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How VR can Improve your Public Speaking Skills

July 13, 2023 - 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 try to improve their 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) refers to immersive, computer-generated 3D environments that enable users to interact within a simulated world. By immersing users in these environments, VR creates a sense of presence and allows individuals to perform various actions, giving the illusion of being physically there. The applications of VR span across both entertainment and serious domains, offering diverse and meaningful experiences.

Read the following for more information:

Video showing how you can practice public speaking in virtual reality.

How can VR improve your public speaking?

VR gives you a realistic environment to practice your public speaking in. For example, when you put on a VR headset, you can present in front of hundreds of people in a huge conference room which 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 AI-powered avatars controlled by ChatGPT, 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.

Body language in VR

Virtual reality lets you practice public speaking skills and get feedback on your body language, speaking skills, and more.

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 VR headset (see our recommended list), 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. However, despite the sense of safety, you are still under the spotlight and all eyes on you with an audience that can react to what you’re saying.

With ChatGPT powered audiences, you can get valuable insights on your performance, such as how well you did in an interview practice or suggestions on improving your performance review sessions. This feedback mechanism enhances your learning experience and helps you continuously refine your speaking abilities.

Practice answering AI generated audience questions after your speech.

Effective VR training for practicing public speaking:

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 coughing.

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 with AI tools 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. Learn more in the Essential Public Speaking course

With AI feedback the results are instant and really useful for honing different public speaking skills involved with being a confident public speaker. These immersive environments offer diverse audience sizes, allowing individuals to gradually challenge themselves and step beyond their comfort zones, whether speaking to a single person or addressing a crowd of hundreds.

You can even practice for a press conference or an important job interview you have coming up! This progressive exposure is an effective approach for personal growth and skill development.

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.

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.

Training scenarios to suit your speech

Once you’ve put on your VR headset, such as the Meta Quest, 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.