Conquer your Fear of Public Speaking: A VR Gameplan

It is said that 70% of all people have a fear of public speaking. Public speaking is often ranked as the thing people fear the most, even more than death. In the extreme, the fear of public speaking is referred to by its clinical term: glossophobia. Most of us don’t qualify as having clinical glossophobia.

It is insightful that that one of the factors that leads to a clinical classification is avoidance of the thing one fears. I bet the majority of you reading this avoid public speaking like the plague. I know I did. You are likely here on this page, because you can’t avoid it any longer.

How do we overcome our fear of public speaking?

We look to how Psychologists treat those with the most extreme fears for a basic approach. Components of their tools are hidden in the advice you find everywhere. Today we’ll focus on one main tool. It’s called ‘Exposure Therapy’. In layman terms, you overcome your fear by being confronted with that which causes your fear. You have to speak in front of people to conquer your fear.

The key is controlling that exposure. You need to be uncomfortable; yet, it needs to be a manageable level of discomfort. You need to be able to succeed. Over time, the fear recedes. You become comfortable in that particular situation. Some of your fear is conquered. Then, you make the situation harder so that it is again uncomfortable.

Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy

Why VR? In a word: Control.

The great part of VR for fear conquering is it is a manufactured experience. It does exactly what the designers created it to do. It is controlled. As programmers of Virtual Orator we built it expressly with control in mind. The venue is controlled. All aspects of the audience are controlled. They behave as selected. Yet, our AI creates a unique experience every time you start it.

A Gameplan to conquer fear

A problem I see when I look at the different online resources for public speaking is they don’t give a plan. It is hard, because so much is individual to each user. Yet without a plan, it is too easy for most of us find excuses not to start. For that reason I’m giving you a plan.  You already know it won’t be comfortable, but if you work at it your fear will start to wane as you conquer situation after situation.

The premise is to make everything work in your favor from the start, i.e. we control as much as possible. First, figure out the topic and the length. Aim for a short talk, maybe 3 min. Pick a topic you are very knowledgeable about. Make sure it is also a topic that excites you. If you are blanking, talk about yourself.

Now the part many of you will want to skip. Plan the talk. If you are using Virtual Orator, you don’t need to over plan as our focus is on conquering fear. As you practice your talk repeatedly, a process of improvement should emerge. If you are speaking to real people. Please Plan! Find resources on how to plan a talk if you don’t know how.


You have to start!

No procrastinating,
no more avoiding.

Not tomorrow. Today.

Present something formally to you family or friends. Purchase Virtual Orator. Look up a speaking club and attend.

Take some action, however small. Today.

How to start our fear conquering cycle

For those of you who are visual or technical, the following text is explained in the diagram below. Our first task is to find a starting point. If just the thought of presenting to people gets you sweating or causes heart palpitations, maybe just present to an empty room. The best is a room that feels familiar. You might feel embarrassed presenting to an empty room, but it will help you establish a feeling of control (sometimes called ‘owning the room’).

The work starts when you find a room and audience that makes you nervous. Not so nervous that you blank, but enough that you are outside of your comfort zone. For some people a room with only a few people is worse than a room half full. If you have a tool like Virtual Orator, test to see where you are most uncomfortable.

Practice presenting in that setting until you start to feel comfortable. Congratulations, you conquered the first level of fear. Now, either change your speech content or make the situation more challenging. To make the situation more challenging: add a few people, have them be less friendly, or add some distractions. When you start feeling comfortable again, repeat.

Once you get to a point of presenting to a room that is at least half full and with fairly normal behaviors you can start a new journey. You are presenting in an average situation without fear controlling you. You’re ready to move on in your journey of improvement. Either continue finding new levels of venue/audience/distractions that still cause fear to conquer, or start working on specific public speaking skills.

From fear to confidence

When you start out you will be one of the majority of people, one of the reportedly 70% with a fear of public speaking. With practice under uncomfortable speaking conditions, your stress will start reducing. At the end of the journey is stepping onto stage with confidence. You might not be without some fear, most presenters feel ‘butterflies’, but you will be confidence in your ability to speak. You can find your voice.

Ready to start conquering your fear?

Founder/CEO at Virtual Orator

Dr. Blom is a long time researcher in the VR field. He is the founder of Virtual Human Technologies, which applies VR and avatar technologies to human problems and helping better understand people. Virtual Orator exists largely because Dr. Blom wishes he had had such a tool instead of the ‘trail by fire’ he went through learning to speak in public.


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