Saturday, August 10, 2019

Phil Bildner: Rocking Your Presentation—How to Wow Your Audience

Phil Bildner, one of the planet's most dynamic humans, has written a whole heap of picture books, including Marvelous Cornelius, Martina & Chrissie, Twenty-One Elephants, The Soccer Fence, and The Hallelujah flight. He also wrote the MG series Rip & Red, and co-created the NYT bestselling MG chapter book series Sluggers.

But that's not all.

A veteran visitor of schools, Phil in 2017 founded The Author Village, a booking service that features dozens of the industry's best authors and illustrators.

He talked to us today about rocking school visits.

He used to teach in New York's public schools and doesn't consider himself a former teacher, but a traveling teacher who brings messages of respect to groups of students all over. Here are just a few of the invaluable bits of advice he gave those of us looking to boost our school visit game.

1. The key to presentations is to get your audience's attention right away.

Look! It's a Philmoji!
"Know your audience or you will have no audience," he said. This means you have to speak their language—not yours.

Once he was in Mitch McConnell country, Kentucky. He wanted to get a feel for who the kids were and he asked them to describe themselves in five words—first choosing six, and then crossing out one.

This helped him set a tone. One of the words he used to describe himself was "queer," because he knew some of the audience members would never have heard an educator describe themselves that way. He was nervous about it. But every kid showed up the second day, and they wanted to know if he'd be back.

Another way to connect with an audience: tell a story. Make yourself human. Show your humor and heart.

If you're an illustrator or painter, DRAW. They will be mesmerized. If you play an instrument, play it. If you can writ poems, recite one. Basically, if you have a trick, bring it out.

2. Request a tech person: Don't be afraid to ask for the tech person's number. Ask for the kind of microphone you like. If you're bringing your own laptop, bring all the adapters and cords. If possible, use the school's equipment. You can't always count on sound or internet connectivity for your presentation. Have backups on the flash drive and the cloud. (The Logitech wireless Presenter R400 is reliable.)

3. Show the behind-the-scenes process. "Your mess is your message." He likes to show sketches and iterations for cover designs, because kids love seeing how an idea evolves and where inspiration comes from. It's also good to show them the kinds of revisions we do, likening the work of editors to the work of teachers.

A rough sketch and edited copy
from Martina & Chrissie by Phil Bildner

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