4 Steps to Help You Crush Your First Teaching Demonstration

The "demonstration method" isn't just for academia; here's how to use it in a wide range of fields.

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Taylor Tobin1.84k

The “demonstration method” of teaching most frequently enters conversations within the academic career field, but this model for conveying information and training students on new practices also has practical use in a plethora of other professional pursuits.

Showing students or colleagues how to accomplish the tasks connected to your lesson gives them a direct idea of the subject’s importance, and as many people prefer to learn by doing and seeing rather than by listening to a lecture equivalent, the demonstration method holds substantial proven value.

Should you receive a request to prepare a teaching demonstration for the purposes of an interview or a workplace presentation, you may wonder what exactly this task entails, how to get ready for it and how to deliver a demo that both proves your knowledge of the topic and also helps your audience to fully comprehend the lesson and to make practical use of the info in the future. 

If this scenario sounds familiar, read on for advice on building and fine-tuning your teaching demonstration and presentation tips sure to wow your students, interviewers and other potential viewers.

What is the demonstration method?

Louisiana State University defines the demonstration method in the simplest terms, describing it as “a teaching method used to communicate an idea with the aid of visuals (like flip charts, posters, Power Point presentations, etc.).” 

The “show, don’t tell” maxim proves vital to this educational style; teachers who use the demonstration method veer away from lengthy spoken lectures and instead use their classroom (or conference room, as the case may be) time to provide their students with clear, picture-based displays and/or video/in-person examples of how to accomplish the task at hand. 

For instance, if you’ve ever taken a chemistry class in which the teacher or professor guided you through an experiment by performing each task herself and explaining its significance as you observed, then you’ve experienced the demonstration method. 

How to prepare for a teaching demonstration.

Teaching demonstrations are frequently used as aspects of the interview process for roles in higher education. In these circumstances, the hiring panel will typically provide the interviewee with a topic and basic guidelines to help steer their prep process, but sometimes, they neglect to offer up detailed information like where you’ll be giving your demonstration and whether the audience will be actual graduate or undergraduate students, members of the hiring team or both. 

In a corporate environment, teaching demos can also come with vagueness-related challenges; if you’re putting together a presentation for clients or colleagues, you’ll likely need to work autonomously to design your demos and assemble your materials. These pointers may prove helpful for such situations:

1. Don’t be afraid to ask follow-up questions. 

When you’re assigned a teaching demonstration (whether in the context of an interview or a work presentation) and the assigner doesn’t tell you when, where, or for whom you’ll be delivering your demo, it’s perfectly fair to ask for additional details. In some cases (usually in a job interview context), the assigner may decline to give more information, but you won’t be penalized for the inquiry (at least, not if the employer is halfway reasonable). 

2. Focus on making your visuals as engaging as possible. 

Because visual stimuli are the cornerstones of teaching demonstrations, it’s essential to invest serious time and energy in crafting the posters, slides, video clips or live displays that will most directly communicate the content of your lesson. For instance, if you’re using a PowerPoint presentation, avoid the tendency to overload your slides with too many images and too much text. When in doubt, always simplify. Use your photos, diagrams, and other visuals to tell a story, and remember: clarity is the ultimate goal here.

3. Arrange your demonstration in sequential order. 

Your subject matter may not lend itself to chronological order, but a step-by-step flow that utilizes clear cause-and-effect will bolster the strength of your presentation and hold your audience’s attention. 

4. Practice, practice, practice!

Even the most seasoned public speakers often feel some nerve-related jitters when giving a new presentation for the first time. And because demonstrative teaching involves visual props and a measurement of success largely based on audience engagement, it can be even trickier to deliver these types of lessons without proper preparation. So if you have a friend or partner or family member who’s willing to be your proxy audience as your practice your demonstration, don’t hesitate to accept their help.

Want to completely crush your demonstration? Try these tips:

  • In the interest of appealing to a wider demographic of students/coworkers/clients, pay attention to auditory stimuli (the verbal part of your presentation, sound cues that relate to the images shown on your slides or posters, etc.). Depending on the subject of your lesson and the norms of your field, you may also be able to incorporate other senses (i.e. display models that the audience can touch and handle, olfactory cues, and so on). 

  • Especially if you’re covering a wide topic territory with your demonstration, it can be useful to identify your central themes and to make a point of highlighting them and linking the rest of the presented information back to these key concepts. If you’re delivering a teaching demo to a hiring committee, this will show them that you’re a focused instructor with strong organizational skills. If you’re presenting to a group of colleagues, keeping them fully apprised of the most important topics will increase their retention and provide stronger results for your company.

  • Remember that an effective teaching demonstration should be interactive. It’s true that this educational and presentational style doesn’t usually include literal Q&As throughout the demonstration itself, but there are plenty of benefits to using eye contact, conversational style and even surveys and informal polls.

  • Many teaching demonstrations transpire under very specific time constraints, whether based on class/meeting schedules or on guidelines set down by your interviewers. When it comes to keeping yourself on-task and remaining timely throughout your demo, organization will prove your most powerful ally. While preparing ahead of time, make an itinerary that clearly delineates the ideal schedule of your demonstration, complete with section notes that you can refer to throughout the presentation. 

  • As we mentioned before, the demonstration method doesn’t involve questions in the context of the lesson. However, you should make sure to include a question-and-answer period at the end of your presentation. Teaching demonstrations are interactive by nature, so it’s to your benefit as the presenter (and to your students’ benefit as well) to give your audience the space to pose queries and really dig their heels into the subject matter.

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