What is a demonstrative speech?
Demonstrative speeches teach an audience how to do a specific thing. Even if you’re an expert at your topic, the process of writing a speech which assures the audience has learned something new, can be challenging.
As a demonstrative speaker, you will be their guide, taking them through a process of ‘show and tell’, covering each step from start to finish. It’s like an engaging ‘how-to’ speech.
They are also known as explanation speeches or a demonstrative presentation. It relies more on logic and information as opposed to emotions…although (to truly capture the audience’s attention) we must try and add an emotional element to these functional speeches as well (continue reading).
How to Pick the Correct Topic?
If you are unsure about what to speak on, there are three things to keep in mind when it comes to picking a topic for demonstrative speeches:
How Much Time Do You Have to Deliver the Speech?
Demonstrative speeches can be as short as six minutes (‘How to do origami’) or go on for more than two hours (‘How to start an online business’)! So choose a topic depending on the amount of time you have been allotted.
It will help you determine how narrow or broad your topic can be.
If you have over 30 minutes to speak, a speech on ‘How to make a cheese omelette’ will restrict you. There isn’t enough to speak on such a topic for 30 minutes.
You need to broaden your topic to something such as ‘5 unique egg dishes you can teach your kids to make’.
Know Your Audience
This is the most important point. While you may love your speech topic, it’s not necessary that your audience even cares for it.
I’ve seen speakers who deliver passionate speeches about topics that they are experts in. But if the audience is not going to benefit from that topic, how does it make sense to deliver a speech on it?
For instance, I once had a Toastmaster demonstration speech to deliver. The average age group of the club was around 35+. My ‘how-to’ topic was ‘How to live cost-efficiently as a college student’.
Needless to say, although my speech content was strong, it made no difference to the crowd – because it simply did not apply to them.
Knowing your audience can even help you narrow down your speech topic into a specific niche.
For example, if you’re delivering a talk to a bunch of advertising professionals, a speech on the foundations of advertising won’t make sense, right? Even though it’s in the same domain, your audience is already familiar with the basics.
Maybe you can talk about something more specific such as ‘How to make copywriting effective through the use of behavioral science’. Now that’s a topic that would peak their interest as it’s relevant to their domain as well as not broad enough so as to bore them or appear too generic.
Is Your Topic Suitable for a Speech?
Demonstrative or ‘How-To’ topics can be very wide but not all of them fit into a speech. For example, a speech on ‘How to raise a Kickstarter campaign’ would be a better fit for a speech as opposed to ‘How to repair your truck’.
Some things just don’t fit into speeches.
Here are some examples of Demonstrative Speech Topics
I’ve tried to include examples which apply more to speeches as opposed to YouTube videos or the like. So I’ve left out topics such as ‘How to tie a knot’, ‘How to make origami’, ‘How to swim’, etc.
Here are some speech topic options that might help you:
- How to perform yoga to help you in your life & career
- How to edit your photographs online
- A ‘how-to’ guide on copy-writing
- How to negotiate your salary
- How to be less nervous at parties
- How to speak on stage with more confidence
- How online businesses are changing the world and how you can start one too
- How to manage stress in a digitized world
- How to unlock creative potential
- How to sleep correctly
There are a LOT more topics, but you get the idea. Depending on what tone you want your speech to go in or how much time you have, you can pick funny ‘how to’ topics or even ones that end in less than 5 minutes.
Just a note, before you deliver your speech, try and find someone who is similar to the audience you are going to be presenting to and run the speech by them.
See if the message is being delivered clearly to them – are they finding it hard to comprehend what you are trying to say? Are there some gaps them could help make the speech more comprehensive?
You will receive valuable feedback by running your speech by one person (who represents your audience) before your final performance.
Demonstrative Speech Outline
To get good at understanding speech outlines, we need to first understand how speeches are written from thought to delivery. When a speech is crafted with such precision, that’s when people will remember what you speak. Chris Haroun’s Public Speaking and Presentation online course on Udemy really helped me understand this at a holistic level. I urge you to check it out. It will not only help you understand how to deliver Demonstrative Speeches but also give you a strong public speaking foundation to build on.
Here is a basic outline for a demonstrative speech
- The purpose
- Why you?
- The story
- What else?
Let’s tackle all these points in more detail now.
Writing a Demonstrative Speech
The Purpose (What’s Your Point?)
Remember I said you can add an emotional element to your demonstrative speech? Well, this is it. Before getting into how to do something, always start with why it is important to learn that thing in the first place.
Doing this gets your audience to care about your topic. Think about it, before someone teaches you something, wouldn’t it help to know why that topic is important to learn in the first place?
I remember watching this speech by a great salesman named Zig Zigler. He told a story about how his history teacher spent the entire first class selling them on the importance of learning history.
By talking about the ‘why’ of the subject first, the students became much more eager to learn history.
If the teacher would have straight off jumped on to the lessons of history instead of talking about why it is important, the students might have not gotten so interested in the topic in the first place.
