Practice your Sales Pitch in VR with Real-Time Feedback

December 12, 2017 - Dom Barnard

Getting accurate feedback from colleagues on a sales pitch can be difficult and there is no way for them to quantify your performance. In this study, we use the VirtualSpeech VR app to review a pitch and provide feedback on specific criteria, from eye contact to number of hesitation words. The speech was around 5 and a half minutes long, giving the app a good amount of data (over 750 words) to work with and provide feedback to the user.

The pitch was given by an employee of ImmersiveShowrooms (fictional company) to senior marketing executives at the automotive company BMW. The speaker tries to convince the executives that they should open up a virtual showroom in London, similar to the existing Audi virtual showroom.

The sales pitch (provided in the Appendix) for this study was used as the basis for the analysis. The topic and specific content are not under review or important in this study.

Virtual boardroom for sales pitch presentation to get speech analysis feedback.

The virtual boardroom the user gave their sales pitch in. The users presentation was loaded onto the left wall, where the Welcome placeholder image is.

The virtual reality app served two purposes:

  1. Immerse the user in a realistic boardroom room
  2. Provide real time feedback to the user

The realistic boardroom helps recreate the fear and excitement you might experience when giving a pitch in front of actual executives. In virtual reality, we can simulate mobile phones going off, audience members talking to each other and a wide range of other scenarios which you wouldn’t get without practicing in VR.

The second point, on real time feedback, is covered in this study. The app gives feedback on these areas of the users pitch:

  • Pace of voice (how quickly the user is speaking)
  • Number of hesitation words
  • Volume (loudness) of the users voice
  • Eye contact performance
  • Speech insights (not used in this speech)

The users performance is analysed by the app according to the criteria above. We also discuss other useful features available to the user to improve their sales techniques on our sales course, such as saving the presentation to listen back to later, uploading the speech to the VirtualSpeech team for detailed feedback and getting the virtual avatars to ask questions about the pitch.

Virtual sales pitch overview

  • Pitch topic: How BMW can benefit from opening up a virtual showroom in London
  • Speech length: under 6 minutes
  • Virtual environment: Pitching in a boardroom to 2 senior executives of BMW

Uploading your own presentation slides

Before starting the pitch, the user uploaded their presentation slides into the VR app. This allowed the user to present with their own slides and use them as visual cues for the presentation.

The method for uploading your own slides is simple – create a presentation using PowerPoint, Keynote or similar software and save your slides as a PDF document. You can then upload the PDF to the app by emailing them to yourself or transferring them through iTunes (iPhone) or file transfer (Android).

Practice sales pitch with your own presentation slides in VR

Screenshot showing the users presentation slides inside the boardroom. Current slide shows concept art for the virtual showroom based on the Audi showroom.

Having your own slides in the virtual boardroom with you helps you better prepare for an upcoming pitch, as you can work on aligning changing the slide with parts of your pitch. To change the slides inside the app, you can either use the buttons to move to the next or previous slides, or press your VR headset trigger while looking at the slides to get them to change.

Pitch analysis using speech-to-text technology

Technology background

Receiving feedback is essential for improving sales skills and ensuring that each time you practice, you become more effective at selling. In order to do this, the app uses speech-to-text and other vocal technology to analyse the presentation and provide feedback for the user.

Once the app has converted the speech-to-text, our algorithms analyse the words and provide meaningful and understandable results to the user in a series of panels in the virtual world. This allows the user to quantify their performance and improve areas of their pitch each time.

For certain sales environments, we also provide speech insights on areas such as openness, emotional range, agreeableness, extraversion and many others. This helps salespeople understand how their presentation is likely to be perceived by the audience. The speech insights feature is not included in this study as it is available in different environments.

Pitch analysis - how did the user perform?

When listening back to the pitch (in the Appendix below), you’ll notice that the user speaks quite quickly. The user averages 139 words per minute, which is a little too fast – around 120 words per minute is more preferable for a presentation.

The user had around 26 filler words, such as ‘uhm’ and ‘uh’, out of a total of around 765 words. This is not bad, as filler words are not always a negative in a presentation (particularly in a conversation). When listening back to the audio, you’ll notice quite a few of the filler words were when the user was thinking of what to say next. A pause from saying anything (i.e. silence) would be preferable in this case.

Get feedback on your sales pitch presentation in VR with speech-to-text technology and motion tracking.

Eye contact analysis and process

How we calculate eye contact

For eye contact analysis, the app assumes the eyes are looking directly forward from the head. In this way, when the user moves their head to look at something, the app assumes the eyes move as the head moves. If you watch presentations, you’ll notice this mostly holds true and is a fair assumption to make.

The app records the users eye contact throughout the pitch and then provides a heatmap of where the user was looking while speaking. This allows the user to easily see any areas they have neglected or focussed too much on.

The data for the heatmap is collected in two ways:

  • Head movement is extracted from the Google VR or Oculus VR software, which is used to build the VR experience.
  • The room is broken up into a grid, with hundreds of squares making up the grid. When the user looks at one of these grids, the matrix increases the value of that grid. After the speech has been completed, the weighted average of the matrix is calculated.

