If you googled your way to this article, you are either nervous, scared, in panic, or completely paralyzed by the thought of having to speak in front of a large audience. If you belong to the last category, you would probably consider all options to prevent this from happening. Most likely, you aren’t left with much of a choice but to find a way to overcome your fear of public speaking.
You read all the known tips that could help you give a good presentation, but they won’t take your fear away. What if you had the opportunity to practice in front of a live audience, in a way that would make you more comfortable with the situation, and boost your confidence. Is this possible?
Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy
Virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET), also known as virtual reality immersion therapy (VRIT), or just virtual reality therapy (VRT) has become a proven method to treat anxiety disorders. It involves the gradual exposure of the patient to the situation without any danger. Numerous studies have already demonstrated the effective treatment of anxiety disorders, such as the fear of public speaking, using VRET.
“Expose yourself to your deepest fear. After that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free.” – Jim Morrison
Rationally you understand the famous internet quote by Jim Morrison, but emotionally this seems like a gigantic paradox. Because facing your fear is the very last thing you want to do. However, there is truth to his quote. Many people with extreme fear of public speaking are inexperienced speakers and haven’t gotten many opportunities to get accustomed with presenting to a large audience. They haven’t gotten the chance, or avoid that chance, because of their fear, thus entering a negative spiral.
Virtual reality (VR) can simulate conference rooms with a large audience; it’s as if you are really there, without actually being there; exposing yourself to your fear without actually feeling exposed. In the past, this technology costed thousands of dollars and was only available for academic or medical research. However, recent advances in display and processor technology have made it possible to make cheap head-mounted displays (HMD), such as the Oculus Rift, available for the consumer market.
Presentation Simulator (PSIM) is a virtual reality software application developed for the Oculus Rift and other VR hardware that places you in a virtual environment and allows you to give powerpoint presentation before a virtual audience. This gives you the opportunity to practice and gradually expose yourself to your fear of public speaking, thus diminishing your anxiety. The PSIM application is scheduled for release in Q4 2015.
Disclaimer: Although the presentation simulation software is developed based on scientific background, every person reacts to it differently. No rights can be reserved on the effectiveness of the software.
Advice to Reduce the Fear of Public Speaking
You have probably done your homework on how to overcome your fear of public speaking and you are already well familiarized with the most common tips. Therefore I won’t go into details with an extensive list. What I can do though, is give you my personal experience. I can tell you that you can reduce your fear to a point where you can control it and even use that fear to give a better presentation than you ever thought possible. However, nothing that you read will completely take away that fear, at least not now.
Prepare for an Olympic Game
Generally an important presentation doesn’t come out of the blue. You are usually well aware that you will have to make one considerably in advance. Typically, presentations are about your work progress. You can already begin by saving the progress of your work, pictures, graphs, conclusions etc. in powerpoint or another presentation software. Start as soon as you can, even if it is months away. This will aid in creating a rough timeline and helps you with remembering your story or message. Apart from that, it relieves stress, since your presentation is already on its way to completion.
Practice until you are bored to death, and then practice some more.
This is the most important thing you can do. People are often afraid of a brain freeze and that your mind goes blank, but no matter how nervous you are, you can always say the alphabet (A, B, C… X, Y, Z) with confidence. The alphabet is etched in you mind, it is second nature to you. Your presentation has to be likewise. You have to become an actor, knowing every sheet, every line, every movement, like it is the alphabet. Fake it until you become it.
Practice OUT LOUD.
The difference between practicing mentally and OUT LOUD is as big as black and white. It is a totally different ball game. You will experience that although everything goes well mentally, the first time you practice out loud, you will stumble across your own words, forget text, expect wrong slides, and so on. Start with practicing out loud as soon as you can, even when your presentation isn’t finished. When you get stuck at a certain point, don’t panic! Consider it a road block and get past it. By adding transition text or sheets. This helps the flow of your story. Begin again, and again and so on, until it’s perfect.
Practice for Friends or Relatives.
When you have practiced your presentation far beyond the point of boredom, the next step is to face the music. Ask one or two good friends or relatives to listen to your story and ask for advice. What can help is to admit that you have this anxiety. The problem isn’t just yours anymore and it helps to talk about it. You have to let it go.
What Causes Fear of Public Speaking?
The fear of public speaking, also referred as glossophobia, originates from the fear of being judged. When you stand in the spotlight, the attention of everybody in that room is focused on you alone. Being insecure of your ability to speak confidently, along with the knowledge that every word you say is paid attention to, translates to a daunting prospect. A little bit of anxiety is very normal and usually even helps you to perform better. Even the world’s best speakers get a little anxious before a great speech. However, when your anxiety is so high that it paralyzes you, then you need to get help.
Can the Fear of Public Speaking truly be Eliminated?
Reading all these internet articles with solutions to overcome the fear of public speaking makes you wonder if there actually is an answer. Realistically you should not expect to completely get rid of that anxiety, since it is only natural. However, several studies reported, ,  that the fear of public speaking can be overcome.
The study “Eliminating Fears: An Intervention that Permanently Eliminates the Fear of Public Speaking” shows that after a reconditioning treatment, the subjects showed a significant reduction in fearfulness and physical sensation when speaking to an actual audience. The evidence strongly suggests that the fear of public speaking was virtually eliminated. Although the subjects were guided by professionals, it is possible to overcome the fear of public speaking.
Get more information on the related pages below or go to our webshop and buy our exclusive Presentation Simulator VR-app and start practicing for a realistic VR-audience:
Disclaimer: the presentation simulation software is developed based on scientific background. Every person reacts differently so no rights can be reserved on the effectiveness of the software.
 NORTH, Max M., et al. Virtual reality therapy: an effective treatment for the fear of public speaking. The International Journal of Virtual Reality 3 (1998), 1, 2008, 6.
 Safir, Marilyn P., Helene S. Wallach, and Margalit Bar-Zvi. “Virtual reality cognitive-behavior therapy for public speaking anxiety: one-year follow-up.” Behavior Modification (2011): 0145445511429999.
 CUNNINGHAM, Victoria; LEFKOE, Morty; SECHREST, Lee. Eliminating fears: an intervention that permanently eliminates the fear of public speaking. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, 2006, 13.3: 183-193.