How VR can Improve your Public Speaking Skills

Updated November 30, 2017 - Sophie Thompson

Millions of people around the world suffer with a huge fear of public speaking and it's 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 terrifying for someone gripped with speech anxiety. However these situations are hard to avoid as public speaking is an essential life skill.

Great 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 as much as possible, yet most people don’t actively practice speaking as they would another skill.

Current methods of practice are not satisfactory

  • Practice in front of a mirror – this demands you focus on two separate activities, the presenting and you watching yourself. This can be very distracting.
  • Speak in front of friends – this can be useful as you can get good feedback from a colleague. However, they may not be willing to give hours of their time which is required to give a confident speech.
  • Hiring a coach – this can give you great results but it's hard to find a suitable coach and they are usually expensive. In addition, you’ll probably have to travel to see them which takes up more time.

Using virtual reality to practice

What is virtual reality?

Virtual reality (VR) is the term used to describe a 3D, computer generated environments which can be interacted with by a person. That person is immersed within this environment, giving the impression that the person is really there, and can perform a series of actions within this virtual world. It has both entertainment and serious uses.

For more information on virtual reality, read our complete guide to VR.

Man practicing practice public speaking with virtual reality

How can VR improve your public speaking?

VR gives you a realistic environment to practice your public speaking in. When you put on a VR headset, you can present in front of hundreds of people in a huge conference room for example. It provides a convenient way to recreate the nerves and excitement of giving a real speech, all from the safety of your own home.

Practice in safety with virtual reality

For those who have an intense fear of public speaking, practicing in front of an audience 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 VR makes a real difference and can be potentially life changing for millions of people. Virtual reality works by 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.

Formal or wedding speech in virtual reality

Virtual reality lets you practice public speaking skills in a range of environments, from charity events to conferences.

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. If you have a mobile VR headset (which can cost as little as $20), 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

When I first put on a VR headset and tried the VirtualSpeech VR app, I was surprised by how realistic the audience and environment looked. The audience moved as you would expect them to in real life, and made distracting noises such as couching.

There were a variety of rooms to practice in, from a small meeting room of 10 people to a larger TED styled theatre of over 100 people. That one experience made me believe in this 'VR' I’d heard so much about.

Feedback on your speech

Receiving feedback is essential for improving public speaking skills and ensuring that each time you practice, you’re becoming a presenter. With the VirtualSpeech VR app, 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.

Feedback and analysis on your speech in VR

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 for a press conference or an important job interview you have coming up!

Track your progress within the app

All the feedback you receive from the speech analytics feature is stored on your mobile device and displayed in a section of the app. It's really easy to measure progress and determine how you are progressing over time, including areas such as eye contact, hesitation words and pace of speaking.

Track your public speaking progress in virtual reality

Load in your own presentation slides

You can load your own presentation slides into the app and practice with them in the different virtual rooms. This really helps me prepare for any upcoming events, having the slides there with me to make sure I get my timing correct. You can load in your slides as a .pdf document and change slides within the app using your VR headset trigger or by hovering over activation buttons.

Load in your presentation slides into the virtual environment with you to practice with

Load your own presentation slides into the virtual environment so that you can practice with them.

Upload your speeches for feedback

The app has a feature where you can upload any speeches to the VirtualSpeech team for detailed feedback and analysis. All you need to do is deliver a speech in one of the virtual rooms with the 'Analysis' button pressed, then after you have finished your speech, press the 'Stop' button and 'Upload for Feedback' button. Enter in your email and VirtualSpeech will send you feedback to that email.

This will help you identify areas you needed to improve without paying for a speech coach.

Training scenarios to suit your speech

Once you've got your VR headset, such as the Merge VR, you can start exploring the different training rooms and courses within the app.

The app offers a choice of both large and small conference rooms, interview rooms, mini courses, classrooms, TED styled rooms, charity speech room and more.

Main menu in the VirtualSpeech VR app

Select an environment to present in, from large conference rooms to smaller meeting rooms. More environments and courses are being added frequently.

Enjoying public speaking

I firmly believe that VR is an effective method for improving speaking skills by 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 public speaking skills.