Unaccustomed as I am to speaking in public

Virtually Free is using Oculus Rift to help people with anxiety, soon we'll have our demo to help people with fear of public speaking.

You sit waiting, your mouth is dry, your heart pounding. The moment is coming and all you think is 'how did I end up here?' For many of us this is how we feel prior to having to speak in public. It might be at a family gathering, such as a wedding, or something more formal, like a conference, but either way it can cause terror.

As we've discussed before a bit of anxiety is normal and might well spur you into practicing your lines and giving a better performance BUT too much and disaster awaits. First there's the practical problem of getting any speech out when the anxiety makes your mouth so dry it feels like your tongue is the size of a rug and you have an elephant sat on your chest. 

Even when you start speaking your problems may just be beginning. Too much anxiety impacts on performance sometimes resulting in the most unfortunate gaffs. Ex-president Bush was a constant source of these and one can only wonder at the level of anxiety Lauren Upton was under given her performance at Miss Carolina. When asked why one in five Americans could not find the USA on her map part of her incoherent rambling included the possibility it was because they didn't own a map and something about the Iraqi educational system, you have to watch it!

Well it's easy to laugh at others' misfortune but what can you do to help. Unless you're the consummate performer a few tips will help:

1) Write a script 

2) Practice on your own

3) Practice in front of others

4) Get the length of time right

5) Use some relaxation techniques before you start

6) Remember that telling yourself you are excited rather than nervous can work very well as we have mentioned before. 

7) Breathe!

For some the fear of speaking becomes a true phobia and can have a significant impact on their career or other aspects of life. The basic aspects of helping are just like any other phobia; gradually exposing the individual to the thing they fear. This is tricky with public speaking as audiences are more difficult to get hold of than spiders.

We are currently developing a prototype to help people with this fear using the Oculus Rift virtual reality platform. This will include a virtual reality auditorium allowing you to walk out on stage and face the crowd. We expect to have the demo ready in a couple of weeks so if anyone fancies coming to try it out come and see us!

 Not just for playing games!

Not just for playing games!

On a final note you can be too relaxed in public speaking which is probably the source of the Duke of Edinburgh's legendary problems, I'll leave you with some of his classics:

To Scottish driving instructor, 1995: “How do you keep the natives off the booze long enough to pass the test?”

At Duke of Edinburgh Awards scheme, 2006. “Young people are the same as they always were. Just as ignorant.”

On seeing a piezo-meter water gauge in Australia: “A pissometer?”