1. Plan ahead.
2. Be a pleasure to meet.
3. Be memorable on and off stage.
When working with someone is a good experience from start to finish (and that includes emailing, phone calls and invoicing!), we're far more likely to recommend them to someone else, or even to ask for a repeat. Make sure you're remembered for all the right reasons.
4. Borrow the big screen.
You don't have to be too tech-savvy to use a big screen, and most classrooms, halls and other venues have them. It's much easier for kids to see the pages of your book on a large screen. Crowding around an opened book in an author's lap doesn't work unless you have a very small audience - kids wriggle, shove one another and get bored when they can't see. It's much easier to ask your publisher for PDFs of your book spreads. You don't have to build any additional slides if that's not your thing, but a simple slideshow can help you navigate your way through an hour and provide you with visual prompts that stop you losing your thread. You can email your slides to your host ahead of time and/or take it along with you on a memory stick. Always be sure to convert your show into a few different formats in case one fails you: try PDF, PPT. (or PPTX.) and Keynote. Again, arriving a little ahead of time gives you some buffer time to check it's all working.
5. Invest in a clicker.
Did you know you can buy a wireless presentation clicker that works on any computer? They come with a little removal USB stick that slots into the computer running your slideshow. You just click your handset to navigate back and forth through your slides. It means you can stand anywhere in the room to present - you don't have to be tied to the computer keypad. Some venues will have a clicker you can borrow, but as someone who presents frequently, I'd recommend buying one of your own.
6. Don't bankrupt yourself.
A clicker pays for itself if you do enough events, but it might prove expensive if you're not planning on doing many. Bear in mind that many picture books never even earn out their advance. If you're struggling to make ends meet, don't feel obliged to fork out on expensive props, craft materials or other bits and bobs every time you present. When doing crafts for small children, think about cheap supplies you can buy in bulk, keep in a cupboard and use for future presentations too. Sometimes your publisher or the event organisers can help - but don't expect a budget.
7. Bring your stories to life.
8. Get the audience involved.
Ask your audience questions, It's hugely entertaining and takes the heat off you. Put your book down at a pivotal moment. Pause and ask the children what they think happens next - use the page turns to create suspense in the room. Try not to force them to sit still and silent for a whole hour. Very young children find this hard, and if the children are unhappy you won't really enjoy yourself, either.
9. Leave them fired up.
What do your audience think the character's next adventure should be? Do they think they might have a go at writing it? Get you audience dreaming up ideas of their own while you're together. You know it takes courage to share an idea out loud and to commit it to paper. Encourage them, praise their ideas and help inspire the next generation of story makers.
10. Keep something extra up your sleeve.
Technology can fail. Weird emergencies can happen. You might talk super fast and end up with twenty extra minutes to fill. Duff days are very definitely a thing. Always be sure to have enough ideas and alternatives in mind just in case, for some reason, your original presentation doesn't go to plan. It might be as simple as having paper and pencils on hand for everyone and getting them to draw the front cover of an imagined sequel. If you know you have a Plan B, you'll be unflappable.
Have fun, always - and GOOD LUCK!
Michelle Robinson is a