I get to make a presentation to kids!
Does that get your butterflies fluttering? Take a deep breath—a lot of the things that make good presentations for adults are good practices to use with students, too. Although there are a few tweaks you may want to employ.
Based on my years as an educator and presenting as a guest author for school assemblies, here are my “12 Helpful Hints to Present to Young Students,” that should help even the most kid-phobic among us breathe a bit easier.
- Have them prepped, if possible. Make sure the school/organization knows about your book/topics you might cover (maybe send a rough agenda and a couple copies of your book when they schedule). Present yourself as kind of a big deal so the staff, and then the students, will get more excited and be more receptive to your presentation.
- Have a plan: Know the things you want to talk about, about for how long, and the order you want to present them.
- Practice: That wonderful plan you prepared in step #2 won’t mean a thing if you haven’t practiced what you want to talk about, about for how long, and the order you want to present them.
- Say quality stuff: Share personal stories that provide examples/make your points, detail a process (your writing/illustrating/publishing), give them information that will inform or entertain them, connect things to their experience.
- Be authentic: If you’re a buttoned-up, dad-joke kind of guy, don’t try to come across as some guitar-playing, hippy-type dude. And vice-versa.
- Hook them in: Interest them immediately—maybe read a dramatic/funny section of your latest book, or that dad-joke, or a guitar song, or a thought-provoking question pertaining to your book (i.e., if you were a cat that escaped through a screen door, where would be the first place you went?)
- Don’t talk down to them: use correct terms to refer to literary things you want to (and should) point out in your book (i.e., don’t say “sound words” if you mean “onomatopoeia”). Make sure your examples are age-appropriate (i.e., not Harry Potter to five-year-olds)
- Ask them to participate. Ask simple questions to get them to raise their hand or turn and discuss with a neighbor. The questions can be general (“Who’s your favorite author?”) or story-specific (“Who has a mischievous pet?”).
- Limit their responses. After asking a question or for a discussion, say “I’ll take three people to share” or “Five seconds more (and count down out loud from THREE-TWO-ONE—and move on)”
- Vary the pace: provide a variety of segments—from questions, to a reading, to a demonstration (I show how I illustrate using the computer), to a song, to a short video (or any combination/repeating of these components). But, again, it should be quality stuff having to do with your presentation—don’t just say or do something random, such as “Hey, listen to me sing the backwards ABCs!”
- Finish on a high note: give them an experience to reflect upon (“So even if you get 83 rejections, you can still get published—or 83 strikeouts you can still get that game-winning hit”) or an action step (“Now, it’s YOUR turn, go out and save the Earth”).
- Have fun. Believe in your material, believe in yourself. If you make a mistake, be sweetly self-deprecating and move on. If some technology doesn’t work, go to plan B (or improvise one). Consider this opportunity to present as an exciting challenge, not drudgery. Kids will be able to tell (so will the adults that will provide your word-of-mouth advertising).
Here are a couple other ideas I’ve found useful in making presentations to students:
Instead of “Uh-oh,” your presentations to students will be, “I got this.”
Please feel free to leave any tips that work for you (or any questions you have)!