wishes are a top priority. Test out a variety of images and play around with them; once the creativity starts flowing, you and your team may go through several drafts and experiments that require re-imagining and the occasional scrapping. As the vision changes and new ideas come into the picture, the right direction should inevitably emerge. Here are two dos and two don’ts for comps:

DO:

Use Colorful art. The goal with any comp should be to gain a larger signoff on an idea. Ultimately, it’s going to be the structure that needs the approval, but your carefully-selected images in the middle could help sway the balances in your direction. People are attracted to more colorful things, and you should take that into account as you plan. Find something in nature, or try out Shutterstock Spectrum for inspiration.

Use Infographic elements. You might not have the time to build out and customize a full-fledged infographic for a client when you first sit down, but you can still impress them with one that you downloaded as a placeholder. After the client signs off on the work, you can adapt the infographic element to your tastes and stats. Big amounts of data are more digestible as one graphic.

DON’T:

Use abstract art. Most clients are busy and know what they’re looking for, even if they can’t outline it in explicit terms. One thing they’re not looking for though is anything that isn’t clear in its messaging.

Rely on people. Stock models can be helpful in some cases to showcase an action or activity. In the case of most comps, however, they can be distracting and unnecessary. The models could be too attractive, or not attractive enough, or too old, or too young, or not what the client had in mind in one way or another. People’s tastes in other people is often subjective and hard to pin down. When dealing with comps, the idea is to eliminate as many distracting minor details as possible, since the exercise is about communicating a larger concept. It’s good to remind clients frequently that images in comps are “FPO” (or, “For Positioning Only”), so that they stay focused on the bigger picture.