In this article we will touch few topics:

Public speaking is not an innate skill and can be trained and optimized through various exercises. This ability includes good management of emotions, being able to create good relationships with others through effective verbal and non-verbal communication. First of all, however, it is essential to work on ourselves, because if we have a good relationship with ourselves (self-esteem, sincerity towards oneself) we can also relate to others without any particular difficulty. Seneca taught us: ‘Learn to like yourself. What you think of yourself is much more important than what others think of you. But you may wonder what it means to work on oneself and how can I do it?

Each of us has skills, behavioral, and thinking styles that characterize our being in the world. Some of these skills are innate, so they are part of our genetic make-up, while others are learned through life-long experiences. When we talk about personal work, we mean a structured path of guidance and support for the individual, to strengthen some of the individual aspects that characterize the person.

It is real training, as it happens in sport, which requires perseverance, commitment, and willpower, in which the individual can be considered the athlete and the psychologist the coach. Let us take communication as an example: it is a process of information exchange that takes place in a specific context between two or more people.

There are two main ways of doing this: words and signals coming from our bodies. The former is referred to as verbal communication, which includes spoken and written language, while the latter is identified as non-verbal communication, which refers to silent language (clothing, body gestures, facial expressions).

Several theories consider language as an innate ability (Chomsky, 1986) and others, instead, as abilities learned through experience (Skinner, 1957), but I am not here to give you a theoretical lecture. It is important, however, to know that within a communicative exchange, it is not only the sharing of the same linguistic code that counts but also and above all the meaning attributed to the message transmitted.

For example, a humorous joke can include the intention to make the other person laugh, but also to be noticed or to seduce them. In this regard, the paralinguistic system comes into play, included in non-verbal communication, that is the tone and timbre of the voice, the rhythm of the speech, which can facilitate the attribution of the right intention linked to the message transmitted. 

The skill of public speaking

But let us return to our specific case: public speaking. As already mentioned above, the ability to speak in public can be trained. First of all, it is important to enhance individual aspects of the person, starting with self-confidence, accepting one’s limits, and leveraging strengths to improve oneself. In this context, emotions play an important role: being able to recognize them, accept them for what they are and consequently manage them optimally is a good prerequisite for a successful speech.

Emotion produces changes in breathing, speech articulation, which in turn partly determine the parameters of the acoustic signal. In other words, fear can be the cause of a low voice, difficulty to understand, and restricted body language, all signs that in the eyes of the listener can be interpreted as insecurity on the part of the speaker. Therefore, finding ways to effectively regulate one’s emotions (increase or decrease emotional states) is a fundamental condition for a successful speech and all other life contexts.

A personal course can be fundamental to optimize or prevent a very frequent problem in this field: fear of public speaking. In the field of psychology, this type of problem is often encountered, characterized by a strong feeling of anxiety at the mere thought of having to give a speech in front of a group of people. This situation is a source of stress for many people and in some cases can reach high levels of stress, leading to the development of psychological problems.

Classical therapy usually involves gradual exposure to the stimulus (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), combined with social skill training and relaxation techniques. It is never easy for the person to go through such a process because the mere thought of having to be exposed in front of an audience can lead to a reaction of closure and rejection of the training.

Virtual reality in the art of public speaking

In this case, virtual reality can be of great help. In addition to its great potential about the possibility of living a highly engaging and interactive experience, it allows precisely to expose the individual to the source of stress in a controlled environment: yes, because one is confronted in front of a virtual audience, simulated, but at the same time very close to reality.

Another advantage is the possibility of creating different situations and simulations to enhance the person’s ability to adapt; in fact, virtual reality also allows an assessment of the degree of use of the paralinguistic system, the so-called silent language (clothing, body gestures, facial expressions). Several studies have considered the effectiveness of virtual reality about fear of public speaking.

For example, research protocols were carried out to study the prototypical behavior of a real audience to design a virtual training scenario for fear of public speaking in a so-called CAVE, a cube-shaped immersive virtual room (Sandra Poeschl, Nicola Doering, 2012). This technology is considered to be the future in applications of this kind and more, but it must be remembered that it needs to be managed optimally to exploit its potential to the full.

Another very recent example is an application called “Ovation” made available for Oculus Rift and Vive, which offers a public speaking simulator and a corollary of tools. This technology allows the user to live a highly customizable experience, with the possibility of choosing the location, the type of audience and the tools to be used (laser pointers, chalk, microphones, and blackboards). The important aspect of Ovation is the provision of post-simulation analysis and objective indicators that offer instant feedback (quality of audience gaze, speaker hesitation). This is one of the fundamental advantages of using virtual reality, which, in addition to allowing training in protected and realistic contexts, gives the possibility of receiving instant analysis and feedback. 

Using a sports metaphor, I would like to highlight the words of a great sportsman Kobe Bryant: “If you don’t believe in yourself, who will?”. This means that it is important to be a fan of yourself first, otherwise, it will be difficult for others to be. If you believe in yourself, you will be an inspiration to other people, and they will believe in you much more easily. Always remember, as I said at the beginning, that these skills have to be trained daily with commitment, perseverance, and the right motivation so that you can optimize them. 

One example is what Vrainers is doing, with the aim of giving people a highly immersive and interactive experience that can provide a constant and dynamic public speaking training path.


Anolli, L., 2002. Psicologia della comunicazione. Bologna: Il Mulino.

D. P. Pertaub, M. Slater, and C. Barker, 2001. “An experiment on fear of public speaking in virtual reality”, Studies in health technology and informatics, vol. 81, pp. 372-8.

Morganti, F. & Riva, G., 2006. Conoscenza, comunicazione e tecnologia. Aspetti cognitivi della realtà virtuale. Milane: Edizioni Universitarie di lettere Economia e Diritto. 

S. Poeschl and N. Doering,2012. “Virtual training for Fear of Public Speaking — Design of an audience for immersive virtual environments” in Virtual Reality Short Papers and Posters (VRW), 2012 IEEE, pp. 101–102.

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Public speaking

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