Demonstration speech ideas for a girl who can't cook or craft
September 12, 2011 8:23 PM   Subscribe

What would be a good topic for a 5-6-minute demonstration speech in a college speech class? Caveat: It must involve the use of a tangible, 3D object, but I have absolutely no ability with crafts, cooking, or sports.

For this speech, I will have to show the class how something is done, show them how something works, or demonstrate the stages of a process. My speech must involve a list of steps and the use of at least one 3D object (not my body alone).

Despite searching for demonstration speech topics on Google and reading lists of hundreds of ideas, I am at a loss. All the skills I can think of that I happen to possess are related to language, thought, computer usage, and other academic talents -- mostly things that go on in my mind, and nothing involving the manipulation of external objects that are large enough to be visible across a room. Three ideas I had -- teaching some French phrases, demonstrating a yoga pose, or showing how to draw or write something -- are all ruled out because they don't involve 3D objects.

Can you think of any simple skills I might possess (but am forgetting or overlooking) that could be used for a demonstration speech? Or are there any other skills/processes I could learn (and master in just a day or so) well enough to teach the class with some authority?

Most importantly, they should not be text-based or body-based, but rather involve the manipulation of 3D objects in some way. Additionally, I can't use a topic as simple as "How to tie your shoes" or "How to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich," because I need to demonstrate something interesting and useful to my audience, not something everyone knows how to do already. Finally, remember that I have no prior knowledge, experience, or giftedness with crafts, cooking, or sports, and I don't want to have to buy any expensive or obscure props that couldn't easily be obtained at a Walmart.

Thanks in advance for your ideas!
posted by datarose to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (48 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Learn a magic/card trick! (A simple one).
posted by too bad you're not me at 8:25 PM on September 12, 2011

Do something with computer hardware - like show how to upgrade RAM or put in a new hard drive, etc.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 8:27 PM on September 12, 2011

Can you solve a Rubick's Cube? Even if you can't, it's pretty easy to learn through YouTubes and the such. It actually makes for a pretty interesting demonstration because you can explain how the cube is made, how you are manipulating the rows and columns in precise ways to achieve the results.
posted by banannafish at 8:28 PM on September 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Maybe not tying shoes, but tying other types of knots would fit the criteria. You could use two (or more) segments of thick rope of different colors, which helps show how the knot is tangled. Such props should be very cheap, no more than a few dollars for different rope colors.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:29 PM on September 12, 2011

Fixing a flat bike tire. It's super easy once you know what you're doing, but since most people don't know how to do it, it usually manages to impress. If you need to save time, just cover replacing the tube and skip pulling the wheel off/putting it back on.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 8:30 PM on September 12, 2011

If you have long hair, you could demonstrate the sock bun. At the end, you'd end up with a crazyfun hairdo, too, which is pretty entertaining in and of itself.
posted by phunniemee at 8:30 PM on September 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Do you know how to fold a fitted sheet?
Seriously. Click the link, yo. If this demo knocked the socks off a bunch of Mefites, surely it would dazzle your classmates.
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 8:31 PM on September 12, 2011 [6 favorites]

When I have done this, I have done "How to season a cast iron pan" If you don't have one, think kitchen stuff "How to unstick a stuck jar lid" or "How to get the last peanut butter out of a jar" or "How to sharpen a knife." You can look at lists of kitchen hacks and I'm sure you'll find some stuff you can work with. Plus, people have positive associations with food stuff generally.
posted by jessamyn at 8:32 PM on September 12, 2011

Can you give a speech about the process of drafting a speech about X object?
posted by SMPA at 8:33 PM on September 12, 2011

How about how to arrange a table setting and what objects are used in what order? I saw a similar presentation a few years ago and it was well-received.
posted by cyndigo at 8:40 PM on September 12, 2011

I second Blazecock Pileon's suggestion of a knot tying demo--years ago I gave a similar assignment and one of my students chose to show us how to tie a few different types of fancy looking but relatively simple knots. The best thing about her demo, the thing that made it different from everyone else's, was that she gave each of us a small length of thin rope so we could try tying the knots along with her. It was fun, engaging, and memorable--this was years ago and I don't remember any of the other students' demos, but I do remember hers.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 8:42 PM on September 12, 2011 [3 favorites]

How to tie your shoes isn't necessarily an obvious/universal process. Here's a TED talk on it. Chapter 2 of The Mezzanine is all about it (and awesome). I happen to tie my laces into knots that rest on the inner side of each foot rather than the top, because I put each foot into my lap while tying and, hey, that's where the knot winds up.

I'm not saying you should do tying your shoes, but whatever you do, personalize it like these examples.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 8:44 PM on September 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

Someone in my speech class demonstrated the proper technique for doing a home manicure and I swear I've thought of it every time I've painted my nails since. Someone else brought in a bowl of water and shaved his face.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 8:51 PM on September 12, 2011

Clean a fish.
posted by mbx at 8:52 PM on September 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Balloon animals, and following hurdy gurdy girl's suggestion - give everyone in the class balloons as well, so that they can do it with you.

