By now, laptops are common at presale design meetings. Modeling software makes it easy to help the customer see what they're buying. Designer Joe Dellano extends the potential of these interactive presentations using equipment more often found in corporate conference rooms.

The president of Design Solutions, Arlington, Mass., runs Chief Architect and AutoCAD on his laptop and connects the computer to an LCD projector that displays the design on a retractable screen. He also hands his customers laser pointers.

A co-founder of the Residential Design/ Build Institute, Dellano believes strongly in an interactive approach to design. But his presentation strategy serves more than a philosophy. In most cases, Dellano says, it's a surefire way to raise the price of the project. "On average, we increase budgets by 20% to 40%."

Handing out the laser pointers is the key, Dellano says. Pointer in hand, his customers dictate where and how each detail of the design appears on the screen. With the speed of the CAD software, new windows, counters, or doors instantly appear.

Dellano finds that immersing customers in the design process creates a sense of ownership. Customers grow attached to the plan because they helped create it.

It's important, Dellano says, to remind customers how much each extra detail adds to the price. Each budget-breaking option is added to a list so customers can decide what they really want to pay for. But no matter what stays or goes, Dellano says, the proj-ect's price inevitably grows.

"With those laser pointers, they can't help but buy. They're in control of the process," Dellano says. "And they're watching [the project] come to life."