Creating Your Presentation (s)
Where to begin? For starters, look at your age group. Look at the time you have. Most presentations run thirty minutes to just under an hour. Generally, the older the child, the longer the class time, and the longer you will have to stand before them.
Outline. Approach it just as you would an essay. What are you trying to say? Are you going to talk about yourself? Your books? The world of writing? Publishing specifics? Character development or craft issues? Are you going to be factual, funny, silly, or serious? (or a combination?) Will you invite audience participation, and if so, how much time will need to be allotted for that?
So start there. Consider your audience, time, and what you want to say. Then ask yourself a key question:
What do I want my audience to come away with?
As a matter of fact, let’s take a moment to ask our panel this question. Because it really will help you determine the topic of your presentation(s.)
From a host’s point of view:
Buffy Hamilton (media center specialist in Canton, GA): “I hope for a conversation about writing that can open up possibilities for students. I also enjoy a brief interactive activity as well as Q&A time. I have been very fortunate that my author visits have gotten students, especially some of my reluctant learners, excited about reading and writing!”
Tami Brown: “I want my students to be excited about reading and writing—especially excited about writing their own stories. “If Ms. XYZ can write books, so can I!’”
From an author’s point of view:
“I want my readers to understand the way in which stories arise from experience, imagination, and planning; the writing and illustration process; the reasons I write the particular stories that I choose to write, and the ways that a writer can enhance his writing by using detail to show rather than tell. Above all, I want readers to believe that they, too, can achieve their dreams with hard work and commitment.” (Toni Buzzeo)
“I hope that readers will understand that writers are people just like everyone else, that if you are a reader and a person who loves to write, you can become a writer someday. I also hope students will feel a closer connection to literature after seeing a writer in the flesh.” (Sarah Sullivan)
“I hope they’ll love my characters, get excited about books in general, and want to read many more books in the future. I hope they’ll understand that reading makes life more exciting and there’s nothing they can’t learn in a book.” (Stephanie Greene.)
“I hope they come away with my enthusiasm for what I do. I want them to feel excited about what the process of writing is about and how it can impact other’s lives. If they learn something too, that’s a good thing.” (Helen Hemphill.)
“I want my audience to come away charged up to be creative. I want them to feel confident in their abilities to write. I hope that they leave the presentation with a few new writing tools, an idea how to get started, and a fire to express themselves. I also hope they come away interested in reading more books, more often.” (Kelly Bingham)
Get the picture? Everyone wants to interest and inspire their audience. We are there to pass on that spark, not talk about ourselves endlessly. How does one pass on that spark, exactly? The sky is the limit! You will figure out what works best for YOU to pass on your own personal message. It may be through writing exercises, reading out loud, putting on a puppet show, involving the students, or a combination of many techniques and visuals. Experiment as you draft your presentation. Try it out on family members. Get a feel for what goes over well and what drags. Practice and revise, practice and revise. You can do it!
Speaking of Visuals…
Do you need them? What kind? Slides? Book jackets? Merchandise based on your books? A board to write on?
I’ll toss out my opinion. I think visuals are absolutely necessary. Would I want to sit and look at myself talk for thirty minutes? NO. I don’t imagine students feel any differently. And why put that pressure on yourself? Do you want to have a roomful of faces staring at you….and staring and staring? Do you want everyone’s eyes to wander the room?
I have a simple PowerPoint presentation that accompanies my talk. Mostly they are images that emphasize what I am saying. (For example, when I introduce the topic of “conflict,” I show a slide with a huge thunderstorm brewing and the word “conflict” imposed upon it.) Or I may show a slide with information…for example, one of my slides is a copy of a newspaper clipping that helped inspire my book. If I have a writing exercise, I show it on a slide and read it out loud. That way, once I’m done reading it out loud, the students can still sit there and reread the instructions at their own pace, without asking me to repeat myself over and over.
I find that changing slides every minute or so keeps the kids focused. They like to see what’s coming next.
I also include two writing exercises. I find they are a great way to have the students immediately apply the techniques I have just passed onto them, taking things from abstract to concrete. They are simple, quick, and hopefully fun. It’s always great when students want to share their work out loud, too. I am amazed at what they come up with in such a short time. And when they leave the room buzzing about what each other wrote, I feel my mission has been accomplished!
Our panel’s approach:
“I have a fifty minute presentation that works well with class schedules. I change it up a lot so it’s fresh for me. The presentation is PowerPoint, with lots of pictures and my book trailer, then we do a short writing exercise.” (Helen Hemphill.)
“I allow 40-45 minutes for assembly. I always do a PowerPoint program that features one of my books. I discuss why I wrote it, theme, conflict, and resolution. Then I show shots of what inspired me to write that particular book. I also show my own artwork and how it influences my stories. I include photos of the books and poems kids have produced in my writing workshops. I am a big believer in visuals. When I do creative writing workshops, I use handouts, write on the board and bring examples of what they will be working on. Visuals are exciting and help create excitement for the exercise.” (Barbara Santucci)
“I show the children manuscripts with the editor’s marks, and photographs, and other things they may be interested in. We talk about ideas and I ask questions about their lives, comparing them to my own, because I don’t want to stand up in front of the room and talk at them.” (Stephanie Greene.)
“All of my presentations (with the exception of Flannel Board and Puppet Play) make use of photographic slides using PowerPoint. And I always bring a six-foot table full of puppets, props, and books.” (Toni Buzzeo.)
“I don’t think handouts work well with school visits. Papers are distracting. One of the most important aspects of a successful visit is “classroom management”—holding your audience’s attention. An author doing a school visit is one part performer and one part teacher. It’s not just a show—you have to engage and be responsive to your audience. It’s a special skill and not every author is good at it.
Writing exercises are GREAT. This makes automatic interaction. It also gives the students something they can “take with them”—a piece of writing, even if it’s brainstorming.” (Tami Brown)
An important note:
If you have a PowerPoint presentation, ALWAYS have backup. Always. Did you hear me say ‘always?’ Do not arrive at school with only one jump drive. If it’s corrupt, then what? If their computer won’t accept it, then what?
Back up your technology!
Is this helpful so far? We hope so. Think about it, and as always, ask us questions or share remarks in our comments section! See you tomorrow!