2. Understanding demonstration speeches

Demonstration speeches

- the essentials of great 'how to' speeches

What are the characteristics of great demonstration speeches?

In a nutshell, a good demonstration speech teaches. It's a variation of the informative speech with in-built visual aids. The audience, through listening, watching or participating, learns something new.

As their guide, you will take them through a process of 'show and tell' covering each step from set-up to finish. Think of it as a 'how-to' speech.

Examples of topics easily fitting the requirements are:

decorated cupcakes

How to decorate cupcakes

changing a car tire

How to change a car tire

Choosing your topic

To help you decide use these considerations.

Who is your audience? What will be of interest to them?

It's much, much harder to persuade an unwilling or bored audience that you have anything interesting to say or show.

Ask yourself: 'Why does my audience want to listen to my speech on xxx {insert your topic}?' 'What will they gain from it?'

Put yourself in their shoes. If you were them, what angle would make your topic appeal?

Can this topic be broken down into easily followed sequential steps?

If the answer is 'YES' you can go ahead.
If the answer is 'NO' you'll need to think again.

Can this topic adapt to fit the setting for the speech?

Example: My topic is 'How to saddle a horse correctly'.

brown and white horse

The setting for my speech is the classroom, or a hall. Understandably, I can't bring my horse! But is there another way around the problem? Can I use video-clips I shot and edited?

(If your speech is part of an assessment process, be sure to ask before committing yourself to other media forms eg. power point or video.)

Am I passionate about or genuinely interested in the topic?

Your enthusiasm (or lack of it) communicates directly with the audience. It
bypasses your words and shows in your body language.

Are you committed? Are you interested? Do you really care?

Great demonstration speeches are a combination of confidence and information. You need both to succeed.

Now choose your topic!

Here's a collection of 100+ demonstration speech topics.
There's another selection of good demonstrative speech topics here arranged by theme and yet another here:
50 how to speech ideas focusing on soft skills.

When you've chosen come back for delivery suggestions. The success of demonstration speeches, aside from choosing a great topic, lies in planning, preparation and delivery.

Planning, Preparation & Delivery of Demonstration Speeches

Planning and Preparation

The goal is to successfully teach a process or skill. Success or failure in teaching is always measured from the pupil or student's perspective.

If your demonstration speech is on 'how to knot a tie', then the desired result is an audience capable of knotting their own ties or at least inspired to try.

As with every good speech, your demonstration needs a 3 part format.

men's colorful ties

You will have introduction in which you tell the audience what it is they're going to learn, why they'll benefit from learning it and why you chose the topic.

Next you have the body of the speech. This is the demonstration itself and lastly, you'll have a conclusion summarizing what it is that's been learned and reinforcing its benefits.

Woven throughout each of these segments you'll provide visual aids or props, (either the items themselves or charts, diagrams, photographs, video etc.), and personal stories to illustrate.

You may even actively include the audience if appropriate. For example, if you're tying ties, then having one for everybody to practice with as you're going through the steps would be a good idea.

The Body of Demonstration Speeches

In your planning concentrate on the outcome you want and then focus on the logical steps needed to achieve it. This will form the body of your speech.

The easiest way to get this part right is by doing it yourself.

As you go though the process, (baking a pie, tying a tie, changing a tire, balancing a check book), keep your audience in your mind.

Put yourself in their shoes, hear through their ears, see through their eyes ...

What do they need to know about each step?
What will make it easier for them to understand?
Do they need to see it?
Do they need to do it?
Do you need to include every step or can you safely either miss some out or clump them together?

Talk the process out loud to yourself making sure your vocabulary is free of jargon or if you do use specialist words, you explain them fully.

This is the heart of your speech and you will want to make sure you have it right by preparing as fully as possible.

Getting feedback

When you think you have it flowing smoothly invite a few trusted people to watch. Ask for feedback so you can fine tune the balance between 'showing and telling'.

Questions you'll want answered are:

  • Are the steps in the process logical?
  • Are my instructions or explanations about each step clear?
  • Are my visual aids or props relevant and effective?
    Click to find out more about how to use visual aids effectively.
  • Is it interesting, amusing, effective?
  • What do I need to do to improve?

Once you've integrated the feedback and run it through several more times you're ready to add your introduction and conclusion.

FAQs about 'How to' Speeches

Do I need to write out my speech 'word for word'?

No. In fact it takes away from your speech considerably. It's very hard, if not impossible, to read a script and demonstrate something at the same time. If you know your topic all you really need are notes on cue cards to follow.

Click for more about cue cards and how to make them. With practice you will talk fluently and easily about each step. This has the added advantage of making your speech more spontaneous and therefore 'real' for the audience.

Do I really need to rehearse my speech?

YES! Demonstration speeches are notorious for going awry. You need to rehearse to eliminate all the possible glitches before you get in front of an audience.

It's only through rehearsal that you find out if your ideas translate well into reality. The smallest of oversights can trip you up. Rehearsal helps you find them before you have a audience watching you fall flat on your face.

Examples: Getting crucial steps muddled through not having thought them through carefully. Forgetting an essential piece of equipment. If your speech is about grooming your dog, not anticipating your normally placid Fido would take fright and run in front of a group of strangers.

Rehearsals let you identify problem areas before they become a public disaster. Check out how to rehearse for handy tips.

yellow smiley face

Can I use humor?

Absolutely! Demonstration speeches and humor belong together. When you have your audience laughing with you, you know you're onto a good thing. The trick is to contain and make it relevant. Click here for more about using humor in speeches.

How do I stop feeling anxious before giving my speech?

The best way to overcome anxiety is to prepare thoroughly. When you eliminate as many possibilities for failure as you can, you will feel more in control.
Here are some very good strategies for dealing with fear of public speaking. I know they work as I've used them myself!

You will find many other helpful tips to enhance your demonstration speeches by using the site map. For example: If you know your voice lacks color then the vocal variety exercises will help make your speech interesting to listen to. Or maybe you need to apply the brakes to a motor mouth. The exercises for slowing speaking rate will be just what you need.

Go well.
Remember to smile and have fun.

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