April 11, 2016 - How to Do Demonstrations

Suppose you have a large gathering and you are asked to do a demonstration/exhibition? Here are some pointers on how to do a great one.

  1. Bring needed equipment. Besides the obvious table and balls, you might want to have spare rackets for players from the audience, barriers, boxes of balls (to demonstrate multiball), ball pickup nets, and a scoreboard. You might also want to bring any props you might use - mini- or over-sized rackets, for example. Bring flyers about local table tennis, especially coaching programs if it's for kids.
  2. Introduce yourself and your partner. Then give a short talk about the sport. Keep it short - you don't want to bore them. I typically ask them (with a show of hands) how many have played table tennis before; have been to a table tennis club; own their own racket; knew that table tennis was an Olympic sport; and knew that the best players train 6-8 hours/day and make over a million dollars per year. By asking for a show of hands, you get audience participation, which you want. I often end some of the questions with showing of hands of those too embarrassed to raise their hand either time (and I often slyly raise my hand). If you aren't good at public speaking, practice!!! When I first became a coach and had to lecture to groups, I took a class on public speaking, and spent hours practicing by talking to my dog and the dryer. (It makes it more realistic if you have something alive or moving to practice to.)
  3. Make sure to talk about local table tennis opportunities! Here's a good time to give out flyers.
  4. Give a short demo - again, keep it short. Make sure to have a partner who can rally with you. Then demo the forehand, the backhand, looping, and lobbing, giving a short explanation for each. You can also do chopping if one of you can do that and the other can attack them consistently. You can also give a short demo on serves, showing how a backspin ball can come back into the net, for example. Let it be known that at the end you'll let them try to return the serves.
  5. Do an exhibition. It's not a real game; you want spectacular rallies. I like to start by telling the audience that a terrible thing has happened, that my partner - after years of getting coaching from me - has gotten a big head, and thinks he/she can beat me. Then we have a challenge match to 11 points. Neither of us use our spin serves, though I'll throw in a lot of spectacular high-toss serves and maybe a few fast ones, but nothing deceptive. Then rally! Lobbing is best, but don't overdo it or it gets a bit redundant - and perhaps save the best lobbing points for toward the end. (I often fall to the ground and lob while lying and sitting on the floor.) You can play the exhibition "straight," with just good shots, or do more humorous trick shots, as I often like to do, where I pull out the big racket, the mini-racket, a clipboard, do 50-foot serves, blow the ball back, and argue with the umpire.
  6. Finish with audience participation. I find the best way is to let the audience line up and try to return serves - two misses and they out (and they'll usually race to the end of the line to try again). Be flamboyant - serve with sidespin, put your racket on the table, and move to where the ball should go and catch it. Or serve backspin, and as you do so, tell them, "Don't go into the net!" I often ask if they want "Speed or Spin," and then give it to them. After you've done this a few rounds, that's the to explain how to return spins serves, and then take your time with each player, showing them where to aim - down and to the side against sidespin, and up against backspin.
  7. Give a final short statement, reminding them about local table tennis, and thank them for coming.