Virtual visits need to be arranged directly with the author or illustrator through their own web sites, which can be found using the links on this site’s KEY STAGES pages, but here is some general advice.
What do authors do on a virtual visit?
This is entirely up to the school and the author. My own off-the-peg sessions are adapted from my in-person school sessions and include a reading of one or more of my books, a Q&A and a short talk and/or activity relating to the book(s). However, some schools have used the session to show me a short performance or presentation inspired by one of my books. Other schools have shared the results of ‘favourite book’ votes, with individual children telling me about their favourite page in their favourite book.
What you need for a virtual visit?
- SOFTWARE: You’ll need to have video call software such as Zoom, Google Meet, FaceTime, Skype or Microsoft Teams installed on your computer. Different authors may prefer to present using different software, so check that your software is compatible when arranging a virtual visit.
- WEBCAM / MICROPHONE: The webcam should be positioned as close as possible to the screen the students will be looking at so authors can see the students’ faces looking towards them. If you’re using a separate microphone, this should be positioned so that the author can hear the students clearly. A cordless roaming microphone, that can be passed from student to student is a good way of ensuring that students can be heard by the author.
- SCREEN: Ideally the computer should be connected to a large TV screen or white board projector, but as long as there is a screen of some sort that the students can see the author on this is not essential. If you’re using a projector in a brightly lit room, it’s a good idea to turn off the lights or close the blinds near the screen or whiteboard so that the students can see the author more clearly.
- SPEAKERS: Sound is important! The students will need to be able to hear the author clearly. Your computer’s built-in speakers may not be loud enough for their voice to carry to the back of the room, so you might need to use some louder, plug-in speakersor the TV’s speakers if you’re using a TV screen.
PLEASE NOTE: Many authors and illustrators won’t have the time or technical expertise to offer technical assistance, so if you are new to virtual visits make sure that you have the necessary software and hardware and you have familiarised yourself with how to use it by making some video calls BEFORE you book a virtual visit with an author or illustrator. If you are intending to connect your computer to a separate video screen or speakers and have not done this before, it’s a good idea to test these in advance too.
- A copy of the book: Schools should have at least one copy of the book the author or illustrator is going to be reading.
- Some questions prepared in advance: If your visit includes a Q&A session, you’ll get a lot more out of it if the students have some questions prepared in advance.
- A room full of enthusiastic students: Students will enjoy a virtual visit much more if they are already familiar with the author’s books. Visit the author’s website to find out more about them and their books. If you subscribe to a school library service, ask them to provide you with a selection of the author’s books to use as part of an author display in your classroom.
- You might consider organising a book sale to coincide with your virtual author visit. Your local bookshop may be able to offer you a schools discount and some authors may provide book lists to make it easier for schools to order books. Authors may also offer to send out signed book plates for any books purchased in this way.
Virtual visits should not be recorded without the author or illustrator’s prior permission.