Don’t believe the myth of ‘natural’ – just as David Beckham’s ‘natural’ talent for taking free kicks took hours of practice, so the best presenters have thought carefully about what they want to achieve, and prepare diligently to make it happen. This means not just knowing your lines, but also ensuring you feel truly comfortable using any props or apparatus.
Prepare for searching questions – read around to find out as much as you can about your subject matter, even if your students don’t ask those questions you’ll have extra links and asides to throw into the mix.
All the world’s a stage – think about how your demonstration area looks to those sitting at all points of the assembly hall. Present a clear demo area so that students know where you want them to focus their attention. Let the students at the back of the room know how enthused you are about presenting it to them, not just those sitting at your feet.
Takeaways – consider how you want your audience to feel once the demo is over, as well as what you want them to think and learn. Think about the emotional journey you want to take them on, which might simply be that they feel a curiosity about your subject that they haven’t experienced before.
Check and double check – standing in front of a hall of expectant students to find that batteries are flat, valves are blocked or you actually don’t really understand how a piece of kit works is the stuff of Demo Day nightmares. Rest easy by making sure you do a number of dummy runs in advance, preferably involving a colleague who will provide constructive feedback.
That’s entertainment – think of your demo as a performance that will grip your student audience from beginning to end. As part of your preparation think through what is appealing, interesting or surprising about the demo and use vocabulary, hand gestures or props to ensure no-one misses the best bits. If that all sounds a bit showbiz, don’t get hung up on perfecting your jazz hands, simply ensure that your well practiced demo speaks for itself and that your enthusiasm shines through.
Be infectious – just as when you’re in the classroom, when you’re standing in front of a hall full of students your mood is infectious. If you’re confident and at ease with what you’re doing then your audience will be too. Your comfort will allow them to sit back, relax and enjoy the show.
Audience participation – this is a tricky one, especially with a large assembly audience. However, involving students in a show of hands to predict what happens next, or inviting assistance can be a great way to keep students engaged. If you can’t physically involve students, use language that identifies they’re participating in the experimental journey with you. ‘Let’s see what happens next’ works much more inclusively than ‘let me show you what happens next’.
And finally -have fun! Demo Day is one amazing day to fire the curiosity of students and show them why you love your subject.