An Easy-to-Follow Guide for Presenting Your Portfolio

By: Georgia Schumacher

May 21, 2015


When you’ve worked really hard to create outstanding artwork and portfolio pieces, sharing them with potential employers, your colleagues, and the rest of the world can be simultaneously exciting and intimidating. Even if you’re naturally outgoing, presenting your own work can make anyone feel vulnerable and nervous—let alone if you already dread talking in front of groups or people you don't know.

Whatever your level of comfortable talking about your work, this quick list of Dos and Don’ts can help you present your creative talent and artwork in the best light.

1. Do Share the Development Process

Your creative process is unique, interesting, and says a lot about you as an artist. Whether you take the same steps to prepare for each project or always try something different, people will be interested to have insight into your planning process and hear what goes on the behind-the-scenes.

2. Don’t Discuss Your Personal Interests

Devote your time to talking about the work itself, and avoid moving the conversation toward unrelated personal interests. If it’s not completely relevant to the piece or your process, leave it out of the conversation.

3. Do Practice

No matter how tempting it is to procrastinate, figure out what you want to say about your work and start practicing as soon as possible. The more comfortable you get talking about your portfolio pieces, the more confident you’ll be on the big day.

4. Don’t Mention Your Day Job

Describing yourself as a “bank teller and a designer” really adds nothing to the presentation. In fact, mentioning a non-applicable day job takes the focus away from your design, media arts, fashion, or culinary contributions, which you certainly don’t want to do.

5. Do Be Selective

There’s no need to talk about every piece included in your portfolio. Instead, pay attention to what the individual seems interested in, or, if you’re unsure focus on the works that you’re most proud of.

6. Don’t Use Conditional Terminology

The creative process isn’t something that responds well to boundaries, so avoid telling your audience that you mostly work on your art at night or on weekends. Otherwise, you risk making your creative aspirations sound like a smaller part of your life than they are.

7. Do Exude Confidence and Enthusiasm

If you’re not confident in your work, why should anyone else be? Excitement is contagious so show your enthusiasm for every piece in your portfolio.

8. Don’t Describe Yourself as an Emerging Artist

Now that you have work to show for yourself, you’re no longer an aspiring animator or emerging fashion designer. When you use these words to describe yourself, you inadvertently make yourself sound like an amateur rather than the competent professional you are.

9. Do Be Mindful of Your Attire

You may not have to wear a three piece suit to present your portfolio, but you do want to present a professional appearance. Research the company or event to learn what attire allows you to fit in.

10. Don’t Downplay Your Hard Work

Your work is challenging and complex, so don’t make it sound unimportant. Never say you’re “just working on a project” or that something is “really no big deal.” Give yourself the credit you deserve.

11. Do Follow Up

Get a business card or contact information in writing from anyone you talk to about your work. Then, follow up with them via email or a handwritten note to thank them for their time and their interest. You never know where this conversation might lead!

Interested in seeing portfolios from current students?

Find a Portfolio Show at a location near you to see the fresh perspectives, innovative ideas, and creative talent of students studying in Design, Media Arts, Fashion, and Culinary.


For more portfolio advice, including tips from a Regional Vice President - Career Services Specialist at The Art Institutes, see our post Building A Dynamite Portfolio: How To Present Your Work So It Shines.

Learn more about our programs.

Get Brochure

By: Georgia Schumacher

May 21, 2015

careers lists portfolio student life student work tips