Is virtual reality  the future in public speaking coaching?

Imagine, for the first time ever, you are going to give a presentation or speech on a really big stage. Hundreds of eyes, focussed on you. This is your moment and you feel the tension rise. Your heart starts beating faster, your hands are getting sweaty and your armpits, well let’s not even talk about those. You ask yourself: ‘Can I do this?’

Most people will recognize this tension. When you walk onto a stage, you put yourself in a vulnerable position and your body responds with a fight or flight reaction. The only way to eliminate this inconvenient reaction is to practice. The more time you spend on stage, the sooner your brain start to see this as a non-threatening situation. Therefore it will produce fewer emergency signals.

Do It Right From The First Time

You probably think now: ‘Yes, nice, practise more on stage, but I want to be able to do it right the very first time!’ That is why up until now, I mostly use visualisation in coaching to help people achieve the same result as with practising on stage. I ask speakers to visualise their presentation on stage. This works because the brain does not know the difference between what’s real and what’s not. However, visualising is not easy for everyone. That’s why I was immediately drawn to Virtual Reality when I learned about it. I contacted this really innovative startup from Utrecht; CoVince. They produce Virtual Reality environments that are specific for practising a presentation. From the theatre to the boardroom. And the greatest part, you can upload your own visuals to make it feel even more real.

“The more time you spend on stage, the sooner your brain start to see this as a non-threatening situation.”

Virtual Reality: Testing And Improving

In the past months, we have been testing the different options in VR. It is really impressive to see how easy you step into this completely different virtual world. I experienced what it was like to stand in a large theatre and taking up all the pace on that big stage. I felt like I was in another world and therefore forgot that I was actually standing in a rather small office. Without intention, I knocked over a vase and hit a few people in the room. Oops. That is what VR does to a person. It takes you into a world of unlimited possibilities, and the quality keeps getting better and better.

The Verdict

Virtual reality doesn’t replace practising with a real audience. And we are probably a long way from making a virtual audience feel real. But it definitely is the next best thing. That is why we decided to invest in Virtual Reality and we now offer it to our 1:1 coaching clients. I love the posibility it gives to help someone deal with their anxiety in a safe space. But even for the ones without severe anxiety. Practising your presentation out loud has always been a must-do. Now you can actually do it in front of a crowd.

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