Hey cHEwY gum gums
Hello from Thailand, where I’ve just started my tour of international school visits around Bangkok. I’m also here to visit relatives, it’s been three years since I’ve been back, so I’m keen to see what’s new. I’ve had a pretty good first day at ISB middle school, it was a great warm up for the three weeks ahead.
Now usually, the school talks usually trickle down at this time of year, but in 2018, I’m going out with a Bang(kok) haha. So after eight years and thousands of school visits, it’s safe to say that I’ve embraced this side of author life. But when I first started doing school visits, I wasn’t so confident. It took years to polish my presentation, and it’s still evolving because you want to avoid being stale.
If anyone asks me how to improve their school presentation, I point them to Youtube. No, not actual videos about presentations (though that might help), but to search for popular Youtubers for kids, and learn from the way they speak to their audience.
I love watching other authors do their talks and the one thing that I’m listening for is their voice. That’s one of the keys to a successful author-talk. When you can get kids to tune into your voice, you’re halfway there.
Once upon a time,maybe it was okay just to get up in front of a school audience and just simply talk about your books. But you can’t get away with that anymore when there’s instant entertainment with a click or two. You have to sell yourself, grab a kid’s attention, earn their trust and hope they stay with you. This can be tricky, especially if they’re not into books. Now there are other ways to bring an author talk to life. You can have an interactive element to your session, plenty of audience participation or wow them with a bright, dazzling powerpoint presentation. But you still need to have an engaging voice.
The best Youtubers for kids just leap out of the screen with their vibrant persona and voice. They hook you in the first minute. Sure, they may be talking about a subject that the child is already into, but it’s the way they deliver their content. It’s poppy, fresh and cool.
Speaking of content, I recommend you just search for things that you’re into first (cars, cats, TV shows etc) just to hear something you like to hear. Find a Youtuber with a lot of subscribers, and listen to a few of their videos. You’ll probably fall into a black hole of info-overloading haha.
Writers, you can justify this Youtubing as ‘research’ for your stories. I was researching slime videos for my next book, Don’t Follow Vee (out in May 2019, shameless plug time hehe) and was slobbered with a TON of slime videos, which led to Collins Key, who does these amusing game show segments with slime and sounds.
Going back to kids, you can check out the some popular Youtubers for kids here. Personally, I’m into video game Youtubers, so I’m listening a lot to Dan TM and more grown up ones like GameExplain and ReviewtechUSA. Now if these mean nothing to you, that’s okay. The world of Youtubers will either inspire you be a better presenter or make you want to give up your day job so you can review toys or pop bubble wrap for a living:-)
I’ve adapted my voice over the years, and have settled into a nice groove. But I’m always on the lookout for more fresher ways to present myself. It does help me from going insane listening to myself over and over again.
Now I’m not saying you need to talk the ‘lingo’ and pretend to be cool for the kids. I also don’t want authors to pretend to be loud and brash for no reason. They’ll see right through that in a minute. Some of the best engaging authors, like Morris Gleitzman for example, has a quieter voice, but it is distinct and carries an authority that only thirty years of writing and performing can provide. Trust me, it doesn’t matter how old you are, you can still relate to kids without having to know all the latest memes and Youtube drama. Just be as true as the books you’ve written 🙂