Talking to an Audience


This article was written by Max Darby in July 2009. There is extensive information on talking about Art in the textbook Art Connections by J. Aland and M. Darby (Heinemann Books)



There are many occasions when art students need to talk about Art to an audience. Some of these are formal occasions and some are quite casual in nature. The following points should help you prepare for the kind of talks you are likely to need to give to other people and to ensure you give you talk in the best possible way.

They can, of course, be varied, adapted, deleted or re-worked to suit your own needs. It is unlikely that all will be required for most of the talks you give. In a way, they are an exhaustive list that has been designed to cover almost everything that needs to be considered by art students.


Formal talks or presentations might include



Presenting information to an audience such as at a School Assembly. Some schools have student Art Captains, Vice Captains and Art Committees made up of elected members. In these schools there might be times when an art student need to stand up and provide information about, for example, a coming Art Exhibition, an Art Competition or the results of a Prize or Award. (Refer to the article on this website titled Art Competitions).

Presenting information to parents, for example, at a Parent Teacher Evening that addresses course selection for the following year

Making a presentation as part of your course to the class about an aspect of research you undertook into a topic to do with Art.

Making a presentation to other teachers about something to do with the Art Program, such as a special project that you wish to organize or promote

Talking about your own artworks at an interview for Tertiary Entry (or other course selection)

Making a presentation to the class about art, artists, cultures etc. that you were allocated as a topic as part of the course

Making a formal presentation to the class about your achievements in the studio




Informal talks or presentations might include



Talking to your class about something interesting you discovered in the studio that might be of use to everyone (usually initiated by your art teacher)

Sharing ideas and experiences with friends and peers

Talking about your work to your parents

Giving a quick explanation of what you’re doing in the studio to school visitors or guests who are taken to visit the art room




While the informal talks require thought and consideration, this is usually met on the spot as a part of interacting with other people. It is part of a conversation rather than a formal pre-programmed talk, address or presentation. The formal talks and presentations require considerably more pre-planning and thought and some of the following points are important to doing this successfully and effectively.



Preparing information



1. Prepare thoroughly

2. Undertake thorough research or investigation into the topic you need to talk about

3. Use a range of sources for locating information

4. Fully document where you locate all information – you may need to find it again, or you may be asked who your sources are

5. Never claim the ideas of other people as your own. It is much stronger for you to acknowledge other people. Besides, academic honesty requires it

6. The topic may be determined by someone else, or you may have the opportunity to make a choice

7. If the choice is yours, it’s best to choose something you know something about already, or something in which you are interested

8. Giving any kind of talk is so much easier and more rewarding if it’s of personal interest to you

9. Be very clear about the major direction you want your talk to take and the major points you want to make

10. Find out more information about your topic than you are likely to need. This provides a breadth and depth of background information that will inform what you chose to say. It will also be excellent preparation in case you are asked questions

11. Write out a brief outline of your talk to assist your writing

12. Write out the talk or speech in full

13. Get someone else to read and check your talk or speech once it’s written out

14. Have your talk or script printed clearly onto clean and unfolded paper. Number each page clearly

15. Print your notes or script quite large so that they can be easily read from a distance (It is good practice to use a font size of about 16 rather than the traditional 12 and to just have about 15 lines to each page)

16. Summarize your writing into a small number of key points (5 – 6 is good). This provides you with the options of reading from your full notes, or to speak more freely without reading it all from the short list of key points

17. Some people prefer to read from a prepared script (see point 11 above). If you do this you need to practice more than once. You should be able to remember what is coming in the text

18. Some people prefer to learn all of their information thoroughly and then discard their written text and work from the list of key points (see point 14 above 14)

19. Some people prefer to learn the text well and discard everything and to speak entirely from memory, making the talk appear more relaxed and normal – providing you don’t forget anything

20. If required, have copies of the text printed off for people in the audience. Most schools would now make this available online to save resources and the environment

21. If you are going to talk about an artwork keep in mind that the artwork itself can be a kind of visual checklist of key points that jog your memory – just seeing it is sufficient without writing down all of the points you wish to make about the work

22. Find out whether questions/answers will be allowed and whether there will be an allocated time for these or whether there is an expectation that they occur during your talk. Questions are best left until the end

23. Try to find out the parameters of what can be asked during question time.

24. Make allowances within the time allocated for the talk for questions to be addressed should that be expected. You obviously can talk for much less time should questions be required.



