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Develop a Demonstration: Develop Content
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Develop the Content


Work with “client” to develop a demonstration topic suitable for their audience and follow-up with required support information necessary to promote the demonstration. This might include a written description of the topic, demonstrator bio, sample pictures, links to webpages, and a list of any equipment or materials that will need to be provided.


Planning and preparation*

A good demo begins with adequate preparation. First consider the setting of the demo and the expecta­tions of the group. Will it be at a craft fair, turning club, symposium and how will those differences impact what you do as a demonstrator? For example, participants at a craft show don't care to hear about bevel angles.

The audience may dictate what you are doing. They may not know who you are, your success, or reputation. Are they there to be entertained, to intensely learn, for hands­-on? The size of the group may also affect your strategies; e.g. hands-on may not work well with a large group. Are they there to be entertained, to intensely learn, for hands­ on?

It is always wise to confirm in an email the mutual understanding of dates, times, location, transportation, fees, equipment and wood requirements, etc.

Select a topic that you know well and are comfortable demonstrating. Don' t try to teach all of woodturning in 1½ hour s- narrow the focus to something you can reasonably accomplish in the time frame. Consider scaling down from the size you normally would work at. Having to remove less wood helps to move the process along.

Know the equipment you will be using. Have everything lined out in advance, tools sharpened, perhaps back-up tools, faceplates, chucks, screws, etc. Bring your own wood if you are not comfortable relying on others. If you’re bringing your own faceplates, chuck, centers, will they fit the lathe you will be using? (Note: during the demo never criticize the equipment or wood – you are always partly or wholly to blame for such problems.

If audiovisual equipment is to be used, allow plenty of time for checking it out and making sure it will be an asset to the presentation.

Have pieces already blocked-up, roughed-out, or even partially completed – unless those processes are central to your presentation. Don’t spend half your demonstration just getting apiece to the stage that was the real point of interest. Consider having a number of pieces completed to different stages to illustrate progression.

Set up the demo for success Prepare even for mistakes or minor failures so that they do not become major problems. For example, if a slide presentation is part of your demo, is there a back-up for the equipment, do you have the materials on a thumb drive? Anticipate possible mishaps at the lathe as well, so that you can turn them into instructional opportunities.

It can be very helpful o create props in advance, making it easier for everyone to see or to reinforce a point. These can be cut-away pieces, wood models of tools, finished examples, partially completed pieces, etc. Handouts are good to supplement what you are discussing or to serve as reference material after your presentation.

There is no substitute for being prepared. If you were to stand before a group of people to tell them about yourself, it shouldn’t be too anxious a time because it’s a subject you know well. You should be as familiar with your demo topic as you are with yourself. If you know your topic well, you will be able to present it confidently and accurately, able to answer questions with assurance.

Being prepared and familiar with your topic will also allow you to be more flexible in your presentation. It is a good approach to have a general lesson plan, but too detailed of a plan can throw you off if someone asks a question out of the order you anticipate If you know your subject, questions and comments from the audience will usually guide you naturally from one section of your general lesson plan to the next.

As you prepare a general lesson plan, try to anticipate potential problems each step of the way and how you can deal with them. Ask yourself “What are the mistakes that can happen right here, and what would be the best way to deal with them during a demo?” You probably know from first-hand experience in your shp all the mistakes that can be made. Even if they don’t happen during your demon, it can be very helpful to the audience to point them out anyway.

Before beginning, make sure you have the attention of your audience.

Begin your presentation with a brief description of what you will be demonstrating. If the audience knows the general lesson plan, they will be ale to know when it is appropriate to ask specific questions. They might have. If someone asks a question that is way out of order in your generally lesson plan, it’s okay to tell them you will be able to give a better answer to their question later in your presentation. Don’t forget they asked the question when you get there!

When someone does ask a question, be sure you repeat the question for everyone to hear. Don’t make your audience play the game show Jeopardy where all they get is the answer and they have to make up their own question. If a person in the front row asks something and you reply “That’s a very good questions and the answer is 220.” The rest of the audience doesn’t know if you are talking about rpms, volts, sandpaper, or what time you left the bar this morning.

Remember: you are an example especially of safety concerns. In a demo you may well take extra safety measures in addition to the safe habits you’ve adopted working alone in your shop.
Set yourself and audience at ease. A good way to do the former is to pick a safe-setting – with friends or your own club. Pretend that it is just you and one other person in your shop. Again, pick a topic you know and are comfortable demonstrating and don’t take the same risks you would in your own shop.

The best instructors are in constant contact with the group, especially in those tedious or flat spots in the demo. Encourage questions from the group – but don’t forget t repeat the question prior to responding. Sometimes it’s more effective to shoot questions to the group – to keep the dialogue going.

If there is a video camera with monitors, make good use of the technology.  Position yourself or hold tools to provide maximum benefit. Check the monitor periodically. Know what your audience is seeing and experiencing.

You are responsible for the pace and direction of your demo. Exercise control, especially if participants take things astray from the focus.

What if a participant disagrees with you? Avoid arguing and move to areas that you both agree on.

Pass items around as much as possible, especially helpful if doing a piece in stages and you have partially completed examples.

What if something goes wrong? If you reach your objective to get the point across, then making a mistake on the piece may not really be a failure. Use problems as something to be solved with the group.

Don’t labor too long on something if the audience seems to comprehend it readily, even if you had prepared a wonderful detailed explanation of it. Be thankful that you have and intelligent audience and move on.

Have fun. If you don’t have fun and enjoy yourself, nobody else with either. Woodturners are easily entertained (who else would sit and watch wood spin), and are generally a sympathetic and friendly audience. They are quite willing to have a good time if you are.

*These ideas were presented in a panel discussion by Clay Foster Bonnie Klein, John Jordan, and audience participants at an AAW Symposium. Thanks to Alan Lacer for providing his notes of the session. This article was originally printed in American Woodturner, June 1997.







Understand why? When a statement is made or technique shown, ask why? When you know the why of a technique, you will be able to successfully internalize and utilize the information in the future, especially if a situation is different from your own experience. ~ John Giem


What did the demonstrator say? Be open and  appreciate questions, often your questions will help others better understand the information being conveyed. ~ John Giem




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Reflections of a First-Time Demonstrator, by Larry Genender, American Woodturner, Spring 2003



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Biomechanics and Body Movement with Eric Lofstrom Woodturners (TRT 24:38)




Personal Protection Equipment for Woodturners with Lauren Zenreich (TRT 7:19)




Safety Culture by Steve Criscenzo, American Woodturner, December 2013



AAW Best Practices: Anchor - Bevel - Cut





Discover Different Styles of Learning by MindToolsVideos (TRT 3:24)


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