I love giving tips to others on how to overcome their phobias.
Getting Cold Feet?
Have you ever had to address a group and felt that you would literally rather be anywhere else than there? All of a sudden, being in the middle of a deadly desert or stuck in a stifling cave seems more appealing than facing the crowd. Whether it's a wedding reception address or a marketing pitch at work, the fear and anxiety you feel when you are about to speak are unique.
Over the years, speech trainers and self-proclaimed experts have perpetuated tips, tricks and hacks on how to deal with the problem. These include things like consuming sugary treats, playing with paper clips and even imagining the crowd in their birthday suits. However, none has been as successful as virtual reality. Here is how you can improve public speaking with virtual reality apps.
Before we get into details on how this technology helps, it is important to understand the problem itself. Fear of public speaking is otherwise referred to as glossophobia. However, do not let this big fancy word fool you as this condition affects most of us. In fact, as of June 2018, numerous studies showed that up to 75% of population in the US is affected by this problem.
What Causes This Fear?
So what exactly causes this fear? Despite so many of us suffering the same problems the root is not always the same. Here are the most common triggers associated with glossophobia.
1. Anxiety disorders
Phobias are a form of anxiety disorder but there are actually numerous differences between the two. However, other disorders in this spectrum can also manifest as fear of public speaking. The most common in this case are PTSD and panic disorders. Some phobias are also associated with this fear, including agoraphobia, which is the irrational fear of open crowded places.
2. Low self-esteem
There is a huge association between self-worth and social anxiety. More often than not, we tend to be our most severe critics doing whatever it takes to bring ourselves down. It could be that you cannot stop comparing yourself with that great orator you look up to. Or maybe you are self-conscious about your appearance and feel that it is all any audience will pay attention to.
When it comes to explaining causes of glossophobia, the Traumatic Theory is featured quite prominently. In a nutshell, it states that past negative experiences with self-expression have a huge bearing on how comfortable we are addressing crowds later in life. Some of these experiences include things like forgetting lines in a performance, getting laughed off stage or some other form of negative reception.
Some forms of trauma actually have nothing to do with public presentations with bullying being a great example. Bullying has been shown to possibly cause public speaking anxiety, with 1 in 5 people affected by the impediment reporting history childhood bullying.
4. Inexperience and lack of skill
Sometimes it is the fear of the unknown that drives us to anxiety during public addresses. Experts have proven that experience builds confidence as it combats fear of the unknown. It is therefore completely excusable for you to have newbie nerves if it is your first time addressing a large crowd. The good thing with this cause of anxiety is that with time you learn, so the fear essentially tapers off and disappears.
5. New settings and crowds
This happens to the best of us. No matter how skilled and experienced you are, standing before an unfamiliar crowd or in a new environment can be pretty daunting. As with the newbie jitters, these go away pretty easy with practice.
The Principle Behind Using VR as Therapy
So now that we understand what the fear is and what causes it, the next and most important step is figuring out how to deal with the problem. As stated earlier, there are all sorts of old wives tales and myths on how to deal with the fear of public speaking. These rarely work.
Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy (VRET) on the other hand has truly revolutionized management of glossophobia. It is a technique used to treat specific phobias and anxiety disorders by exposing patients to 3D simulations of their triggers. This is done in controlled environments and graded doses to you a chance to adapt get over your irrational reactions. This therapy is done before exposure to the real item.
There are many different apps out there that are designed for this specific purpose. You would also need a control device like a phone or laptop, a virtual reality eyepiece and compatible headphones. The software is what determines just how efficient the therapy will be as all of them have something different to offer. Here are six of the best and what it is that sets them apart.
Using VR for Public Speaking
Top 6 Virtual Reality Apps For Therapy And Public Speaking
1. Virtual Speech
This is the app to go for if you are looking for a realistic setting. Virtual Speech features high quality visual and sound graphics that will make you feel like you are actually addressing real people. Something unique about the software is that it features actual noise distractions. This will have you sufficiently prepared for your presentation so that nothing will throw you off your train of thought.
Another standout feature for this app is the variety it offers in terms of in terms of audience size. You can therefore easily make adjustments to suit your specific needs if you are preparing for a presentation. In line with this preparation is also a slide projection feature which helps you practice with your actual presentation. This makes it a great option for marketing pitch prep and other speeches in that more formal line.