Preparing the venue



1. Find out when the talk will happen

2. Find out how long the talk needs to be

3. Find out how many people will be in attendance

4. Check the venue on your own and imagine standing and talking to your audience

5. Test the acoustics. You may need someone to assist by standing in different spots in the venue (remember, the sound carries less and echoes less when the venue has people in it)

6. Test the PA system, if possible, to see how close you need to stand to the microphone (if there is one). Standing too close causes the sound to ‘boom’ and/or reverberate in a way that is uncomfortable to the audience

7. Enquire about how to adjust the height of the microphone on its stand, or ensure someone will do it for you before you begin to talk

8. Listen to and observe other people talking in the venue whenever you get a chance before you give your own talk if that’s possible (for example, at School Assemblies)

9. Check where the lectern, podium or speaking stand will be placed in the venue

10. Check how your notes or script will be held onto the lectern, podium  or speaking stand

11. Check the height of the lectern, podium or speaking stand and what adjustments might need to be made to accommodate you.


Preparing yourself


1. Make sure you are clean, neat and well dressed to appropriately suit the occasion

2. Make sure you have eaten and had something to drink sometime before talking

3. Make sure you are on time, or a little early, so that you do not deliver your talk under stress

4. Have a glass of fresh water available (perhaps under the lectern, podium or speaking stand) in case you need it during your talk

5. Make sure you have a clean handkerchief or tissues in your pocket and know where to find them

6. Have your notes ready so that when you are introduced you don’t need to look for anything and are ready to go

7. Make sure your reading glasses are clean if you need to use them.


Delivering the talk or presentation


1. Remember, you are not the first person to give a talk or presentation to an audience. Others before you have succeeded and so will you

2. Walk confidently to the lectern, podium or speaking stand

3. Take time to set out your speech or notes

4. Make any necessary adjustments to the microphone, lectern etc.

5. Take a deep breath of air and exhale before beginning

6. Introduce yourself and the topic of your talk – for example, “I’m Senior Art Captain and I want to tell you about a major exhibition the Art Department has planned and organized that will take place in November”

7. Begin your talk and go through the sequence of points you have prepared.

8. Speak just a little more slowly than you would usually do and try enunciate words clearly so that they can be easily understood. Don’t overdo this

9. Vary your voice tone and speed so that people don’t get bored with  a long talk at the same pitch and same speed

10. Spend more time looking at the audience than looking down at your text. This will be possible if you really know what is in your text and what you are going to say. It also helps you to project your voice to the audience so that everyone can hear. If you make sure the people at the back can hear you, then everyone else in the venue also will

11. Make sure you look around the venue and not just at one place or one person. Try to make eye contact with people around the venue.

12. Put appropriate voice emphasis on the particular points you make.

13. Try not to overdo hand gestures as they look false if not natural

14. Keep your finger or hand on the place you last refereed to. This makes finding your place easier if you know what you last said. You can point to the lines if that helps.

15. If you lose your place momentarily, slow down and take time to find it without panicking. If it takes a while you might apologize for the delay or just move on

16. Use colour codes (marker pens or highlight pens) to indicate where new ideas, thoughts, sentences, key points etc begin – just a thick stroke in the margin is sufficient, or a small block of colour with a number inside if you’re using list of key points

17. It can sometimes be useful to print clearly in the margin on each page a reminder to ‘Slow Down’. Many inexperienced speakers tend to speed up as they present making it difficult to understand what is being said

18. If there are really important points that need to be made, you can repeat them very briefly

19. Slow down in your last sentence so that you don’t appear to have arrived at the end without realizing it

20. Ask for questions if that is part of the expectation of your talk or presentation

21. Monitor question-asking carefully and don’t let people call out. Point to people you wish to ask a question and ask What is your question?

22. Don’t interrupt the person asking the question. Think quickly about what has been asked to ensure you understand. You do not want to look silly by giving a wrong answer or by missing the point of the question

23. Draw on the information you know to answer the question including that additional research information that was mentioned at the start of these lists

24. Don’t take long to answer each question. Clarity and brevity is important because the audience has already been listening to you for some time

25. If you don’t know the answer say so immediately and tell them you will find out, and then do so

26. Thank the audience and sit down.


Post talk or presentation evaluation


1. Decide what worked with your talk or presentation and what didn’t

2. Think about how you might improve it next time

3. Take notes of your feelings about the talk or presentation

4. Ask someone you value how they think you went

5. Plan for future talks or presentations.

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2 Responses to “Talking to an Audience”

  1. max says:

    It’s easier to contact me via email which I access daily. Facebook I seldom go to.
    My email address is:

  2. do you have facebook or twitter?

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