Hey cHEwY gum gums!

Just like the State of Origin, Book Season has shifted over to Spring, thanks to the postponed Book Week. I have a mix of virtual author visits and in-person school visits lined up.

When someone suggested that virtual visits may be the new normal, and that schools will prefer virtual over in-person, I wanted to scream noooooooooooooooo waaaaaaaayyyyy. Nothing will ever beat an in-person school visit. The presenter benefits more from a live audience, they feed off their energy. The audience will be more engaged with someone who is in the room, not on the screen.

The key difference I’ve found when it comes to doing virtual author visits is that you become a passive form of entertainment, instead of being active (or in my case, hyperactive haha). I feel more worn out after each virtual session, because I end up talking more to fill in the muted silence and it’s hard to maintain the same energy for that long. When you perform in person, you have incidental moments to catch your breath, such as when kids laugh, react or spontaneously start chatting to their neighbour.

It’s also hard for a kid to be looking at a screen for that long as well. I must admit, when I am in ZOOM meetings with other authors, I need to be doing something else as I’m watching/listening to them. No offence to them, but I can’t look actively engaged all the time myself, so there are times when I had to glance over and so something else, or just turn the video off for a moment.

Yes, you can still have some interaction with kids online, but there are circumstances that make that tricky. For example, you could be performing in front of classrooms, where kids have to walk up to the front of the room where the laptop/smartboard mic is to ask their question. I find the better ones have been where the kids are viewing the presentation on individual devices so they can use the chat function to type questions. Or when the school comes out with a list of questions beforehand. But question time virtually can be a slow process, especially when there’s lag.

I am grateful for the chance to still visit schools in Melbourne and Victoria. AND for the work itself to be honest. I’ll still be doing my best for each school, whether it’s from my home or in their school hall. But like one librarian said to me last term who had an virtual author visit, they’re just not the same as ‘a real author visit.’

What do you think? Will virtual author visits continue to thrive next year, or will they fade out as things get back to normal?

O.W

About the author

I'm an author, stand-up comedian and teacher. My books include Thai-riffic!, Con-nerd, Punchlines and The Other Christy. I'm a massive Nintendo fan and love eating burgers. Follow me on Twitter or Instagram @oliverwinfree