VirtualSpeech - Public Speaking VR
2. Speech Center VR
This particular software is ideal for people whose glossophobia is associated with fear of crowds as well as performance anxiety. It includes things like a timer and virtual to ensure that in your fear you do not end up venturing off into a tangent that is completely unrelated and time-consuming topic. It also comes with useful tips that remind you to look up at the audience and to maintain your tone.
One of the best things about Speech Center VR is the number of venues that you have to choose from. There are up to 12 different locations including a TV interview set, conference room, wedding receptions, courtroom and more. There are also very interesting visual distractions including a dinosaur meant to prepare you for the worst. This definitely sets it apart and makes it a lot more fun to use.
Review of Speech Centre VR
3. Virtual Orator
As far as graphics quality design is concerned, Virtual Orator still has some catching up to do. However where it lacks in realistic appearances it more than makes up for with its special response AI. This software makes the app stand out as it is one of the only options out there where the audience you are practicing with actually asks questions. This makes the experience a lot more interactive which is ideal if you happen to have a fear of getting hit with hard questions.
The software combines the best of Virtual Orator and Virtual Speech by allowing you access not only to multiple locations but also the ability to choose the size of the audience. This gives you a customized experience that is closest to what you will most likely be dealing with in real life.
Virtual Orator Review
This particular option is best for you if you have some sort of experience as an orator. It doesn’t really focus a lot on getting you used to crowds and different locations. However, you will end up learning a lot of very important skills that will definitely make you better at public presentations. One of these is the art of regulating volume and tone. The program features screen notifications that let you know when you are too high or too low on either account. That way when you get to actually present to human beings you will be audible and clear.
Another important skill you will learn using Samsung’s Be Fearless virtual reality app is how to manage your speech pace. The last thing you want when giving a public address is to zap through your presentation because your nerves got the best of you. This app allows you to be aware when you are doing this so you can adjust the pace appropriately. Finally, you will learn how to maintain eye contact with your audience using this app. It isn’t so much about looking the avatars in the eye as it is maintain your eyes at their head level. This is an important skill you will get to apply in real life.
Finally, the app allows you to record and playback your speech for future reference and to help with monitoring progress.
5. Public Speaking Simulator VR
This app is pretty simple but it definitely gets the job done. It is a great way to get used to having people looking at you. The visual graphics are pretty average but the open and neat setup definitely makes each individual avatar in your audience stand out. This might be every agoraphobic person’s nightmare but it is a great way to get over the fear by direct exposure. Something interesting about it is that some of the audience members are specifically designed to not pay attention to what you are saying.
It could be someone on their headphones, fidgeting or looking off to space. In real life settings this is something that could definitely be distracting and disappointing for you as the orator. It is therefore best for you to get used to this possibility so that when it does happen, and you can bet it will, it will not dampen your spirits or cause you to doubt yourself. Here is a video of what you have to look forward to.
6. PSim Virtual Reality App
Last but not least is PSim, which in full means Presentation Simulator. This app outdoes most on the market in terms of everything from setting variety to visual quality. It is geared mainly towards helping people with fear of public speaking in official settings. For this reason the venues available are 3 sizes of conference rooms including large, medium and small. This allows you to practice formal presentations with different crowd sizes.
In terms of visuals, PSim is the undeniable champion of quality. Here is a photo of the setting to give you an idea of just how good the quality is.It also stands out in that the avatars in your audience are available in a wide variety of ethnicities, ages, sizes and classes. This sure beats the more generic and often single-race audiences you get to practice with on most other programs. As a result, you get over anxiety associated with new crowds as you are exposed to representatives from virtually all groups as shown in these photos
Using VR for Speech Phobia Therapy
After all is said and done, there is no denying the effectiveness of virtual reality when it comes to speech phobia therapy. It allows us to not only practice important speech delivery skills but also to get used to having eyes on us.
The six apps above are in my opinion the very best that you will get out there. PSim and Virtual Speech are great if you want a more realistic and natural feel to the setting. Virtual Orator on the other hand stands out as it allows you to actually practice interacting with a live audience. The other three also have a lot going for them, but the availability of multiple venues definitely sets them apart. In a nutshell, they all have something to bring to the table and are definitely worth considering if you need some help.
FlourishAnyway from USA on November 16, 2018:
I love the idea of #5 and would definitely try that for practice. I’ve given trainings and speeches to audiences of various sizes but you can always get better.
Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on November 16, 2018:
This is the first time I've heard of VR. What an interesting aid to public speaking success. Experience for me gives one confidence.