Revising my school visit presentation

I’m revising my general school visit presentation. Again. I think it will always be a work in progress. Which is probably good. That way it doesn’t get stale.

Thanks to my good friend C., I started doing school visits probably way before I needed to. I had three picture books out when I started. Two of those picture books were state ABC books…and I was hardly ever invited to schools in THOSE states (Minnesota and Wisconsin). Back then, all of my invitations were to schools right here in Iowa (schools that heard about me through C.). I didn’t have much to say about myself or my books back then, so I made up this whole interactive thing on how a book gets published. That became the highlight of my presentation.

But then I published a few more books…and I learned to use power point, so I dropped that part of my presentation and exchanged it for a total power point presentation (plus 10 minutes of Q and A). Lately (i.e. since I joined Toastmasters…and talked to my friend D. who does a power point presentation, too, but she actually spends 10 minutes in front of the kids before she launches into her power point…what a novel idea!) I’ve been thinking a 40-45 minute power point presentation might be a little much. That’s a really long time to sit quietly and stare at a screen.

I used to get such nice comments on the interactive thing when I was doing it, so I was thinking maybe I should bring that back? Maybe I should break my presentation into two parts — a 20 minute power point presentation and then a 20 minute interactive thing (still leaving 10 minutes for Q and A…or 5 minutes for Q and A and 5 minutes to get in front of the kids before I hide behind the power point).

In general, I think this is a very good idea…except the next place I’m going is Luverne, Minnesota. In Luverne, Minnesota, they probably ARE actually interested in my M is for Minnesota book. I published M is for Minnesota and W is for Wisconsin right around the same time, so whenever I visit schools in Minnesota or Wisconsin, I spend ten minutes talking about those two books (putting the emphasis on whichever book whose state I’m visiting), and showing how two publishers can take the same basic idea (ABC book) from the same author and put out two VERY different looking books. But I don’t mention those books when I visit schools in other states. Adding that section back into my presentation means I’ll have even less room for other things in my power point presentation.

Sigh….I don’t know what to do!!! What do schools REALLY want from a visiting author when they ask for a “general” presentation for the whole school? Do they want the whole time to be taken up by a power point presentation or would they prefer half power point and half something else?

10 thoughts on “Revising my school visit presentation

  1. Hi there. I’m a lurker here, sent by Lynanne (we’re blog buddies). I’m a former teacher and I’ve got to say that anything you can do to add some interactive elements to the presentation would be much appreciated by both students and teachers. I don’t know how’d you do that on a school wide basis. As teachers we are taught to change activities every 15 minutes because students have really short attention spans. I don’t know how well that advice works for a schoolwide presentation, though, since you can’t really make a personal connection with each of the hundreds of students. I do know that I really liked it when authors would emphasis the writing process, especially revisions.

  2. General presentation

    I mostly talk to senior high students, sometimes middle school, and generally give an extemporaneous talk about how I became a writer/where I get my ideas, then answer questions. I talk about stuff like trying to write as a teenager and never getting past the first paragraph, how writers are observers and which parts of my book came from “spying” on people, how being a lawyer helped me to learn to see both sides of every story, and then, how I got the ideas for my individual books. Sometimes, I talk about my research, including the blood spatter evidence in NOTHING TO LOSE. I vary my presentation depending on the group (Generally, I focus on BREATHING UNDERWATER because it’s “how I got started as a writer” but if the whole group has read BREAKING POINT or FADE TO BLACK, then I focus on that book more) and also, how interested they sound in what I’m saying (If it’s 2:00 and they want to go home, I cut to the blood spatter stuff). I let them ask about the publication process in the Q&A if they’re interested. I got the idea from Terry Trueman of telling them they can interrupt me if they have a question. Generally, they don’t if it’s a big group, but do sometimes in a smaller group, particularly middle school. I leave 10-15 minutes at the end for questions.

    I encourage the school to have smaller groups, if at all possible. I honestly don’t think the whole school is interested, and generally, I have only had to talk to the whole school when my book is an all-school read. Occasionally, they surprise me and ask a lot of questions, even if it’s a huge group, but generally, there’s better interaction with a small group. I’m all about interaction.

    I also offer a writing workshop for 35 or fewer students who are, hopefully, interested in writing.

    I’ve never done a power point and always feel vaguely inadequate that I don’t. The only ones I’ve seen are picture book authors, who show their art, etc., and Ben Mikaelsen, who does a lot of traveling and research and shows photos of that. What do you do in the power point?

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