October 6, 2022

Lessons on how to create author presentations for children’s books

Children, with their natural high energy, have short attention spans and are a very difficult audience. So if we look to people whose job it is to reach and retain young readers, we can find valuable lessons on how to reach and retain presentation audiences.

Judy Blume, whose children’s books have sold 85 million copies, teaches a Master class on writing in which she advises that, as a starting point, you let “the mess out.” Rather than starting with an outline or the slides, she recommends starting with a brainstorming session in which you capture all of your ideas as they bubble up in their innate random state. Sound advice that, unfortunately, is rarely put into practice in business presentations. In their desire to “do it”, presenters often jump to the final version of their story or deck and end up with a presentation that results in a disorganized data dump that wanders all over the place without a clear line of thought.

Blume’s lesson is to make the data dump in the preparation rather than the presentation.

Once you’ve taken that essential first step, you can move on, and for that we turn to two other youth publishing consultants.

John Matthew Fox, a book publisher who offers writing lessons, wrote a Blog listing 12 steps on how to write a children’s book. And Alan Durant, a children’s book author, wrote a article listing five steps on how to write a picture book for children. Both take similar paths in their early stages of developing a story that applies to mature audiences as well as young readers:

· Define the main point: Decide on the overall theme, the big takeaway for the reader/audience.

· Build a structure: Organize the main ideas into a clear logical flow that is easy for you to say and easy for the reader/audience to follow. In a recent Forbes article, you read how Dr. Marc Hedrick, surgeon and CEO of Plus Therapeutics, described his complex cancer treatment by providing a clear path through the process.

· Be brief: This advice addresses the short attention span common to young readers and adult audiences.

What is remarkable about Fox and Durant is that neither of them arrives at the illustrations for their stories until the end of their process: the seventh stage (of 12) for Fox and the last for Durant.

That these consultants relegate thinking about illustrations to later in their processes is the big lesson for presentations. Indeed, in normal business practice, illustrations come before and after the story and, in doing so, become counterproductive.

If you think about your slides before the story, your mind is focused on the colors, fonts, size, grammar, etc., not the main point or structure. If you consider the slides as a document for after the presentation, you will create a document and not an illustration.

Instead, think of your slides like the pictures in children’s books, like illustrations. If there is text, such as titles. Short and punchy keywords. Most likely containing only nouns, verbs and adjectives. No sentences. No articles, conjunctions or prepositions. Just as headlines in print and digital publications capture the essence of a story and leave the details to the body of the text, leave the details of your story – the statistics (“in the last year alone, our market share is from…”), examples (“one of our customers discovered that since deploying our solution…”), endorsements (“Gartner reported that our solution…”) — to your story.

Just as pictures in a children’s book highlight the story, your slides should highlight your story. It’s all about your story.