VirtualSpeech offers online courses and VR training on topics such as public speaking, interviewing, networking, pitching, and business English. Instructional videos, articles, and case studies are paired with public speaking simulations in VR to help build students’ confidence and prepare them to do well in real-life public speaking scenarios. Most courses range from $150 to $250, but a free mini-course on delivering presentations is also offered, and is the experience featured in this review.
For a free course, VirtualSpeech’s Delivering Presentations mini-course was surprisingly substantial. While I came to this platform for the VR, the online content turned out to be the true star. The course was broken into four sections and featured 20 lessons total. It took me a only couple of hours to complete everything, and I came away feeling like I’d really been exposed to a lot of quality content. Learning objectives are clearly communicated, making the organization and alignment of activities with course goals clear. The course also appealed to many different learning styles, alternating between text, audio, and video content.
The idea of using VR for a public speaking simulation is great, and for the most part VirtualSpeech’s app didn’t disappoint. After completing the online training, you prepare a business pitch to give at a simulated board meeting, which is then analyzed. The report you receive after finishing your speech is very helpful; not only do you see how many words per minute you used on average to help you learn your pacing tendencies, you are also told how many filler words you used, how effective your volume was, and what kind of eye contact you maintained with the audience around the room. Even better, you receive real-time feedback while speaking, such as signaling for you to adjust your pace, volume, or eye contact.
While I’d love to give the VR experience a glowing review, there were a few serious problems with presenting in this format. Firstly, while you have the opportunity to upload your own powerpoint slides to use during the presentation, it’s nearly impossible to read them. Secondly, while you are penalized for speaking too loudly or too softly, there’s no opportunity to calibrate your original volume.
My biggest problem, though, was that my facial movements, such as raising my eyebrows, ended up jostling my Daydream goggles. Trying to make eye contact with people in VR while my goggles were being shaken around caused motion sickness to set in pretty quickly, and after about four minutes I had to take off the headset.
Another disappointment was that despite the significant emphasis placed on the importance of body language in the course, there was no body language analysis in VR. My headset didn’t have hand controllers, and so I felt like I was missing an important component of my presentation.
VR cannot replicate every aspect of a real-life scenario, but if you’re looking for a safe space to practice public speaking, I think VirtualSpeech holds real promise. The free course at least is legitimately helpful and worth trying. However, before spending $150, I would definitely require some adjustments to the VR.Image: by VirtualSpeech