Monday, August 16, 2010

Artist Survival Kit Recap: Verbal Communications

On Saturday, August 7 OVAC hosted the “Verbal Communications” workshop in partnership with Creative Capital. Creative Capital is a national nonprofit that supports artists pursuing innovative approaches to form and content in the media, performing and visual arts, and in emerging fields. Twenty-four artists were selected to attend this workshop led by Kirby Tepper, an LA-based communications specialist with extensive experience training artists in public speaking and leadership skills.
If you’re a visual artist, you may think to yourself, “I don’t need to communicate verbally. I’m a visual person.” However, there are many instances when being able to clearly communicate an idea verbally is imperative. Think about:
-Grant opportunities
-Articulating your artistic goals
-Developing partnerships with other artists or organizations
-Publicity and PR

Being able to communicate clearly goes well beyond public speaking engagements. Communication skills are used in all kinds of situations – from talking to one person about your work at an opening to speaking in front of a room full of people at an artist talk.

Mr. Tepper emphasized when talking about your own artwork, try to remember one key thing: You are THE expert on your own work. There is nobody who knows more about your artwork than you. Be confident in that knowledge and remember that no matter who or where you are, you are enough.

Public speaking is a top fear of adults everywhere. Here are a few simple tricks outlined in Mr. Tepper’s presentation to help ease the pain.
1. Find an anchor.
-this is a tangible thing to make you feel more physically comfortable i.e. a podium, a table.
2. Have a destination.
-If you are moving while you speak, define a destination in advance to avoid shuffling or drifting on stage. Have a sense of being “on the way” to somewhere.
3. You are enough.
-No matter what your personality is, it is just right. Audiences will know if you are inauthentic. Be who you are.
4. Sound like you.
-Use your regular voice and vocabulary. Avoid trying to sound like a great speaker.
5. Make the unknown known.
-As much as possible, get the details of your speaking environment. Find out things like where you’ll be standing, where electrical outlets are, practice with the equipment. Assume something will go wrong and plan for that.
6. Know your audience beforehand.
-Adjust your talk to the audience. Are they experts in your field? Or will you have to tailor your presentation to suit a more general group?

More often, you’ll find yourself in a more casual speaking situation such as art openings, parties or networking events. Try to avoid the awkwardness of small talk by engaging in deeper conversations. Here are a few techniques for meeting people in these kinds of situations.
-Put your hand out to shake hands.
-Don’t wait for people to talk to you.
-Ask questions.
-Start from a general topic.

Participants in the workshop were given an opportunity to practice their communication skills through role-playing specific situations where they felt they needed the most work. Try gathering a group of close friends to help you practice. Trying to pitch your work to a gallery owner? Have a friend play the gallery owner role and practice your pitch with a variety of potential responses from them.

Remember: you are enough, you are the expert, and no one else can communicate about your work in the way that you can.

View the list of upcoming Artist Survival Kit workshops at


M J said...

Thanks for the summary, Kelsey. So disappointed I had to bow out at the last moment, but this is a great round up. More workshops, please!

romy owens said...

you are enough was a pretty power message. it was a super workshop.

Kelsey Karper said...

Don't worry, MJ, we will keep the workshops coming!

The full listing of our upcoming workshop season is online at