10 tips to make your next welcome speech painless and entertaining

Gemma Boon

At some point in your career you might be asked to open an exhibition or art show. And, if you are like most art professionals, the thought of talking to a room full of people makes you sweat.

Before you turn down the request and let other people do the talking, I’ve put together a few tips and tricks to help you do the job well.

Here are 10 tips to help make your next welcome speech fun, entertaining and less stressful

Remember, they asked you for a reason. You know what you are talking about, you are the expert. Remind yourself that people want to hear what you’ve got to say. It’s not a quiz or an exam. Generally, people who attend the opening of an exhibition will have a genuine interest in the subject matter. Or they just really like the free food and drinks. Either way, they are not there to judge you.

Build a solid framework

Every speech needs a solid framework. The framework of your talk consists of the building blocks for a great story. Make sure to include these building blocks in your framework:

  1. Go big. After thanking your host and introducing yourself in a few sentences to your audience, you want to grab the attention of your audience by addressing a global issue, challenge or threat that effects everyone in the room. Do your research.
  2. Go small. Zoom in on the topic of the exhibition and make clear how this relates to the issue, challenge or threat you mentioned earlier. Be clear about your ‘why’. Why do you think this exhibition matters? Why should people see it right now?
  3. Tell a personal anecdote or an inside story only you and your co-workers know. Use your sense of humor. Make people laugh. This is the moment in your speech people should relax and lean back.
  4. Name three things people should know about the art, the exhibition or the artists on show. This is where you use your knowledge of the subject and share it with your audience. It is like you put the stage light on one particular part of the exhibition or one particular artwork.
  5. Now, make sure your audience understand the overall purpose of the exhibition. If it is a sales exhibition, motivate people to open their wallets and spend some money. If the purpose of the exhibition is to share new insights about certain aspects of the work and life of a painter, name the most interesting facts you want people to remember going home. There might be some overlap here with your message of tip 2, but not to worry. Repetition will get the message through.
  6. End your speech with a big thank you to your co-workers, artists, sponsors, etc. Be modest. Be grateful for this opportunity. You are just one tiny bit of the puzzle.

With these building blocks I can guarantee you’ve got a great framework for your welcome speech. You can shuffle them around and make them work for you. With these 4 additional tips, you will be sure to make a lasting impression.

  1. Keep it short. You’re not the queen.
  2. Use your sense of humor and keep it light. It’s not an art history lecture.
  3. Keep it personal. Share your own thoughts on the subject matter. People want to know what YOU think.
  4. Be charismatic. During your speech, they should want to be your best friend. Use these 10 tips to feel confident and show it.

Do let me know if these tips helped you in any way. Use #buroboon or @gemma.boon on Instagram or use the “contact’ button below. I would love to hear from you!

The author at the opening of Museum No Hero, 14 April 2018

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