Public Persona

Public Persona

Please read Julia Galloway’s Field Guide  Being Professional in person

Interviews and public events

appearance: Artists are known for their eclectic fashion. That’s great, milk it if that’s how you roll. However, it is important that you comport yourself professionally. Make sure your clothes are clean. Make sure you are clean- you don’t need to smell nice but you shouldn’t stink). When giving a presentation or interview, or going to an opening reception, you shouldn’t look as if you just came from the studio. People are more likely to engage with you if you seem as if you take yourself seriously. If you come to one of these events looking as if you do not care, that is precisely what you will communicate. If people think that you don’t care enough to make an effort to be there, they will not want to be there either. On the other hand, if you have taken care with your appearance, you are indicating that not only do you take yourself seriously, but that you care that your audience has arrived as well. A messy or dirty appearance suggests that you would rather be somewhere else. That said, it is also important that you do not try to be someone you are not. If you never wear a suit, and you wear one to an interview, you will look like you are uncomfortable in your own skin. Wear something and present yourself in a way that you feel like the best version of yourself. In that way you will be comfortable in your own skin. All of that is legible to the people around you. I got some really good advice once when preparing for an interview: Don’t get a haircut or change your appearance drastically the day before your big event. Do it the week before to give yourself some time to integrate the new look into your sense of self.

public speaking: If you are giving an image lecture or a lecture of any sort, there are some really important do’s and don’ts. First, anyone in this position is nervous. I would bet that every teacher is nervous the first day of class, even if they’ve been teaching for 40 years. Do not draw attention to your nerves by saying “I’m so nervous”. That makes people and our innate empathy uncomfortable- and actually makes the situation worse. Do speak slowly and clearly. If you are asked a question, take a moment to formulate your answer. You will come across as thoughtful. Do stand up straight. This shows confidence (even if you are terrified!) Do not fidget. Do Not chew gum!! Try to keep your features calm, don’t touch your face too much, don’t tap your fingers or toes….This is really hard but what I’ve found that is in concentrating on these things, I end up forgetting my nerves. If you are showing images, do not make excuses for bad image quality. If the image is bad, it’s bad, don’t draw attention to it. (This goes back to making sure you have good documentation of your work). Technology always fails. Always have a backup. If you plan to show images using their technology, have your powerpoint or other files both on a jump drive and shared swithyourself either on google drive or Dropbox or similar service. Make sure your files are comparable with their technology. If you are using Keynote, save a copy in the powerpoint format. It is sometimes better to use our own computer. If you do this, it is best practice to have the attachment that works with your computer. This might mean you have to buy the dongle specific to your computer. Technology changes so fast and not every venue has what you need to connect with their projector.

If you are giving a prepared speech, it is OK to read from a prepared document. Some of the best lectures I have ever attended have been a hybrid of a read lecture and off-the cuff conversation. Make eye contact as much as you can. Slow down and make sure your words match your images.

It is ok to say you don’t know something. If you don’t know the answer, it is better to say so than to bluff. This comes across as trustworthy which is never a bad thing. Being able to own up to your own lack of knowledge is an act of bravery and more often than not is recognized as such. Do not interrupt! Listen carefully, and do not talk over another person- even if you are excited about the conversation! Above all, be polite.

For whatever reason you are giving a presentation, you have been given this opportunity by someone else. When giving a speech, be sure to thank your hosts right away. If someone in the organization went above and beyond for you, this is a great chance to let them know you noticed. Even if someone has introduced you already when giving a lecture, it is best practice to begin by introducing yourself again.


20 thoughts on “Public Persona

  1. Through the readings. I learned a lot about how to present and introduce my art to different audiences. It lists lots of details and skills, very useful. As it said that do not try to be someone you are not. I think that to be confident with yourself and the work is important.

    My question is when I introduce my work to other people, I feel difficult to pick up the most essential thing in a short time, I always want to talk more and cover more points of my art. Is it difficult to leave an impression if I cover a lot? I mean is it good to just focus on one or two points of my art or talk more as much as possible?

  2. This is just jammed packed with details to consider and it felt reassuring in its realizations. Its great to read GYST article on presenting with their amount of questions towards context, amount, persuasiveness and more.

    Do we need to be this extroverted persona if we naturally are not? Are there artists that “make it” without putting themselves as publicly? (Banksy?)

  3. Many of the things discussed in these articles were familiar to me, as in high school I had participated in many mock job interviews and (as strange as it sounds) even attended a state wide competition for it. There’s a lot to consider, but it was always comforting to hear that the most important thing one could do, was be themselves.

    As someone who is a bit of a hermit; I’m curious what the balance is between spending the time one needs privately with art, and spending time showing art and playing the social side of the game?

