Book festivals offer big challenges to authors and illustrators when it comes to keeping the crowd focused and engaged in your presentation.
In school assemblies, you’re confident that the kids have a collective understanding of the school’s rules and are grouped by age. You can use a PowerPoint presentation to great effect.
But book festivals are open-air, multi-generational, noisy settings full of distractions and a fluid crowd. PowerPoint? Forget it! A reading? It won’t engage enough of a crowd. Props? Better make them big so they can be seen. In short, you’ll have to revamp your presentation to suit the setting.
For my presentation at Feria del Libro in downtown Los Angeles, the stage was a small outdoor amphitheatre. Many of the festival-goers’ first language was Spanish.
For color, I enlarged key pages of my book, Estela’s Swap, into poster-size images and laminated them. To engage the crowd, I invited kids to hold the posters on stage with the blank side toward the audience. Then I had the crowd sing a song that’s key to my story, “Cielto Lindo.” (While I don’t know how to speak Spanish, I can sing this song in Spanish!)
As I shared my book as a storyteller would (telling, not reading text), I tapped on kids to reveal the images for key points in the story. In the last scene, I had one child be the main character: she put on a bright orange Ballet Folklorico skirt and twirled.
To end, I had everyone – kids on stage and the audience – sing “Cielito Lindo” once more. This took about 15-20 minutes from start to finish, the perfect amount of time to keep a festival crowd’s attention.
So here are 4 tips for successful Book Festival presentations:
1) make your props big
2) engage the audience in a group response
3) use kids as volunteers
4) keep the time limit short.