School Visit Tips for 2011: Part 1

Here are some helpful tips for you from expert presenters as we swing into High Author Visit Season.  Because there are so many great bits of advice, I’ve broken them up into three posts, so watch for them.

Google - Child & Cell Phone

To break the ice with a roomful of kindergartners, ask them to reach into their pockets… and please turn off their cellphones.  Their reaction — after a second or two — is priceless. — Chris Barton

Check, check and double check with the event coordinator regarding equipment needs, schedule, length of program, etc.  It’s amazing how many times I’ve shown up at a school and found a “surprise” after we had already discussed details.  I always send a “Just want to confirm . . .” email a few days before the visit.  Barbara O’Connor

I make a point of introducing myself to all the adults in the room, both teachers and parents, and shaking their hands with a smile. Often teachers feel too shy to introduce themselves, but I find that if I do so, we create a bond or link that makes them more interested in the presentation. Taking the initiative also helps me feel friendlier and more empathetic towards the teachers and parents — you tend not to resent people whose hands you’ve shaken and with whom you’ve exchanged a friendly smile and word. It’s easy and it’s effective.   — Rachna Gilmore

Regarding Skype visits: 1) To keep the transmission from skipping, freezing or disconnecting, make sure your computer is plugged into your router, rather than going completely wireless.  (And make sure the school at the other end does the same!)  2. TURN OFF YOUR PHONE!  3. TURN OFF YOUR CAT OR DOG! (Or lock them out of your office during your presentation.)  — Lee Wardlaw

For about the first year or more of school visiting, I always brought stamped, self-addressed envelopes with me and gave them, along with a short questionnaire, to every adult in each assembly I did.  Yes, every adult: teacher, principal, school librarian, secretary and parents.  I asked for suggestions on how to make my presentations more relevant.  I asked them to tell me how to improve my physical appearance for presenting or the choreography of my presentation. (One teacher told me to cut my bangs, as they couldn’t quite see my eyes–how would I have known this?)  I learned to keep the questions to one short page…and not overwhelm them with too many questions or they wouldn’t return them…they have too much on their desks!  After 400+ school visits (throughout the USA and in international schools and military base schools in Europe) later, these evaluations helped shape my presentations to this day. — April Halprin Wayland

I come with an extension cord, duct tape to keep the cords down, my own tea bags, water, almonds and extra granola bars in case there is no lunch.  When driving, I bring a back-up projector.  — Deborah Hopkinson

Try to leave [the audience] with something tangible to actually take back to the classroom or home. It would be a work of art we each do, or the start of a new story.  Anything that they can show off to others.  — Mike Rex

If you have school visit tip, be sure to add it in our comment section!

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