Research carried out by the RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia showed that training with Virtual Orator can effectively reduce your stress levels concerning public speaking in a single session. The VR experience was found to be realistic and cause typical stress of presenting in front of people, even though the participants generally had low levels of social anxiety and many had speaking experience.
One of the unique characteristics of the study was that in comparison to most existing studies on VR public speaking exposure, the participants generally had relatively low levels of fearful of public speaking; Around a quarter of the participants were members of a local toastmasters, indicating existing experience with public speaking. This is also a major departure from existing studies. Yet, all participants experienced stress, indicating the experience was quite realistic and is effective for the general public.
During the session participants gave three, short impromptu speech in different scenarios. At the end of the session, self-reported stress was reduced and increase in heart rate was lessened.
Participants reported high involvement ratings and the ‘feeling of being there’, aka presence. Combined with the stress responses, these validate that Virtual Orator produces realistic and engaging experiences of being in front of an audience.
This study suggests that multiple sessions, or experiences, performed close together may provide as a possible better training result. Each speech was maximally 6 minutes long, indicating even short exposures may be sufficient. An interesting result in the study was:
“The increase in self-report distress within Scenario 2 indicates that three brief scenarios were required to achieve habituation (speech duration was not relevant)”.
More research is required to be able to fully understand what that means, but it fits with the classic reasoning that you need many experiences to reduce stress in the face of an audience. This is one of the super powers of VR and Virtual Orator, providing experiences as often and repeated as needed.
The research shows that VR exposures to public speaking, specifically using Virtual Orator, is able to induce similar stress responses to the ones triggered by a real situation. Users reported they felt the situation was realistic, including with repeated training sessions. Decreases in public speaking anxiety and stress responses were recorded, showing that even a single VR based training session can help reduce public speaking anxiety. This was true even for people who are already active in learning public speaking!
The full research article is available in the open access journal Plos One.
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.