With one simple technique, you can do quite a wide variety of animals just by varying the length of the nose, ears, neck, legs, body and tail.
posted by Gomez_in_the_South at 8:58 PM on September 12, 2011

Can you do a language demonstration with large letter blocks/cubes? If they have to be seen across the room, maybe make them out of covered or painted cardboard boxes. And focus on something short - a small set of letters that can make a witty set of anagrams. Or do some really simple philology - eg explain the etymology and development of "ĂȘtre", and it's historical links to German "ist" and English "is", that sort of thing.

Alternatively, can you do your yoga around an object? I saw a guy do an amazing tumbling routine around a broom handle once. And another guy do some really special acrobatics around an chair balanced in some pretty weird positions.
posted by Ahab at 9:06 PM on September 12, 2011

I came here to suggest the various ways of tying a shoe as well.
posted by rhizome at 9:31 PM on September 12, 2011

I did this class! Someone came in and showed how to efficiently pack a suitcase. Someone else demonstrated how to refinish/reface a cabinet. I taught everyone how to file for divorce. How to apply makeup? How to braid hair?
posted by Sassyfras at 9:31 PM on September 12, 2011

When I had this class, I demonstrated how the rabbit comes out of the hole, goes around the tree, and back into the hole.
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 9:41 PM on September 12, 2011

The amazing 2-second T-shirt folding method might make a pretty good demo. This is something that also has amazed MeFites in the past.
posted by amtho at 9:56 PM on September 12, 2011

posted by naoko at 10:22 PM on September 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

How to brush your teeth. How to pick a melon.
posted by bq at 10:38 PM on September 12, 2011

To follow up on my answer, I wrote a Mefi post here about a site that shows all kinds of shoe knots (including the one we learn as children) and explains how to tie them. It might be a starting point for putting together a more general demonstration on tying knots.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:52 PM on September 12, 2011

1. Buy one large garden gnome.
2. Search thrift stores for childrens clothes and other weird items.
3. Discuss and display the changing sartorial options for garden gnomes over the past decade.
4. Profit!
posted by the fish at 10:57 PM on September 12, 2011

How to make coffee in a french press. I wouldn't need a trip to the store cause I've got all the supplies in my kitchen. And for the win: I'd have a lovely cup of coffee to enjoy whilst listening to the other presenters.
posted by dchrssyr at 11:26 PM on September 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

How to iron a shirt. Someone did this in my mom's college speech class 40-some years ago and this particular lesson has stuck with her ever since.
posted by mochapickle at 11:30 PM on September 12, 2011

can you read a map? use a compass? Those are interesting skills and you'd be surprised how many people would actually learn something from your demonstration.
posted by dchrssyr at 11:30 PM on September 12, 2011

posted by Giggilituffin at 11:33 PM on September 12, 2011

Assemble a kite.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 11:42 PM on September 12, 2011

Bring an easel and show everyone how to draw in two-point perspective.
posted by mochapickle at 11:42 PM on September 12, 2011

Etch A Sketch
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 12:46 AM on September 13, 2011

How to wrap a present. Seriously, I suck at wrapping presents (I can't cut a straight line with right-handed scissors), and when someone did this presentation I admired her skill at measuring the paper just right and making lovely creased corners.

I showed how to do a Tarot reading for my presentation.
posted by misha at 1:32 AM on September 13, 2011

I took speech last semester and demonstrated how to make a mini-greenhouse out of a liter soda bottle.
posted by cairnoflore at 1:37 AM on September 13, 2011

I need to demonstrate something interesting and useful to my audience
Can you think of any simple skills I might possess (but am forgetting or overlooking)

These might be ruled out on the grounds of usefulness, but there are a few things you might have learnt as a child:

- how to make a paper snowflake or a paper chain (useful if you want Christmas decorations on a budget)
- how to play Solitaire without a computer (useful for passing the time without a computer)
- how to make a paper aeroplane (useful for, um, getting a sheet of paper to the other side of the room...)

I have actually found cause to use this one in real life:

- how to make a square from a rectangular piece of paper, and then turn that square into a paper cup sturdy enough to drink from.

And a couple of adult skills you might have that I don't think anyone's mentioned yet:

- Do you know how to polish a shoe (and own shoes suitable for polishing)?
- Can you re-pot a plant? (Perhaps a bit messy...)
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 3:04 AM on September 13, 2011

shoe lace tying- there are heaps of different ways to do it, and there is a more efficient way. Could work?
posted by titanium_geek at 3:17 AM on September 13, 2011

I would recommend doing something that you already have experience with. "How to safely take apart a computer" -- if this is something you're familiar with.

How to set up an easel?

What do you do in your everyday life that involves any sort of object?
posted by DoubleLune at 4:15 AM on September 13, 2011

I gave a demonstration speech once on how to build a fire. Have some tinder, some kindling, larger sticks etc.

