Friday, November 4, 2016

The Great Arthur Slade talks school visits and presentations

Let me begin by saying that I was lucky to win a critique session from Arthur Slade this year.  Not only because he is open and passionate about writing but generous with on point comments and suggestions about my manuscripts. More than all of that, I was lucky because it was so much fun and arrived at a time when I needed that breath of joy and life.  Arthur is all about encouragement and adding to the world. 
So, a little bit about Arthur, he was raised on a ranch in the Cypress Hills of Saskatchewan.He is the author of eighteen novels for young readers including The Hunchback Assignments, which won the prestigious TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award and Dust, winner of the Governor General’s Award for Children’s Literature. He also co-created the graphic novel Modo: Ember's End.  He lives in Saskatoon, Canada. And he has a fantastic sense of humor and is an absolute joy to talk too, about anything. 

You can find more about him on his website-
Or if you really want to add fun posts to your daily life  here on Facebook-

As I started thinking about presentations and school visits I knew wanted to interview Arthur for this blog.  He’s an amazing public speaker.  I mean, sure he rocks at writing books, but his presentation skills are seriously wicked.  And well, presentations, school visits, anything involving me standing up in front of people doing anything other than reading my story, scare me to death. 

L.C.- So Arthur, if you would be so kind, how about we address the elephant on the blog- Presentations/Public Speaking…

A.S.-Well, I first--

L.C.- Wait, before we can tackle the elephant I need to ask you a question.  It’s one I will ask everyone who graces this blog. What are the three things you are MOST Passionate about?

A.S.- 1. Trying to make a story perfect. 2. Heavy Metal. 3. Eating Turtles (the chocolates, not the shelled creatures).

 L.C.- Ok, now we can get to the elephant.  Would you consider yourself an introvert or extrovert.  I am pretty sure I know the answer to this, but, it needed to be asked.

A.S.- Introvert. I totally would prefer to stay in my room and while away the hours writing or watching Netflix, instead of standing up in front of a crowd.

L.C.- Now let’s get to the meat of the subject. After you have secured an event. What’s your next step?  And how do you prepare for different types of events? Is the preparation the same or different and if different, how?

A.S.- The amount of preparation really depends on the event. For a school visit there is very little prep because I’ve done thousands of them and have my audio/visual presentation all set up on my iPad. I just make sure I bring the right books with me. But if it’s a talk or a book launch that I’m doing for the first time. I practice the event (after creating the text or audio/video slides) at least four times. That way I know what I’m going to say, am comfortable where things will go next, it will sound more natural and if I get interrupted I can usually get back on track.

L.C.- Are you ever nervous?  If so, how do you combat the nerves?

A.S.- For my very first reading I remember being incredibly nervous. I was hoping to get hit by a bus so that I could avoid the reading. And I believe I blushed all the way through my fifteen minutes. These days I rarely get nervous. Part of that is because I have done so many events that my body just gets used to it. And both the practicing beforehand and visualization really helps. By visualization I mean exactly that. It’s the same thing that athletes do. If I find myself feeling nervous days before an event, I take a deep breath and picture myself standing in front of the crowd and imagining it being a success. On the actual day I try to breath slowly and deeply. To center myself, in a way. Tai Chi helped me a lot with my ability to find a calm space before a reading.

L.C.-Is there a format you like to follow?

A.S.- I’m now comfortable with most any format. From being on a panel, to following a set presentation, to talking off the top of my head (though I do usually have at least an idea of what I’ll be talking about).

L.C.-What is your favorite part about doing a presentation?

A.S.- That exhilaration you feel when everything is working. When the audience reacts to a joke or to a powerful scene in your story. There’s a real sense of energy that I get from those moments.

L.C.-What is your least?

A.S.- the drudgery of preparing for the presentation!

L.C.-Can you tell us about the best presentation experience you’ve had? And why was it the best?

A.S.- I launched a book of mine, Flickers to an audience of 500 students (grades 4-7) in a movie theatre. The book is set in 1920s Hollywood and I had a very detailed audio/video presentation set up. I even wore a white tux. Everything went absolutely perfectly. There was such a high energy in the crowd that I couldn’t help but be energized by it. The kids even gave me high fives on the way out.

L.C.- What about the least favorite?  What did you learn from it?  Did it cause you to change anything about presenting?

A.S.- None have been truly horrible. I did present to an all boy’s school years ago and remember them doing “fake” laughs whenever I said something that was intended to be humorous. It was very distracting. But I think, over time, I’ve learned to channel out those distractions.

L.C.- Is the experience different when you have friends and or family attending?

A.S.- I’m always happy to see familiar faces. It just makes it a little bit easier.

L.C.- And finally, what advice would you give to someone just starting to give presentations?

A.S.- Prepare. Visualize. And remember, if you’re feeling nervous, the majority of people in the
audience don’t actually notice that you’re nervous (this has been proven in tests). The presenter often
feels like the audience notices every single bead of sweat or slight stutter. Then we pause to
apologize and say how nervous we are and create a feedback loop where we get more and more
nervous. The truth is, you’re safer to assume they don’t notice you’re nervous and are genuinely
interested (or at least not bored). So just continue on. You’re doing a great job. And each time you do
that job, you’ll get better at it. Nerves are natural. Even Cicero, the greatest Roman orator of all time,
was nervous before each talk. He knocked it out of the park each time, too.

Now, you might think that the interview is over but... It's not!  I have a treat for you.  Here is a video of Arthur's book launch for Flickers!  Enjoy!!!!


  1. Wow, Laura, what a treat! I enjoyed Arthur's interview and his presentation tips are great! Thank you both :)

  2. Arthur is great. So fun to talk to and generous with his time.

  3. Thanks for these insights, Laura! I love the visualization tip as well as the idea that people in the audience generally don't realize you are nervous so you should just keep going. And of course, preparation is key. Thanks to you and Arthur for a great interview. -- Melissa Stoller