Tips for a Successful Event
Making it All Come Together
Here are some ideas for making this event a memorable day that the children will cherish forever:
- Publicize the event well in advance, with library displays and classroom activities. Students should have read at least one of the author’s/illustrator’s books prior to the visit. If possible, let the speaker know prior to the visit which book(s) the students have read. The presentation can often be tailored to center around the book(s).
- Contact local newspapers and radio stations. Alert parents that a celebrity will be visiting.
- Contact Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Children for available promotional materials, like author photos, book jackets and biographical info. (Materials are provided free of cost.)
- Do all you can to welcome your special guest. If possible, meet them at the airport. Assign someone to handle any requests and to accompany the speaker throughout the day (student escorts are great, too!). Show displays you've prepared for the visit and projects the students have done in conjunction with reading the author’s/illustrator’s books. The speaker will appreciate all the hard work you've done to make the visit a success!
- Be certain that you have arranged for transportation to and from the hotel, the event site and the airport.
- Consider the size and location of the event! Gymnasiums are a difficult speaking arena because of poor acoustics. Presentations to smaller groups in libraries/media centers are much more effective and personal than all-school assemblies.
- If you wish to videotape the appearance, you must first get official permission from the author/illustrator. If permission is granted, please send a written statement on your organization’s letterhead, specifying under what conditions the videotape will be used (future classroom use, primarily), when it will be used (only during the school year) and that it will not be copied or sold at any time without the author’s/illustrator’s permission.
- Make sure any equipment needed for the presentation (microphone, slide projector, etc.) is set up and working prior to the first presentation. Have a glass of fresh water and a box of tissues handy.
- If the speaker is doing more than one presentation, please be sure to schedule breaks (15–30 min.) between presentations. If possible, offer an empty office or classroom for their use at this time.
- If a Q&A session is part of the program, field questions for the speaker. We suggest that classes brainstorm interesting questions prior to the visit.
- Authors/illustrators are pleased to answer student questions, but it can be discouraging if they are asked excessive questions related to their perceived celebrity (“What kind of car do you drive?” or “How much money do you make?”), instead of intelligent questions about the creative process or the day’s presentation. When time runs out, end the session with “one last question,” and allow both the students and the guest to express thanks for the opportunity.
- Please check to see if the speaker has any special dietary needs and discuss mealtime plans prior to the visit. A day of public speaking can be very socially demanding, so allow them the flexibility to have meals alone, if preferred. If you hope to have the author/illustrator as the special guest at a formal or informal lunch or dinner attended by teachers and/or librarians, this must be discussed in advance. Authors/illustrators greatly appreciate the educators who support their books and will do their best to accommodate such requests if their schedules allow.
- Allow plenty of time at the end of the day’s events if there will be a book signing. Lines will move slowly as kids talk to the author/illustrator. Pass out Post-It notes to those in line so they can write down the name of the person to whom the autograph will be addressed. This will expedite the line and ensure correct spelling. Have a teacher assist the author/illustrator in the process, so that it goes smoothly.
- Pay the speaker’s honorarium fee upon their departure with a check in the agreed amount.
- Be certain that the schedule allows adequate time for the speaker to return to the airport without rushing.
- Follow up the visit with a thank-you letter, sent in care of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Children. Personal notes from the students are always appreciated, as well.