Debby: Do you script your presentation or is it free form?
Suzy: I almost always work with a power point for my presentations and with specific lessons for my writing workshops. I know what I intend to cover for each slide or part of my workshop. That said, I have certain stories I tell and points I can make, but I don’t have a script. I talk to the audience in front of me, respond to their reactions, and often riff on some thought that comes to mind. It’s not uncommon for me to give unique presentations to each group, skipping back and forth in my power point slides to illustrate whatever it is I’m talking about at the moment. So the answer is yes, I go in prepared, often over prepared, but once I’m with the audience, I follow their lead and my heart.
Debby: How interactive do you get with your programs? How do you involve the students with your presentation?
Debby: Let’s talk props. I remember you telling me once about the props you bring when you are talking about your book, Made in China. Can you share a little bit about that here?
Suzy: Honestly, I’ve got a lot of experience and at this point I’ve honed the presentations to where I’m only using my best material. I’d suggest before giving a paid presentation that an author practice with Scout groups or your kids’ classes or a local Boys and Girls Club – whatever. Then if a part of the presentation doesn’t work, you can take it out before you give the next one. These practice sessions can be billed as just that. If you need to, stop from time to time and ask the kids what they are thinking. Are they bored? What else do they want to know? If the group is smallish, they will get into this and give good feed back before you have to go in front of a big audience. Second hint – if in doubt, tell a story. If the kids are spacing out, you can make some transition and tell them a great story. Everyone loves that, and that’s what authors do best. Just be sure you’ve thought of a couple in advance and you know how you’ll tie them in with the theme of your presentation.
Debby: What about give-aways? Do you bring postcards, bookmarks?
Suzy: Yes, I bring postcards which I will sign if asked – either at the time or later and leave them with the librarian or language arts teacher. That way every kid can have a memory, not just the kids with money to buy books. And every postcard includes the ISBN and suggestion to order the book(s) from a local bookstore or online.
Suzy: I don’t give books away unless there is some special reason that moves me. I can’t give a book to only one child and not the whole school. Sometimes I leave a librarian a copy of one of my books as a thank you. But the point is to sell books, not to give them away. I ask schools to pre-sell books although many don’t and some aren’t allowed to sell books. Then I ask them to buy a few to give away in a drawing on the day I’m there, and to announce the places where the kids can buy the books. I always try to get a book signing at a local store following my presentations. Sometimes the schools invite the local stores to come in to sell books, or they’ll order books in advance from the publishers. Sometimes the librarian will get a grant to buy books for the kids in the school. That’s very cool because so many kids are able to leave with their own copy of my book.
Debby: How about some thoughts for authors that want to do school visits but aren’t huge bestsellers. Is there a market for them to visit schools? And if so, how do they go about getting the visits scheduled?