On Tuesdays, we watch talks or interviews with artists and designers and discuss how to present our work clearly and with confidence. This week we’ll watch a TED talk by painter Alexa Meade. It’s a little old now, but I use this talk often when I teach speaking skills, and I think she’s a really interesting artist.

As you watch this talk, consider these questions: Does the artist speak clearly and with confidence? Does she use gestures and intonation to emphasize her points? Does she smile and look at the camera? Does she use professional vocabulary?

What does Meade do well? I like to use this talk as an example because the speaker does many things well. She speaks clearly, and her volume and speed are good. She’s easy to understand, and she looks at the audience when she speaks. She has good posture, and she gestures and smiles to emphasize her points. She also uses intonation well and avoids filler words. These are all really good things to do when you give an interview or a talk about your work. 

What could she improve? Despite all these things Meade does well, she doesn’t really sound very confident when she speaks. The reason for this is that she uses uptalk and vocal fry when she speaks. Uptalk means her intonation goes up at the end of a sentence, like a question. This is a problem because it makes her sound unsure of herself. Vocal fry is a way of speaking by closing your throat and making your voice sound lower and creakier than it usually does. This is something that is becoming more popular with young women in America. Some people don’t feel it’s a problem, but many older people also think it suggests a lack of confidence. It’s okay to do these things when talking with friends or in other casual situations, but it’s better to avoid them when giving a professional talk or interview. 

What professional vocabulary does she use? She begins by talking about her work in a general way – how she covers her subject in a mask of acrylic paint to create a scene that looks 2D, but is actually 3D. This allows her to photograph the scene from any angle. Next, she talks about how she got started by painting shadows, and how she was interested in the absence of light. She had an important breakthrough when she first painted her friend in gray scale. After that, she decided to continue with painting after college but needed to explore her technique and try different styles to develop her unique approach. She also talks about how she used a lot of 3D objects, like food, as her canvas, and how she began trying different styles of painting on people. She finishes by describing a recent project using milk, and the challenges it brought.

This talk is a great example of things you can do well when presenting your work, things to avoid, and the topics that artists often discuss in a talk or interview. Working with a language coach can help you to improve your speaking in all these ways and more. The more you practice speaking and getting feedback from a coach, the more your confidence will improve.

At Artglish, we help artists and designers to speak confidently about their work. We coach you to speak professionally using the best vocabulary and correct pronunciation. If you’d like to learn more about what we offer, click here to get exclusive content, or check out our Courses page.

I’ve chosen 5 words or phrases for you to focus on today. They are in bold. If you don’t know them, look up the meaning, synonyms, antonyms, and other forms of these words. You can find links to Merriam-Webster dictionary sites at the bottom of this page.

To see the original video, posted by TED on September 6, 2013, click the link below:

To see the artist’s website, click the link below:

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