I’ve never been great at public speaking. I’ve never even been great at giving and taking interviews. Just talking to strangers makes me anxious.
Because I get worked up thinking about what the other person will think of me, whether or not I’m saying the right thing, what’s my body language saying about me – in short, every insecurity you can think of, runs through my mind in that single instance. There’s probably a psychological term for that, but I manage to function in spite of it.
I still may not be great at public speaking, but I’m managing it better.
Apple’s iconic ad slogan claims “There’s an app for that!”, and sure enough, I found several apps to overcome my public speaking anxieties and fears, by addressing the different areas I had issues with.
1) Practice to a virtual audience with Virtual Speech
I remember when I was young, whenever I had to give a class presentation or make a speech at a student function, my mom gave me the advice to stand in front of a mirror, look myself in the eye and speak. I don’t remember if it worked well or not – those parts of my childhood are hazy (perhaps, that’s an indication of itself!). Now, however, instead of relying on your reflection, you can suppress your anxiety by practising your presentation and speeches in front of a virtual crowd. And, that’s exactly what Virtual Speech is offering. All you need is VR gear and a smartphone. It stimulates a photo-realistic environment with audience and sound distractions.
They also offer several courses geared towards helping you improve your communication and networking skills through interactive VR environments. Interestingly, their course for Delivering Presentations is completely free.
2) Lose the filler words with LikeSo
It’s not uncommon for people with public speaking anxiety to use filler words often – usually to the extent of degrading their carefully thought out presentation and speech. Over use of filler words such as ‘like’, ‘umm’, ‘so’, ‘you know’ become a distraction for the audience with the added disadvantage of making you seem as if you don’t know your stuff!
This is where LikeSo comes in: it trains you to stop relying on filler words. The app records your presentation or speech (while practising) and then generates a report highlighting where you used your filler words and how many times. It even has a conversation game that trains you to avoid using filler words in your day-to-day conversations.
3) Don’t go blank with PromptSmart Pro
Let’s face it, it’s pretty difficult to memorize the entire presentation or speech, particularly if it’s on a rather complicated subject, full of statistics and tends to run for more than a few minutes. Instead of reading off your slides, you can read off your smartphone. PromptSmart Pro turns your smartphone into a teleprompter. Using proprietary voice recognition technology, it rolls the text forward as you speak it. It can identify when you’ve gone off script, for answering public questions or to explain something further, and stops the prompter from rolling onwards. Moreover, it follows your pace, and doesn’t hurry you to the finish.
4) Set the pace with Pro Metronome
I’m a fast talker, throw in a bit of nervousness and my words tend to run together. In day-to-day life, it’s not much of an issue, but during presentations talking fast made it difficult for the audience to hang onto my words and, in the end, they’d lose their focus. And, rightly so! Gradually, I trained myself to talk like my hair wasn’t on fire, but it took several years. Had I known about this particular app before, I would’ve trained myself fairly quickly.
Pro Metronome lets you keep a simple beat that you can time yourself to. But, it can do so much more. Using their Polyrhythms feature, you can train yourself to speak fast and slow at the right moments. Basically, it’s an app that caters to musicians, but it’s a great tool for people trying to master their speech as well.
5) Managing your time with Presentation Timer
Timing yourself is key in presentations. You can’t let your presentation run over time, because it’ll encroach on other speakers’ time and you can’t let it run under either, otherwise you’ll be left with an extended Q&A at your hands. Presentation Timer, helps you keep on track. With it’s LED-style, full screen display it counts down the time on your smartphone to help you time yourself. As the time counts down, the screen starts changing colors from Blue (you have enough time left), Green (start wrapping up), Orange (You’re almost out of time) to Red (Stop).
Public Speaking can be a daunting task, but (un)fortunately there will eventually come a time in your career where you’ll either have to speak to a room full of your colleagues or give a detailed presentation about your projects to industry leaders. No matter your fears and anxieties, you will have to deliver. However, with the aid of these apps you can make sure you put your best foot forward.