I went to a conference the other week. A nice lady with a horrendous job title, something like 'business consultant', gave a presentation about dealing with clients. (What's a definition of a 'business consultant'? Someone who works with people who work?)
As you can probably guess I didn't think much to her presentation, but one part of it raised an important point. How many ideas should you present to a client? This lady said that you should never present any more than 12 ideas.
Yes, she said 12.
I have to admit that mouth was wide open, jaw on the floor. One particularly smug chap put his hand in the air and said, "Oh we never do that. I make it a rule to never present any more than 6 ideas." Cue lots of nods from the audience. "Ooh 6, that's good", said the business consultant.
If you worked for me and I found out you had presented 6 ideas, you'd be fired on the spot. Then you'd have to write to the client apologising for confusing them.
You see 12 ideas is way, way too many. 6 ideas is too many too. There isn't a magic number, but you should bear in mind that you've been asked to solve a problem - are there really 12 answers to that problem? You're being paid for your judgement, your skill, your experience. You're being paid to make decisions. If you present 12 ideas you haven't made any decisions, you've become a sales rep showing different options.
We have an internal rule to never present more than 3 ideas to a client. Any more than that is confusing. Any more than that and you haven't read the brief properly. You certainly haven't answered the brief properly. So, we say never present more than 3. But I can't remember the last time we showed a client 3 ideas. Usually it's 2 and more often than not it's just 1.
Sure, to present 1 idea you need a good relationship with a client, there needs to be respect and trust. And that comes with time. But please don't ever present 6 ideas. Go back and lose 3. Pick the 3 best ideas. If you think you have 4 good ideas, you're probably wrong. Go back and lose the weakest one.
And if you've got 2 good ideas. Please don't do a third one to make up the numbers.