There are a lot of different ways to find a school that is just right for your presentation. The simplest is to contact your child's school to volunteer to speak to at career day or to a class. But there are alternatives to this approach. Read Getting the Gig for ideas on schools.
This is another important tool for managing nerves. Find out as much about your audience and your venue as you can before you get there. Ask the teacher:
To make sure your presentation goes smoothly, decide in advance what you're going to say and how you're going to say it. Identify a few key messages (see the What to Say section for each grade/age level for ideas) and make a written list of talking points on a sheet of paper or note cards. Or use one of the PowerPoint presentations we've provided in the Resource Materials.
You'll find age-appropriate materials on the level-specific pages in the Resource Materials area of this site. If you want to add material and aren't sure whether it's right for your audience, you may be able to check its grade level with your word-processing program. In Microsoft Word, choose Tools – Options – Spelling & Grammar, and check the boxes for Check Grammar with Spelling and Show Readability Statistics. When the spelling check is complete, Word will display a grade level for your text. For more on this feature of Word, check the Help Index under Readability.
Many speakers make the mistake of trying to fit too much material in the time allotted. One rule of thumb is 100-125 words per minute, but be sure to make allowances for questions and interactive exercises. To be sure your presentation is the right length, read it aloud at least once to make sure it goes smoothly and fits in the time available.
When you come into the classroom, remember that you're giving the students a break from their routine, and they're likely to be excited about it. You should have their full attention; take advantage of it. The classroom teacher will usually give you free rein and only step in if you need help.
If your audience is responding well to a particular topic, give it more time if you can. Skip over material that's obviously falling flat. Allow time for spontaneous questions and answers, but move on if you think the conversation is veering dangerously off topic. Be polite but decisive: Good. Let's save the rest of the questions for later, because right now I'm going to talk to you about ...
Get familiar enough with your material to know what you'll cut if you have less time than you anticipated. Reshuffle your index cards or box off areas of text on paper. Bring overhead transparencies of your PowerPoint presentation in case something goes wrong with your laptop or the school’s projector.
Handing out prizes for intelligent or entertaining answers will keep your session lively regardless of age level. See the grade-specific pages for ideas.
The materials provided on these pages will equip you to answer many common questions, but don't worry if you get one you can't answer. "I don't know" is a perfectly good answer. "I'll find out and let you know" is an even better one. Get contact information from the teacher and follow up as soon as you can, or point the kids towards a resource that will give them the information they need.