Friday, March 26, 2010

Public Speaking: A Few More Ideas to Give you Confidence

When speaking, teaching or presenting:
1. Use plain, simple language, unless in a specialist situation as everyone may not understand. For instance, most people need you to define etching, formalist, non-narrative, or installation (and don’t want to have to ask).
2. Be energetic in delivery, impassive won’t make people interested
        o Non-verbal clues are important too—what do your hands/facial expressions tell?
3. Tell your own story somewhere in the presentation, it is about you and you’re your art (not your art that magically made itself)!
4. Limit your information—you can’t tell everything about yourself and your work, must narrow to pertinent or connected details.

About nerves:
* Once you begin speaking, your anxiety is likely to decrease.
* Your listeners will generally be unaware of your anxiety.
* Having some anxiety is beneficial—energy, gets your brain thinking quickly.
* All people tend to speak more quickly in front of others, take a breath and slow down
* Practice is the best preventative.
* Recognize you're not alone.
* Realize that people want you to succeed.

Visuals: especially important if your artwork isn’t there.
People think faster than you speak... reinforcing visuals help keep them focused on your message. People speak at 125 words per minute and think at 500 words per minute or more.
-What is needed depends on the audience
-Images must enhance understanding
-Artwork should support what you are saying verbally
-Visuals will increases the audience's attentiveness
-Help them remember you and your artwork

Dealing with spontaneous speaking: Q & A or off the cuff
-What questions might be raised? Consider in advance what questions you already get regularly, what materials or issues with which you are dealing.
-What do you think the attitude of the audience will be? Friends? Students? Critics?
-Don’t go on and on—simple answers are fine (don’t give another speech)
-You may end up repeating part of your presentation, that’s ok, maybe they didn’t understand or get it the first time
-Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know”

Most importantly, practice three times as much as you think you need to as you’ll be at least three times as nervous in front of others. Any time I have thought I will not get nervous, after speaking 100+ times in front of audiences), I am wrong.  Even a sleepy class of high schoolers makes me wish I'd prepared much better!

Some of this information was modified from Toastmasters International, a great organization for improving your speaking skills.

Also, see some great ideas about improving your verbal skills (writing too) from Alyson Stanfield of

OVAC offers the Artist Survival Kit Retreat: “ARTiculate” April 16-18 at Post Oak Lodge in Tulsa. This will improve the participants’ ability to articulate artistic and career concepts, educate others and make public presentations. Led by innovative educator Jane Varmecky, the retreat will include interactive training about adult education techniques and the dynamics of group training. There will also be time to learn from and share with other participants. Learn more at

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