Establish Your Credibility (Why You?)
When you are delivering a demonstrative speech, your audience is expecting to learn something from you. But like how it is with most things, they want to ensure that whoever it is that is teaching them something, is credible.
So, use the beginning moments of your speech to establish why you are qualified to speak on that particular topic. It’s also a great way to involve story-telling right from the beginning of your speech.
For example, if you’re topic is ‘How to earn passive income’, a personal story on how you created a better life for yourself using passive income would be quite an engaging way to start your speech while establishing credibility for yourself.
That becomes the introduction of your demonstrative speech. Now let’s move on to the body:
The Story (Diving into Each Point with a Story)
After you have established why learning about your topic is important as well as why you are the right person to learn from on this particular topic, start with the body of your speech – the ‘how to’ part.
If you’re an expert on the topic, this is the simple part of the speech. You already know the steps. Now it’s all about writing them down in a manner that’s easy for the audience to comprehend.
Don’t forget, although you’re delivering something that is truly functional in it’s core, you are still required to keep your audience engaged. And the best way to do that? Tell a story.
You can also start off with a summary of all the points and then dive into each of them. However, I personally prefer starting off with the points in chronological order and reveal each new point as and when it flows. It makes for a more story-telling approach.
Questions n’ Answers
After you’re done with your ‘how-to’ speech, you might believe that you have covered all the necessary topics. But the audience may have their own unique challenges that may have not been addressed in your speech.
It’s not your fault of course. It’s not possible for you to pre-empt your audience’s subjective challenges and address them in your speech.
But that’s why it’s necessary to set aside some time for a short QnA session. This allows more active interaction between you and the audience and allows them to get their personal issues (relating to your speech) solved.
A QnA segment might only be possible if you’re allowed a speech slot which is at least 20 minutes long. It might be hard to give a comprehensive speech and squeeze in a QnA session within 10 or 15 minutes.
Options & Variations (What Else?)
A great way to make your demonstrative speech more well-rounded is to add in variations of your main topic. This allows the audience to relate to other aspects of your overall topic as well.
For example, if you’re talking about ‘How to speak in front of an audience full of children’, you can also shed some light on ‘How to speak in front of an audience full of senior citizens’ just to add some more variety to your overall speech.
At the end of it, summarize your entire speech. You have just taken the audience through a whole ride of how to do something. To ensure that they take home the necessary points, reiterate each of your steps and key takeaways to conclude your speech.
‘How To’ Tips for Demonstrative Speeches
Besides the obvious ‘tip’ of practicing your speech before you go up on stage, here are some ways on how you can deliver an impactful demonstrative speech:
How to Keep it Simple
Keep your speech simple. Keep your points to a minimal (between 3 to 7). Nobody wants to listen to a speech which has a 17 step process each with its own high level of difficulty and jargon.
Don’t include difficult words which are technical in nature. But if you must include such words, make sure you explain the terms as well.
How to Use Visual Aids
A demonstrative speech can be made much more useful with the help of visual aids. A presentation is the simplest way to provide visual aids into your speech.
Each visual can showcase each step in your demonstration. Try and use larger than life visuals with less text. Do more of the talking and let the images be there for the purpose of recall.
The visuals will help your speech be more memorable as people remember better with the use of images.
You can also use props to showcase your demonstration and add a more real element to the entire speech.
How to Engage the Audience
How to keep your audience engaged in your speech? Engage with them.
If your speech topic allows for it, why not call up an audience member to help you demonstrate your points? Engaging with the audience in this way and having them perform certain steps of the demonstration will improve the likelihood of them remembering the steps as well as make the entire experience more interactive.
Whether you involve the entire audience or just call up one on stage, it’s great either way.
This one time, a creative professional had come to our office and was giving a talk on ‘How to make the most out of a creative brainstorming session’. Instead of just giving us the steps, he divided us into smaller groups and allowed us to apply the brainstorming techniques as and when he was speaking about them.
It made the entire process much more fun & engaging and I remember the techniques he taught us till today.
How to Make It Easier for the Audience to Remember You (& Your Points)
After you are done teaching your audience, it’s not necessary that they have actually “learned” whatever it is that you attempted to teach them. They might want to find out more on the topic, they might have additional questions or they might even want to contact you to clear some doubts.
To guide them with this, it’s always more helpful to offer some resources that they can access even after the speech is over.
For example, you can provide them with a website where they could find out more information on the topic along with your contact details. Or you could hand them a small booklet which summarizes what you spoke about.
Anything that will help them after you are done with your speech and leave the venue would be a great addition to your demonstrative speech.
In closing, a demonstrative speech is a great way of teaching an audience a lesson or skill. We’ve used to before (knowingly or otherwise) and we’ll probably need to use it again. As long as we know the right topics to select, how to write an effective ‘how-to’ speech and deliver it while being our truest self, it’ll be just what our audience needs – a simple yet ridiculously helpful speech.