Welcome to the weird world of teaching English online: demo lessons. Where grown adults pretend to be Asian children who can’t speak English….. Yep, that.

So, you’ve just got your interview confirmation and all that stands between you and teaching English online is a demo lesson. 

What is a demo lesson? Is it in front of lots of people? How long is it?

Argh, so many questions but don’t panic! I’ll take you through this weird process step by step and teach you the skills to pass your demo lesson.

I had the same nerves and worries before my first demo lesson as well. In the days leading up to it, I was frantically emailing these questions to my trainer and a nice man named Trent replied, explaining the process and calming my nerves. ‘Great!’ I thought this is going to be fine it’s just a 15-minute demo lesson with Trent’.

Imagine my horror when at the start of my demo lesson: Trent, a fully grown bearded man, starts speaking in a high pitched voice pretending to be not just 1 but 3 Chinese children(!!).

This is the English teaching companies’ way of testing your teaching out on children without actually using any real ones. Much like home waxing and pre-drinking before a night out- it must have seemed a great idea at the time.

What is a demo lesson?

A demo lesson is the next step after your first interview. It’s a chance to show off what you’ve learnt in your training and try your teaching out on a ‘real student’. And now you know, it will most likely be a grown adult pretending to be a child.

How long will your demo lesson be?

This depends which company it is, but expect to teach for no more than 15 to 20 minutes.

Who will you be teaching?

You will be teaching an adult in a 1-on-1 Skype situation. They may or may not use the video- most of the time they spare this extra weirdness and just use audio.

What will you be expected to teach?

Before the demo lesson, they will send you the materials and topic they want you to use. Most of the time it will be a set lesson plan and nothing you haven’t already seen in your training.

How should you prepare for your demo lesson?

So you’re probably feeling quite nervous and anxious about it but don’t worry because most companies will give you lots of training and video resources to help you pass your demo lesson with flying colours.

Spend some time studying and soaking up the information. I didn’t do this properly before my first demo lesson and had to retake it completely, so it’s worth spending time on this beforehand.

What are they looking for in a demo lesson?

Whatever company you’re interviewing for, they’re generally looking for these things:

1. Enthusiasm and a smile!

This might seem obvious but when you’re sweaty and nervous during your demo lesson this can be the first thing to go. You don’t want to lose your smiley self and come across as boring or stressed.

2. Problem solving

They’ll be times in your teaching career when you have to think on your feet, solving a problem whilst also keeping the student talking and engaged.

Whether it’s a page that’s taking ages to load or if the student doesn’t know how to accept a contact request on Skype- just keep asking general questions about their day like the weather in their country, their last holiday and their favourite food.

In my experience, a lot of students prefer conversational English with a native. So normally they’ll be pleased about having more time for general chit chat.

3. Know how to use the software

This might seem obvious but practice makes perfect! Check out what video software the company is using. Whether it’s Skype, Zoom or their own platform- test it out at the training stage and ask these questions to your trainer:

  • How do you share the screen and sound?
  • Is there an edit page function where you can draw circles or lines around text?
  • Do I need to create an account or will they do it for me?
  • How do I launch the software for the demo lesson? Is it through their website?
  • Do you manually add the students or is it done automatically?

This is all information you need to know before your demo lesson.

4. Excellent English

Make sure that you’re not using any street slang or curse words. Curse words often transcend languages so be very careful not to use them and offend your students. Japanese students are often easily offended so steer clear of curse words if you want students to book your lesson again!

5. Plain, non-distracting background

Check out what your background looks like on your webcam before the call. A plain white background is best, but at the very least- take down that Baywatch poster of Pamela Anderson will you? Make there aren’t any shadows cast on you and your face is well lit.

6. Dress to impress

You won’t have to wear a suit for teaching English online but looking smart is a must and this includes your demo lesson. So make sure your clothes are free of ketchup and toothpaste stains and your hair is looking fly!

7. Speak slowly

Even though in your demo lesson you will be talking to an English speaking adult (see bearded man-child) you will still need to speak slower than your usual pace. This shows that you are mindful of the fact that it will take your students longer to process what you’re saying.

After your demo lesson it’s feedback time

Whatever happened- it’s done, go you! You’ve survived the weirdness!

The good news is, even if you did make a few mistakes, they aren’t looking for perfection and a lot of companies will give you a second chance.

The trainer in your demo lesson has been in your shoes before. This should put you at ease, as they know that many teachers will be very nervous during their demo lesson.

I hope you’ve found this guide useful if you have please leave a comment below!

Have you had any disastrous demo lessons? I’d love to hear your bearded man-child stories! 🙂

Looking for a company to teach English online?

Make sure you check out the Ultimate Guide to Teaching English Online with Bibo!