Whether you’re speaking to a classroom of 20 students or an assembly of 400, you need to have your audience in the palm of your hand. Here are my top ten tips for a dynamite author visit program:
1) Energy, energy, energy! Every word, every movement must convey a love of words and writing. It’s not enough to say you love your job. You must show them!
2) Read excerpts from your books to show parts of the writing process. Don’t lecture!
3) Use a variety of media to get your point across. I use PowerPoint and incorporate slides, audio and video. I also use hand-held visuals and props like paper airplanes to demonstrate some of the dogfight moves in Nugget on the Flight Deck.
4) Engage students with questions. Challenge them to answer. When reading Jingle the Brass, we piece together the steps to make a steam engine run. In Nugget on the Flight Deck, we learn how to tell time like pilots.
5) Incorporate activities, skits or demonstrations that require students to help you at the front of the room.
6) Sometimes the students talk all at the same time because they are excited by what you are sharing. Plan inventive ways to recapture their attention. I use my train whistle or rhythmic clapping with a funny twist.
7) Like a stand-up comedian, sometimes it’s okay to let the audience react. Give them time to process a particularly cool idea or fact. A little noise and excitement can be a good thing!
8) Change the pitch and volume of your voice to rivet students.
9) Consider wearing a costume that illustrates one of your books. It’s a great visual and immediately identifies you as a special visitor for the day. I have overalls and a train hat for Jingle the Brass and a flight suit for Nugget on the Flight Deck.
10) If you are fortunate enough to meet children individually, engage them in conversation to help make the experience memorable for them (and you)!
Great tips, Patricia! You're absolutely right — engaging kids with a variety of media and techniques makes an assembly fun and memorable! I like your tip about giving the audience a chance to react when someting exciting or funny happens. Your tip about a signal (whistle, clap, etc.) to bring them back lets you have organized chaos and then move on.