Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Reaching Readers Through School Visits

One of the most terrifying (and exciting!) prospects for new kidlit authors is the school visit. Most of us fall into two camps: those who imagine a room full of dewy-eyed children hanging on our every word or those who imagine a Where the Wild Things Are-style rumpus while we're trying to shout our presentation over the din.

I was the latter.

So for all of you newer authors out there who want to do school visits but are just a little bit petrified of them, I thought I'd compile a list of school visit tips. (And if you're a veteran author, please share some of your tips in the comments!)

School Visit Survival Tips:

1. A contract. Having a contract that lays out where the presentation is, how many kids will attend,
What you want to happen!
Used via a Creative Commons license. Credit: Nestle
how many teachers will be present, the length of the presentation, payment, technology, and more, can make you feel much better! Ask around with your author friends to find a template, and then adjust it as you like.

2. Talk about tech! Discuss it with the teacher or librarian ahead of time, so you don't show up without your your HDMI cable or dongle or whatever it is you might need. If you have videos with sound, make sure there's a decent speaker (I speak from experience on this! Your funny videos won't be so funny if no one can hear them.). And always, always, always bring back up – the presentation on a USB drive and save the presentation somewhere online in case you need to use a teacher's laptop.

3. Practice. Yes, you might feel silly talking out your presentation in front of your cat or your baby or your mirror, but you'll also feel a million times more prepared when you show up and alllll those kids are looking at you.

4. Get there early. Yup, it's a no-brainer, but having plenty of time to set up and deal with tech issues before the kids get there can be a lifesaver. 

What you don't want to happen . . .

5. Make 'em laugh. Work in some funny parts to your presentation, even if your topic is serious. Things that work: embarrassing pictures of you as a kid, funny videos or gifs, or some funny or embarrassing fact about you.

6. Work with a bookstore for book sales. Indie bookstores especially love to do this, and they're great at handling the ordering and delivery of books to the school, so it's one less thing you have to stress about. All you have to do is sign them!

7. Know your presentation. Meaning, if you're running short on time, know what parts you can cut without losing too much content. And if you're running ahead of schedule, know where you can add content. Some schools want 45 minutes, while others prefer an hour or an hour and fifteen minutes. Your presentation should be flexible enough to fit all of those times.

8. Keep it interactive. This is especially important with a longer presentation. Make sure you have plenty of places where you ask the kids questions or have them participate in some way.

9. And most important, be true to yourself. Play to your strengths. If you're not a high-energy, super excited person, don't force yourself to play that role. And conversely, if you're great with humor and you're all over the place when you speak, go with it and don't try to make yourself do something very serious. Kids will see through it when you try to be someone you're not, and you'll find yourself exhausted from trying to play a role.


  1. Bookmarking this as I will need it soon and am terrified!

  2. I promise it gets much easier the more you do! Once you get through a couple of them, you'll feel more comfortable. :)

  3. Petrified, but this is SO HELPFUL! Thank you, thank you!


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