Director of Development
“Experiencing customer service in another organisation gives me insights into how College services could be improved”
Learning Through Volunteering
Tate Gallery Guide
As a Tate Volunteer Guide I am scheduled to take members of the public on guided tours of the collections at both Tate Modern and Tate Britain, at weekends. The tours are about an hour long and as a guide we get the opportunity to select approximately 12 pieces of work – painting, sculpture, installation and intervention. Normally we talk about each work for approximately 5 minutes, we are given guidelines on the structure of the presentation but no script for what we say. Details include: name of work, date, content, information about the historical context, about the artist, significance in history of art and any other interesting information discovered through research. The purpose of the tours is to enthuse the public about the collection and make the work accessible. We are part of the Information services team at the galleries.
Volunteer Training was a highly competitive process. There were 450 applications for 23 posts. The course involved learning through shared practice, art history lectures, presentation skills, voice coaching, accessibility training, health and safety, picture description and how to guide visually impaired visitors. We were formally assessed before being launched on an unsuspecting public.
Personal Learning and Career Development
As a result of being a Tate guide I have become more confident in public speaking. I have developed my communication skills and I am able to adjust my style to different audience types.
I have also gained an external perspective on customer service delivery and insight into a major national organisation in the culture sector.
I have also developed my research skills.
Impact on my work at the college
The skills learnt through volunteering are highly transferable to my work in the College. They include: making effective presentations which requires maintaining the interest of an audience, clear verbal communication to a group; good customer service skills and disability awareness which our front line staff need when working with the public; events management and quality monitoring.
Date published: 13 March 2009