I LOVE speaking to kids! I love speaking to women and writers, too, but events with kids always have the potential to include quotable funny conversations. Conversations I can use in women’s and writers’ events. Like the 3rd grader who told me I don’t look like the picture on the back of my book and the 4th grader who couldn’t believe I didn’t arrive at his school in a limo.
Can you see why I love kids?
So when I became an author of children’s mysteries, it made perfect sense to me that I should speak in schools. My first book came out in 2003, and in these past ten years, I’ve had the joy of speaking to over 22,000 kids!
Read on if you’d like to learn how to speak to students in schools…and collect your own quotable quotes.
- Find a need and fill it. Yea, I know we’ve all heard that about writing books, but it fits for speaking in schools, too. I started out by asking teachers and principals what they need from authors. Their answers surprised me. One educator said, “Authors who want to come to my school and read from their books are a dime a dozen.” I know that’s a cliche, but remember, I’m quoting here. π And many others agreed. What they need is an author who will teach something. If your book is about fire safety, teach fire safety. If it’s about turtles, teach about turtles. But my Bitsy books are about a 12-year-old girl who goes to cool islands and solves mysteries. Did that mean I had to teach about solving mysteries? Nope! Instead, I put together a high energy, interactive class on writing, and the teachers were thrilled!
- Be kid-friendly. That means you’ll most likely need to loosen up a little and get away from the professional speaker mentality.
- Create an intimate environment. Whatever you teach, it must be interesting to kids. Writing in general isn’t interesting for a lot of students. But guessing games, puzzle-solving, and funny demonstrations are. When I told one teacher my standard delivery of my Writing is Fun! workshop takes 45-60 minutes, she said her students would lose interest after about 20 minutes. I assured her they’d be fine. They were.
- Use your books as examples. Regardless of what you’re teaching, use your book as THE resource. Pick it up, point to it. Read short pieces from it. (But don’t overdo it.)
- Have large posters made of your book covers. Kinko’s and Staples can take the large files of your book covers and create foam-backed signs that you can set up on easels, keeping your book in front of the students. When I was making mine, I was told they couldn’t use JPG files, so check with your book publisher about getting large TIF files suitable for signs.
- Make book sales simple. Teachers are overworked, underpaid, and underappreciated. Asking them to tally book orders ahead of time would add to their workload. That’s not a good move if you want to be asked back again. Instead, give your order forms to the teacher and ask him or her to simply give them out, collect orders and money from the students, and put everything in a large envelope. I then take a lot of books, more than I’ll probably need. Before I leave, I sign and personalize them.
- Offer commission on book sales. When the school pays my full requested fee for speaking, I offer a 10% commission back to the school. That way the school personnel are more likely to promote your books.
So there it is, seven steps to speaking to students in schools. Do a good job, and it can not only add to your speaking opportunities, book sales, and bottom line, but it can give you a good laugh from quotable quotes.