A friend had just finished a proposal she would be presenting to a new client the next morning. After printing six copies for the people who would be at the meeting, she noticed that she had made an error in the client’s name at the top of page 1. Part of the client’s name was Cascade, but she had mistakenly typed Cascadia. The error appeared only once.
My friend got out a pen to correct the six copies and started crossing out ia and inserting an e. Watching her, I exclaimed, “You can’t give clients a document with their name wrong on the first page!” She said that it would be better to save six sheets of paper and tell the clients that she had made that decision than to correct the error and waste paper in the name of an error-free presentation.
If you were the client receiving this proposal and explanation, how would you react?
Have you been in the situation of either displaying an error or reprinting pages? What did you do?
I’ll give more details from the story of my friend after you get a chance to share.
Continuation on February 4:
I argued with my friend. I told her that making a good impression with a new client was more important than not using six more sheets of paper and some printer ink. I pointed out that people who were not at the meeting–and did not hear her explanation–might see a hand-corrected page and find it sloppy. She agreed, and she corrected and reprinted the six sheets. She admitted that part of her original decision had come from exhaustion. She had worked hard on the information, and she simply wanted to be done with it.
Later she told me she had a great, productive meeting, and the clients accepted the technical solution she recommended.
Since yesterday, readers have made excellent comments on this situation. I recommend reading them as an important discussion of the topic. Several people mentioned that my friend might have sent her material to the client electronically in advance. I asked her about this today, and she explained that she did not want the clients to see the material in advance. It was highly technical, and the client staff are not. She wanted to walk through the possible solutions with them column by column and row by row to make sure they understood.
She also told me that it was not a slide presentation. She sat at a conference table with the clients. This was the first time she was meeting them in person; the earlier meeting had been virtual. So part of her goal was to get to know them, and sitting at the table and reviewing the ideas together on paper seemed a better way than to stand and present.
Several factors affect the decision to reprint or not:
- The relationship with the client. If my friend had a longstanding relationship with the client, and the individuals at the meeting regarded her as a reliable professional, the error would be minor and reprinting would probably not be necessary.
- The frequency of the error and ease of correcting it. Since the error involved just one page, fixing it was easy. If it appeared on every page–for example, in the header or footer–and the document was long, she might explain her decision to the client as the sensible thing to do, with a promise to get it right in the future.
- The client’s expectations and values. If the clients are avowedly committed to saving natural resources, they would appreciate my friend’s decision. If they are focused on propriety and excellence, they would likely look down on a hand-corrected error.
- Timing. If there is no time to correct an error–for example, if it comes to light 5 minutes before a meeting–that’s different from an error discovered the night before, as my friend’s was. If you have time to fix it, fix it.
Thanks to all who commented on this topic!
If you would like to proofread more effectively–or to help your staff catch errors before they go out–consider my online, self-study course Proofread Like a Pro.