Informing through Demonstration
When informing through demonstration, a speaker gives verbal directions about how to do something while also physically demonstrating the steps. Early morning infomercials are good examples of demonstrative speaking, even though they are also trying to persuade us to buy their “miracle product.” Whether straightforward or complex, it’s crucial that a speaker be familiar with the content of their speech and the physical steps necessary for the demonstration. Speaking while completing a task requires advanced psycho-motor skills that most people can’t wing and therefore need to practice. Tasks suddenly become much more difficult than we expect when we have an audience. Have you ever had to type while people are reading along with you? Even though we type all the time, even one extra set of eyes seems to make our fingers more clumsy than usual.
Television chefs are excellent examples of speakers who frequently inform through demonstration. While many of them make the process of speaking while cooking look effortless, it took much practice over many years to make viewers think it is effortless.
Part of this practice also involves meeting time limits. Since television segments are limited and chefs may be demonstrating and speaking live, they have to be able to adapt as needed. Demonstration speeches are notorious for going over time, especially if speakers haven’t practiced with their visual aids / props. Be prepared to condense or edit as needed to meet your time limit. The reality competition show The Next Food Network Starcaptures these difficulties, as many experienced cooks who have the content knowledge and know how to physically complete their tasks fall apart when faced with a camera challenge because they just assumed they could speak and cook at the same time.
Tips for Demonstration Speeches
- Include personal stories and connections to the topic, in addition to the “how-to” information, to help engage your audience.
- Ask for audience volunteers (if appropriate) to make the demonstration more interactive.
- Include a question-and-answer period at the end (if possible) so audience members can ask questions and seek clarification.
- Follow an orderly progression. Do not skip around or backtrack when reviewing the steps.
- Use clear signposts like first, second, and third.
- Use orienting material like internal previews and reviews, and transitions.
- Group steps together in categories, if needed, to help make the information more digestible.
- Assess the nonverbal feedback of your audience. Review or slow down if audience members look lost or confused.
- Practice with your visual aids / props many times. Things suddenly become more difficult and complicated than you expect when an audience is present.
- Practice for time and have contingency plans if you need to edit some information out to avoid going over your time limit.