Physics Van - How to Present
Guidelines and Ideas
Your appearance is very important. It affects the audience AND you psychologically,
and it can really help (or hurt) your confidence and effectiveness.
- If you stand up straight and keep your shoulders up, you will find that you have more
energy, and it looks better too!
- When you speak, look out at the audience, not at the demo. If you can, look at
individual kids. If you find that difficult, at least stare past them toward the back.
- Don't turn your back on your audience, or spin around. Turning your back gives the
illusion that you aren't focused on the audience.
- Make sure your attention is actually focused into the crowd, not at your demo (this
takes a little practice). If you are paying attention to the kids, they will find it
easier to listen to you.
- Use body language to help your speech. When you talk about two things moving apart, move
your hands apart. This helps the younger kids and those in back to understand you better.
Don't panic at this list... It's long but most of these things will
reinforce each other once you've practiced them.
- Projection! You have to make YOUR little voice reach every kid in the whole room. Even
with the microphone, if you don't speak loud and clear, NO ONE will be able to
understand you, and the kids in the back won't even HEAR you.
- Open up your mouth and use it to help you pronounce words clearly (i.e. don't talk
through your teeth).
- YOU CAN speak loudly, no matter how quiet your normal voice is. Depending on who you
are, it might even seem like yelling. But your audience needs to hear you, so don't
be embarrassed to belt it out!!
- Speak slower than you think you should. When you're nervous you will automatically
rush everything, so this is important to remember for clarity.
- Be EXCITED! You're in the Physics Van because it's cool, and you want to reach
out to kids, and show them that Science is awesome and fun and exciting! If you remember
that while you're presenting, you will feel better about yourself, and you'll do
a better job.
- Don't worry about being NERVOUS. Nervousness looks like excitement to your
audience. As long as you don't let it get in the way of your presenting, it can
actually be a good thing.
- "This object will remain stationary until a force is exerted on it."
What's wrong with this statement? The Physics is true, but it sounds like a textbook.
Many people will revert to this type of speech when they get in trouble. They can't
remember the "Physics Van" explanation, so they go ahead with the
"real" one. To everyone, this is boring, but to your demo it's a fatal
mistake. If you talk over the kids' heads, even a little bit, they will not
understand you, and their short attention spans will prevent them from trying. Instead,
use words and ideas that are familiar to the kids: "This plate won't move unless
something pushes or pulls it."
- If you get stuck while you're talking, and you don't remember what to say
next, don't start babbling (most people will say UM or OK a lot when this happens,
and repeat things they just said to stall for time). Instead, just pause, and collect
yourself. Think about what you're trying to tell the kids about, and what steps you
have to take them through to get there.
- Don't be afraid to ask for help. If your train of thought gets thoroughly derailed,
turn back to the Van members behind you and pick someone who knows about the demo. You can
say "and now Greg is going to tell you more about this part!" or whatever.
- Transitions: making your demo flow into the next one. Know what demo is coming after
yours, and how it relates to what you're doing. It's also good if you can
remember the name of the person who's going to be speaking next. That way you can say
"And now that we know all about lasers, Matthew is going to use a laser to show you
some great stuff about sound!" If you don't have this information, then at LEAST
say "and now we're going to show you some MORE neat stuff!!" or something
equally vague. Please understand that ANY transition is 100% better than just stopping and
Physics Van Specifics:
These are some things specific to Van demonstrations that we have noticed through
- Clap when the demo is over. The kids are always ready to clap, but sometimes they
don't know when. Since YOU, as volunteers, know when the demo is over, if you clap,
then they know they are supposed to.
- Help if you see someone in trouble, or something that needs to be done. If you see a
part of a demo that needs to be set up, or see someone having trouble with a demonstration
it is nice if you go set it up yourself, or lend a helping hand.
- Pay attention to the demos when you are not presenting. This way you will know when to
clap, when someone needs help, and you can learn how to improve your own demonstration
- If a demonstration is not working, move on. Physics Van demonstrations rarely go
perfectly. If you are having trouble with a demonstration, feel free to ask someone for
help, or look back and signal that you are having difficulty. Also, if the demonstration
WILL NOT work, move on, hand the show over to the next presenter. Explain that the
demonstration is not set up and we will try to come back to it later.
Are you ready to present?
These are things you should ask yourself before you decide you're ready to do
- Am I trained in this demo? If you haven't officially trained with it, have you at
least seen it at several shows before? That leads to:
- Am I comfortable with the material? This doesn't mean, "do I understand the
Physics?" You have to know how to explain this demo to a lot of little kids so they
will understand and maybe even remember it!
- Do I know how to present the demo? (If everything in the Acting and Speaking sections
makes sense to you, and you have practiced, the answer is probably yes).
- Do I know my own weaknesses? If you understand your trouble spots in presenting, you
will be able to catch them easier and fix them faster.
- Can I accept criticism? After you do a demo, you should ask others what areas you can
improve on. If you don't want to improve, then you're probably not going to!
Click here for the Adobe PDF version of this demo (text only), for printing purposes.