  4. Being aware of the audience’s sympathy which trends the fine line into uncomfortableness is an important part of presenting. Everyone in the audience hopes wants to see you do well and as the speaker, you set the tone for the entire room.

    How do you give an artist talk: are you always invited to a location, or is this something you can also apply for? Also, is there a ratio between how much time you should present and how much time you should leave for questions?

  5. I always thought it was bad to read from a prepared document. Good to know that it can be done as long as it’s delivered correctly and you engage the audience.

    If I am giving talks about my work in different places within a short period of time, should I try and make every talk different, or can I use the same presentation for talks in different places?

  6. I learned that it is better to say you don’t know an answer to a question than to make something up. My question is how to incorporate your personality into an artist talk? How do you get who you are across to an audience when you are nervous?

  7. One thing that I have noticed that makes or breaks a talk is people who can connect with an audience. I find that making the introduction or a telling a personal story helps break the ice between lecturer and audience member. From my experience, it humanizes the lecturer and allows me to see a side of the person that I might not have known or allowed me to find a connection with the person where it seems like we have no common interests. It also shows you care and the topic not only effects the professional part of your life but your personal life as well.

    I haven’t seen presentations in a while that use the transitions feature or animated title or subject text, or even slides that go bullet point by bullet point. Is it taboo to use those features even in moderation?

  8. A good point that was re iterated to me was that technology often times fails. So ALWAYS have a back up (or multiple). What would you say is the best method of giving an artist talk? Reading off a prepared document or speaking freely?

  9. A really important thing that I learned was to never say “I’m nervous” or to apologize for a bad picture, two things I’ve been guilty of in the past.

    Is it better to have a script in presentations or is it better to memorize key points and talk more conversationally?

  10. everything in this reading was very helpful for me because i struggle with public speaking, presenting, and performing. its something that has always prevented me from being the best i can be. is there any tips or tricks to help get over this fear?

  11. I always try to incorporate my personality into my presentations, but where should I draw the line? I often start presentations off with something humorous that will hopefully break the ice and I can definitely come off as a person who doesn’t take life too seriously, but its clear in my documentation I’m serious about my art. How can I find a good in-between?

  12. With this reading, I noticed that it is really important and necessary to say thank to hosts and introduce myself at the beginning. Recently I got some feedback–someone feels that I did my presentation in a way that more like an introduction to the public rather than to professional artists. I would like to know if there should be a big difference to distinguish them during my presentation?

  13. I have always been taught to present myself a certain way to the outside world as far as appearance so it helps to know that it’s actually a relevant practice for me to continue doing. I’ve always believed that presentation is important so it was nice confirmation.

    How much personal history do we need to give when presenting our work?

    • How much personal history you give is entirely up to you. If where you grew up is not relevant to your art practice- then don’t talk about it. If something happened to you- that makes you make work the way you do now- mention it – don’t dwell on it- just indicate that that was pivotal, and is now vital to how and why you make work.

  14. I have always enjoyed talking about my art with others. I think the presentation of my work is as important as the work itself. This reading was very helpful in clarifying how I should steer a conversation, and for how long to speak.

    Should the quick introduction be similar to an artist statement or is not as descriptive?

  15. I am glad that my eclectic fashion is accepted and enjoyed! I feel that clothing can help command a room. I truly enjoy public speaking and I believe the tips in this reading will help me perfect it. I found it interesting that one should not say they’re nervous. That is something I will have to work on as well as not fidgeting. I have always believed that thanking people you appreciate is of the up most importance and I will be sure to do so in my public speaking.

    What should one do if a question is asked that angers them?

    • angers whom? Your audience? You answer angers them – or a question asked of you? Regardless, I don’t see too much anger in these situations. Disagreement yes, but usually in the form of healthy debate.

  16. This article was an interesting read because I never really saw being an artist as a very public facing profession. It was good for me to learn about how I should present myself and that I don’t totally need to change my unique style of dressing to make an appearance.
    How formal do speeches and presentations usually need to be? I find myself much less nervous when I am allowed to be more towards the informal side.

    • The world is shifting. I think that the formality of the speech really depends on the venue and the audience. That said, contemporary audiences love to know that you are a human. So, it is good to present yourself formally in the sense that you take yourself and your work seriously- you have prepared your speech- but it is ok to wander around the stage, to talk with audience members and act a little less formally. If you are more comfortable being less formal- that’s great! but don’t let that catch you flat footed so you end up saying a lot of ummm and uhhhhh at the podium. Practice your speech- learn the content inside and out- then you can ditch it a bit.

      As far as what you wear- you should feel good in your own skin- like the best version of yourself. So- probably clean, and groomed- but not trying to present a thing you are not.

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