Combining these two sets of data gives an accurate reference of where the users was looking throughout the speech or presentation.

Eye contact analysis - how did the user perform?

The user performs well on the eye contact with the executives, scoring 8/10. The executives are more likely to engage with the presentation and understand the message. Positive eye contact and body language are an important part of good communication skills and should be improved as much as your verbal delivery.

Saving and uploading the pitch for detailed feedback

After the user has reviewed their performance, they have the option of saving their sales pitch to listen back to later, or uploading the pitch to the VirtualSpeech team for further, detailed analysis.

The saved speeches are located in the Progress room, found from the VR main menu. Up to 5 speeches can be saved at any time within the app.

In order to upload the presentation for additional feedback, the user needs to enter their email address which the VirtualSpeech team will use to send the feedback to. The additional feedback can be used to get an insight into areas of your speech the app currently cannot, such as:

  • Where any literary techniques used?
  • What is the tone of the pitch?
  • How persuasive or influential is the sales pitch?
  • Is the user emphasising the benefits of the solution?
  • Are the next steps of the sale clear?

Track progress within the app

Feedback for the pitch analysis and eye contact are stored locally on your mobile phone. You can access this data in a specific room within the VR app, where you can see your progress over time and check how you are developing your skills. This allows you to identify areas you need to work on and areas which are improving with practice.

Track your sales skills progress in the VirtualSpeech app.

In conclusion

The VirtualSpeech VR app provides a powerful way for people to analyse and gain valuable feedback on their sales pitch. The feedback allows users to identify weaker areas of their verbal pitch and work to improve those parts. In addition, with the realistic boardroom, other environments, audience and personalisation (load in your own slides), the app takes you close to being fully immersed in the scenario.

Appendix: Sales pitch transcript and audio file

Speech audio file

Speech transcript

Below is the sales pitch used in this study. The pitch was given on the fly and should not be used as an example of a good sales pitch!

Hi John, Clare, thank you for having me back again. So as we discussed via email, I propose setting up a virtual BMW showroom in the heart of London on Oxford Street, similar to the Audi showroom.

And so just quickly a little about who we are and what we have done previously. We are ImmersiveShowrooms Inc., and we have been running about 11 years and worked with various OEMs such as uhm, GE, Ford, Mercedes Benz, Audi, uhm, different automotive, different aerospace companies and we specialise in immersive technologies, so virtual reality, mixed reality, augmented reality.

I’ll quickly talk over the work we did with the Audi showroom a few years ago, so we helped them set it up in London and that had some terrific results for them, they are getting over 7,000 visitors a month, uhm, and they have generated hundreds of sales, I can't go into the exact figure as uh I’m sure you will understand, uhm, both selling opportunity, and also brand awareness uh, and all sorts of media attention around the world for the virtual showroom.

We propose doing a similar thing for BMW, uhm and we propose starting with 3 or 4 of the latest models and then eventually brining in all the models, we’ll work with your design and engineering teams to have the latest, uhm, rendered models in there which users can then come into the virtual showroom and customise their vehicle like they could never do before, uhm, in immersive way so they could be sitting inside the vehicle with a VR headset on and imagine actually being , uhm, driving that vehicle or being in the passenger seat, seeing how the interior looks, how the ergonomics work, seeing uhm the different designs being able to customise it all also different colours to the vehicle, which you can do through the website, but this is a much more immersive way of doing it, you can add colour to the car and walk abound it as you would if it was on your driveway.

And so just uh a quick rough timeline we will go through, so we believe this project would take just under a year to complete, at a very high level - about 3 months to acquire the property that we are looking for, we are already working with some of the developers, uhm, on that particular issue and about 6 months to do the major renovations insides, refit it with all the, uhm, electrical wiring and layout and then the final thing will be the final fittings, such as bringing in the VR headsets, setup the projectors to project the 3d images onto some of the walls and yeah uh just under 12 months.

We reckon it will cost around £8 million to complete and that is taking into account everything, and then there will be a yearly maintenance fee as well for some of the equipment, for the employees - we can take care of some of that for you.

So what this will be then is uhm, talking more technical design, we’ll be using uhm, Dassault Systèmes technology in particular Deltagen, which again I mentioned before, it was a choice between Autodesk VRED and Deltagen, but we’ve decided to go with Deltagen, and what we can get with that [software] is very highly rendered images, uhm and models of the vehicles which users can then look at and they almost look uhm as if they are there, they are very realistic.

Viewing these vehicles within a VR headset or with AR glasses or even through a user’s phone inside the showroom, uhm they will get a good idea of how the vehicle will look once they order it to their specifications, and that is a very powerful sales tool.

So with this uhm building it’s slightly bigger than the Audi building, and in, we think, a better location, so we are predicting about 9,000 visitors a month to the showroom uhm and generating around 400 sales a month just from the showroom which is impressive. We are also working with different journalists, different PR companies, uh we can do a big press release uh just as this is being launched and finished, uh and you can obviously do a release company wide, I think it’s a great initiative.

This was a very high level overview of what we believe the virtual showroom brings to BMW. Do you have any questions about some of the costing, uh the timeframe, what’s actually going to be in the showroom, the technology behind it?