Using VR to Improve Public Speaking skills

June 25, 2016 - Sophie Thompson

The fear of public speaking is the most common fear in the world and is notoriously difficult to overcome. Whether you’re performing to a small group or delivering a speech in front of hundreds of people, both can be equally as terrifying for someone gripped with speech anxiety.

Public speaking skills can be the difference between landing your dream job, winning a huge contract for your company, or delivering a moving speech at a wedding. The key to improving public speaking skills is to practice yet most people don’t understand this and don’t actively practice speaking as they would another skill.

VirtualSpeech wedding scene in VR for best man speech Deliver a moving speech at a wedding.

Virtual Reality - Making the Difference

For those who have an intense fear of public speaking (known as glossophobia), practicing is out of the question - they are simply too scared and avoid public speaking altogether. Until recently, the only way to effectively improve public speaking skills was to practice in front of an audience, so how were people supposed to overcome their fear by doing the very thing they fear the most?

This is where virtual reality makes a real difference and can be potentially life changing for millions of people. Virtual reality works by basically tricking the brain into thinking what we see in the virtual world is in fact real. Therefore, if you practice in front of a photo-realistic audience or a reactive audience of avatars, it logically follows that our minds would be tricked into thinking they are real. It sounds unbelievable, I know, but VR has been proven to help people with mental health conditions such as PTSD and anxiety.

Classroom in VR to practice teaching Virtual reality lets you practice public speaking skills in a range of environments, such as teaching in a classroom.

Practice Whenever You Want

One of the wonderful things about practicing to a virtual audience is that you can literally practice your speaking skills any time you want - your audience is waiting for you in your pocket. As long as you have a VR headset (which can be purchased for less than $10), you can practice your public speaking skills as often as you want. This accelerates the learning process that is required to master the art of public speaking.

You’re less likely to avoid practicing in the virtual world than the real world because you know it’s a safe environment, away from real human judgement. Yet, you still have all eyes on you and an audience that can react to what you’re saying.

First-Hand Experience

I was not part of the original team creating Public Speaking VR, so I can truthfully tell you what my experience was the first time I tried the app. One of the founders was in the same physical room as me and the rest of the ‘audience’ were watching me in the virtual world. I was sceptical about whether VR really was as immersive and realistic as people were claiming.

When I put the headset on, I still wasn’t convinced, until I selected the small ‘meeting room’ and then guess what? I took the headset off. I couldn’t do it. I made the founder leave the room and I still had that same sense of anxiety, only this time I didn’t avoid speaking altogether because I knew I was in a safe space.

That one experience made me believe in this ‘virtual reality’ I’d heard so much about.

Feedback

Receiving feedback is essential for improving public speaking skills and ensuring that each time you practice, you’re becoming a better public speaker. With Public Speaking VR, your speech is analysed for hesitations, pace, pitch, etc. and you can even receive an insight of your personality based on how you came across in your speech.

Instant feedback on speech from VirtualSpeech app With the VirtualSpeech app, your speech is analysed for hesitations, pace, pitch and more.

This instant feedback is really useful for honing different public speaking skills involved with being a confident public speaker. The immersive environments have various audience sizes from talking to 1 person to talking to hundreds, which is a great way of gradually pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. You can even practice your best man’s speech or for an important job interview you have coming up!

Enjoying Public Speaking

I firmly believe that virtual reality is an effective method for improving speaking skills and giving someone a safe space to practice. With enough practice, in the virtual world or the real world, your fear of public speaking will decrease and you’ll be able to master your speaking skills.