Gives you plenty to talk about too, picking a location, choosing the materials.
posted by bricksNmortar at 4:27 AM on September 13, 2011

If you are trained, do a first aid demo. Now that CPR has changed, you can't do the pocket mask demo. Perhaps you would like to show how to wrap or splint some injuries.

Also, I don't see why you are discounting computer usage as your topic. A computer is a 3D object. Demonstrating how to use a piece of software in front of an audience is incredibly difficult - maintaining eye contact and engaging your audience is quite a challenge. I would do this if possible, as this skill has very practical applications.
posted by crazycanuck at 4:47 AM on September 13, 2011

Sock puppets are easy to make even if you don't consider yourself crafty. There are a number of how to videos on YouTube.
posted by TheCavorter at 5:00 AM on September 13, 2011

I did how tie a bowtie. It's been surprisingly handy.
posted by snickerdoodle at 6:00 AM on September 13, 2011

I did this in JROTC and I explained the rules of Monopoly, but you could do any version of Solitaire.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:17 AM on September 13, 2011

There's a speech of this nature in the Toastmasters basic manual, so I've seen a few. One of the funnier ones detailed the proper order of construction for hamburgers and sandwiches, going into great detail about the need to separate meat condiments from vegetable condiments and get everything on there in the proper order. He used diagrams, but it could easily be done with actual groceries, and the payoff of taking a bite out of the finished sandwich would probably be amusing.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:20 AM on September 13, 2011

I have done exactly this with a potato clock, in a techincal writing class. Lemon batteries are the same concept. You can experiment with different materials for the electrodes, show how a penny works but a quarter doesn't, how a galvanized nail works, but not a regular one, play around with positioning. It's how-to and SCIENCE! and different from what anyone else will do.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:36 AM on September 13, 2011

Scarf tying! There are a million ways to tie scarves. I bet everyone would learn one or two new techniques from you. They are very easy to learn. You can find endless Youtube videos on this topic as well.
posted by yawper at 10:53 AM on September 13, 2011

If you're up for a slight logistical challenge, you could steal from one of my classmates and demonstrate how to make bananas foster. You'd need: some kind of camp stove or portable burner, a lighter, pan, spatula, knife, bananas, butter, a bottle of Kahlua, vanilla ice cream (presumably carried in a cooler), and permission from your professor to use all of them.

Making it is super easy. Slice bananas, fry in butter until they just start to soften, pour some Kahlua on 'em, and light it. Burn the alcohol off and the remainder will caramelize. Serve over ice cream. Makes for happy classmates, and it's stuck with me for 15 years or so. I still make it occasionally.
posted by LowellLarson at 12:29 PM on September 13, 2011

So, I wouldn't have called it, but my roommate just reacted in total amazement as she watched me assemble a peanut butter and banana sandwich, so I guess I'll share.

Two slices of bread
Peanut butter and something to spread it with
A banana

-Spread your peanut butter on your bread. OK, that was pretty straightforward.
-Now, take your banana and open it from the bottom, and pinch the ends as you pull them apart. This will remove all the banana strings in one fell swoop.
-Break (don't slice) the banana in half.
-Using your thumb, press gently into the broken end of the banana so that it splits into three lobes. Do this for the other half.
-You now have 6 equally-sized pieces of banana. Arrange them vertically on your bread.
-Use other slice of bread to complete sandwich.

This method produces a consistent banana-to-peanut butter ratio throughout the entire sandwich, and ensures that no banana bits will fall out while you're eating it. Hooray!
posted by phunniemee at 7:17 PM on September 13, 2011 [5 favorites]

This is a little dated in the digital age we live in, but I've done this speech showing my audience how to easily open a cellophane-wrapped CD case. You'll need an unopened (or re-shrinkwrapped) CD jewel case, and an non-rounded edge (like that of a desk or podium).
  1. Rub the corrugated edge (usually the bottom) of the jewel case up and down against the edge of the podium/table/desk/whatever, until the cellophane tears open.
  2. Remove cellophane and discard/recycle.
  3. With the front of the CD facing you, gently pry the bottom left corner of the top of the jewel case out of its socket.
  4. Flip the front of the case up so that the only thing keeping it attached to the bottom half is that long, annoying sticker (usually with the artist/album name on it).
  5. Peel the top of the case off the sticker in one fluid, gentle motion, and set it down.
  6. Peel the sticker off the bottom half of the jewel case again in one fluid, gentle motion and discard/recycle.
  7. Gently re-socket the top of the jewel case into the bottom, et voila!
If you go to a CD retailer they will likely have a shrinkwrap machine in the back and may actually help you shrinkwrap some of your own CDs or empty jewel cases (er, and you could just use whatever similar stickers)—then you can pass them around and have the class try it.

There's also the <shameless self-link>easy paper toy of endless fascination</shameless self-link>. (direct link to how-to video)
posted by carsonb at 8:53 PM on September 13, 2011

Thank you all so much for the excellent ideas here! I will mark as "best answer" the topics that I myself am most likely to use (based on my own abilities, materials, and preferences), but practically all of your suggestions would make for great demonstration speeches.
posted by datarose at 7:42 AM on September 14, 2011

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