What You Need to Know About Demo Classes While Teaching Abroad

Richelle Gamlam

Richelle has been living, working, and teaching in China for the last four years, from high school English teacher to college admissions consultant.

Demo Classes as a Teacher Abroad
Photo by Louise P., Plan My Gap Year Thailand

You've touched up your resume, applied for the job, spoken with the manager, and know for certain the school is about to hire you. But then you hear the dreaded words: Demo Class.

What is a demo class? Why do you have to work for free? What do you need to do to ace that demo??!

Today we're going to go over the two major types of demo classes you may have to do as a teacher abroad: "interview demos" and "sales demos." In other words, demo classes that get you hired, and demo classes that attract students to your school.

Personally, I've taught a variety of different demo classes at various schools. I know demo classes can be very nerve-wracking, so it's my goal to make sure that you're not only prepared but also have the advice you need to really exceed expectations.

What is an Interview Demo Class?

I remember the first time I was asked to do an interview demo. Having never taught English before, I was shocked.

What am I supposed to do? What do I need to teach? What are they looking for?!

Interview demos are all about discovering what type of teacher you are. Are you fun? Patient? Easy to understand? The main goal of an interview demo is to convince your school that you can be a good teacher.

Typically there are two different types of interview demos: teaching a fake class and teaching a real class.

Demo Classes as a Teacher Abroad: Interview Demo Class
Photo by Emily S., Via Lingua TEFL Italy

Teaching a Fake Class for your Interview Demo

The most awkward thing I've ever been asked to do was teach a fake class during an on-site TEFL course. In this little test, I was given a list of vocabulary words that I had to use to teach a fake class of adults pretending to be 5-year-olds.

While I've never had to teach a fake class as a job interview, I do have a few friends who have given fake classes over Skype to potential employers. Usually, you're given a topic like "colors", and a sample age group. These employers do not want you to explain a lesson plan -- they want you to actually teach them. (Awkward, right?!)

How to Ace Your Fake Class Interview Demo

How do you ace these fake classes? Roleplay! If you've ever taken an acting class, use everything you've got in this interview demo. Really pretend that the people on the other end of your Skype camera or sitting in the classroom actually are six years old.

Having a great attitude is the most important part of this interview demo, but to help yourself along, research a few games or create a few props. For example, if your goal is to teach colors, get some markers and scribble color blotches on a few scraps of paper. Have them repeat the color to you, and then teach them how to say their favorite colors.

If you're in person, be sure to play a game. Scatter your color cards around the room and shout out a color. Have your "students" try to search for the color and give it back to you. If your employer is having fun, they'll be sure to hire you!

Demo Classes as a Teacher Abroad: Teaching a Real Class
Photo by Michele S., CIEE Thailand

Teaching a Real Class for Your Interview Demo

Teaching a real demo class for an interview is something that can typically only be done if you're already in the country. If you're working for a company that has multiple centers, you may be asked to do a demo to help them decide which center they should place you in. If you're looking for a part-time or tutoring gig, many clients will also ask for a demo class before they hire you.

Thankfully, teaching a real demo class uses all of the skills of a fake class, but it's much less awkward. If you're teaching a class in-person, be sure to ask for details. How big is the room? How many students? What is their level? How old are they? Can I use a PowerPoint projector? Use all of these details to construct an ideal lesson.

Some schools will give you a list of vocabulary to teach, while others will let you come up with something on your own. If you need to create your own lessons, colors, animals, and body parts always work for young kids, while jobs, personality traits, and physical features work for older students. Just be sure your lesson is interesting, entertaining, and involves a song, game, or activity.

How to Avoid Demo Interview Scams

While most demo class interviews are really used to gauge your teaching ability, there are some schools that rely on demo teachers to teach free classes. These schools don't plan on hiring you and are merely trying to score a free lesson from a foreign teacher.

While these scam demos are an unfortunate aspect of the business, they shouldn't deter you from giving interview demos. Just be wary of any school that wants you to give more than one demo class for free. For example, I once had a school tell me they wanted me to work a full half-day for free, teaching three or four demo classes. That was a huge red flag.

Any school that tries to get you to teach multiple interview demos to real classes is most likely trying to get a days work from you for free. One 40-minute demo class should be more than enough to decide whether or not you're qualified to teach.

What is a Sales Demo Class?

Demo Classes as a Teacher Abroad: Sales Demo Class
Photo by Jansi J., Vantage TEFL Thailand

Once you've received your job, you may be asked to teach demo classes for sales purposes. This usually only applies to private companies or academies who need new students to sign up for classes after school or on the weekends.

Sales is an important part of any for-profit education business, so don't be surprised if you're asked to participate in any sales activities or demo courses. These classes may be part of your job, or you might get paid a commission based on the number of students who sign up.

How to Teach a Sales Demo

Sales demo classes are actually all about the parents (assuming you're teaching kids or teens). You want to be sure that your students are having a great time, and the parents are impressed with your work. Typically the parents will watch these demo classes so they can decide whether or not they want to sign up for the school where you are teaching.

The tip to acing these interviews is to discover what each parent wants to see from their kid in the classroom setting. For example, if you notice that a student is easily answering all of your questions, try asking that student a slightly harder question. If you encounter a student that is really shy, try getting her to speak up. If a student is misbehaving, show that parent that you can discipline him while still ensuring he has fun.

The best advice for creating an incredible sales demo is to get the students to talk to each other. Once you've practiced getting students to say their favorite colors, have them ask each other what their favorite colors are. Parents absolutely love it when you get their students to talk to each other in English. It makes them feel like their kids can really communicate in the language.

Demo Classes as a Teacher Abroad: Sales Demo Class
Photo by McKayla R., Excellence Center Palestine

Commission-Based Sales Demos

Commission-based sales demos can either be amazing or horrible depending on your skill with sales. Most companies who offer commission-based classes do not pay you for that hour of teaching, but merely give you a commission for every student who signs with the company.

Obviously a lot more goes into making a sale than just the demo, but chances are if parents bring their students to the demo class, they're interested in the school and can afford the tuition price. Your demo class should be the final decision maker.

If you feel comfortable teaching and want to give sales demos a try, a commission-based system can be great for you! However, if parents watching you teach makes you want to throw up, then try to avoid any commission-based demos until you feel more comfortable.

While there's no guarantee that any commission-based demos will make you money, you do have the potential to make well over your hourly salary if you're good at getting parents to sign up. I have a friend who jumps at every demo opportunity he can squeeze into his schedule because he knows he's almost guaranteed to make over his typical hourly rate.

What If I Don't Want to Teach Sales Demos?

Not everyone is great at sales, and sales demos can be a huge burden if you're not comfortable. If you're signing on with a for-profit academy, be sure to ask what your required sales activities might be. If you're not comfortable with the idea of forced demo classes, be sure you don't take any positions that have it as a job requirement.

Ideally, a company should recognize which teachers are good salesmen and use them in the majority of demo classes, however, that's not always the case. If you're uncomfortable with leading demo classes, especially commission-based demos, be sure to bring it up to your employer sooner rather than later.

Final Tips for an Incredible Demo Class

Overall, the most important advice I can give you for any type of demo, is to be calm and comfortable. Demo classes can be really intimidating, especially if you're teaching to your future employer or a class full of skeptical parents. However, with the right mindset, demo classes can also be your time to shine.

The most important thing you can do is feel prepared, calm, and in control. This is extremely important when you're trying to maintain control of a classroom, and your confidence will be very apparent to anyone who is watching. Remember, as long as you believe in yourself, everyone else will believe in your too.