VR-Experiment: What Do We Fear in Public Speaking and How to Work with it?

In 2015, together with the Modum Lab team, we conducted a small study of speakers' stress levels during their speeches.

How Did the Experiment Go?

At the time, our Blah-Blah-Blah educational course was still offline. It's a 7-session course in which students learn how to speak in public, talk about themselves, and present their ideas and projects.

In the very first class, we used sensors that measure the electrical conductivity of the skin to determine the students' stress level while they were speaking.

Then we divided the students into two groups: the first one prepared and rehearsed as usual, and the second – with the help of a VR-helmet with additional stress factors:

The virtual audience took out their phones and stopped listening to the speaker:
  • someone in the audience began to talk loudly
  • listeners got up from their seats and left
  • slides stopped switching
  • a fire siren went off in the auditorium
  • a dinosaur suddenly appeared.

How Did this Affect the Level of Stress?

At the end of the course, at the final performance, we measured the stress level again.
The first group averaged a 17% drop, while the second group, who rehearsed with a VR helmet, had a 26% drop.

We concluded that we don't need to fight nervousness – we need to add confidence. If you understand in advance what force majeure can happen during the performance, and know how to cope with it, the level of stress will decrease. So rehearse more and think in advance about what may put you in an uncomfortable position during the performance:

  • What's the timing? How much time to speak? How much time for questions? Should you answer them at the end or during the process?
  • Is there a presentation template? Are there any design requirements?
  • Is it possible to check the stage/hall in advance? Where does the speaker stand? What color are the walls?
  • Will there be a microphone? With or without wire?
  • Who to turn to in case of force majeure? Who to call if suddenly you are late, equipment can't see the presentation or laptop doesn't work?
  • Is catering organized?

Read in this article what else to ask the hosts in order to avoid unpleasant situations.

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