presenting yourself for artists

Presenting Yourself

You will come across many situations where you have to present yourself and your work: job interviews, studio visits, curator visits, public art presentations, lectures, workshops, grant interviews, symposiums, teaching demonstrations for interviews, collectors, gallery talks, museum walkthroughs, reviewers/writers, presentations to funders, producers and more.  The following are considerations you should address before you present yourself.  Preparing ahead of time can make a significant difference in how other people perceive you and your work

Things to Consider

Who are you meeting with and what is the context?  Are you meeting at a gallery or organization, at a coffee house or at your studio?  Do you have to drag your materials with you, and how will you present them?

What are you seeking and why are you seeking it from them? Be clear about your intentions. Are you asking for general support or something very specific? Has the purpose of the meeting been established, or will you have to articulate it?

What is the relationship that you have or want to have with the person you are meeting or presenting to? Are you asking for a short or long-term relationship?

What is the amount of time you have to present? Do not try to fit an hour-long presentation into a half hour. You should leave time for discussion in any situation.

How you are presenting the materials? Is the equipment on-site, or do you have to provide your own? Do you need to be there early to make sure everything is working and that your slides are right side up?

How will you present yourself? How will you be perceived?  How will you connect with them? How can you ensure that the passion and enthusiasm you have for the project is best conveyed?

How can you ensure that the information is clear? Do not use art jargon or fancy words if you can help it. Do not be condescending—simply engage.

Consider how to be persuasive without being overbearing.

Think about how you will present yourself as well as your work.  How does your background and history relate to what you are presenting?

How much background is needed to understand the project?

You will need to convey what you are asking for and why.  Consider how you will present your request.  Be sure that you ask specifically for what you need, and make sure you understand what the results will be.

Do not assume that the person understands what your request.  Be sure to get feedback on the project in order to clarify your intent.

Consider what the person you are presenting to wants on their end.  Make sure you understand their priorities and interests.

Make sure that you make eye contact. Many artists tend to look at the slides or monitor and their own work when talking to an audience. This can render you inaudible.

Engage your audience, including those people in the back of the room.  Try not to look at the ceiling when talking.  There is an old adage that says, “Just think of everyone in the room being naked.”  If this doesn’t work for you, or just makes you feel all icky, try just publicly acknowledging that you are nervous, because the audience can usually tell anyway. People are usually more sympathetic to presenters who say outright that they are a little nervous. You will feel better and it will humanize you to your audience. 

Consider your wardrobe for your presentation or meeting.  Dress appropriately and comfortably

Real Life Story

An emerging artist in Los Angeles applied for a public art project for the first time. She was accepted as a finalist—one of three—that was required to present her project to a panel.  Having never done this before, she was nervous about her presentation. She decided to schedule three nights in her studio to invite her friends and peers, and people who had done public art and presentations before. She invited them to her studio, and did a dry run through of the presentation.  Afterwards, she had a discussion about what worked and what did not work.  She got great feedback, and later she did her final presentation to the public art panel.  She got the commission.

She said that she never would have gotten the commission if she had not practiced before an audience. Do not underestimate practicing your presentation, especially if you are nervous.


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You can also get our popular book for artists, Getting Your Sh*t Together: The Ultimate Business Manual for Every Practicing Artist, which includes all of this information and more here.