Public Speaking in Virtual Reality

Presented by James Hayes


Since Aristotle, practicing for a public speech has involved little more than rehearsing in front of a full length mirror. While this method of deliberate practice does improve public speaking performance it is not perfect, as solo practice is not the same as facing an audience. Head-mounted virtual reality is a digital tool that allows students to practice speeches in realistic settings by facing an audience of avatars in a simulated auditorium. Research shows the low-stakes practice offered by virtual reality speech trainers provides an immersive, yet safe rehearsal space that helps reduce speech anxiety (of vital importance when considering American's top three fears are heights, spiders, and public speaking). Additionally, innovative features of the technology that range from mic support to motion controllers afford opportunities to train verbal and non-verbal communication skills. Current speech classes record student speeches, analyze them, then work to correct bad habits. VR flips the script by permitting students to train skills to deliver stellar talks before they ever step to the front of the class.

My presentation will touch on the status quo of traditional public speech practice then switch to how the digital tool of virtual reality speech training programs can enhance student learning. During my speech I will demonstrate the technology by donning my windows mixed reality headset and projecting what I am seeing and doing in VR to the audience. This subject is the topic of my doctoral dissertation with Dr. Elena Novak through Kent’s Instructional Technology program.