The Future of Public Speaking Anxiety Management Has Arrived
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    The Future of Public Speaking Anxiety Management Has Arrived

    The future of speaking anxiety management is here!  Technology affords a useful and practical way to manage concerns over presenting.  In what follows, I will discuss how the quantify-self movement and virtual reality (VR) can help you feel more confident when presenting.

    The quantify-self movement has been gaining momentum in recent years as mobile technology has evolved.  This movement creates a sense of agency in people by providing them with measures of their daily life, such as calories burned, quality of sleep, number of steps taken, etc.  The sensors and resulting data can be very instructive and impactful in helping you both monitor and change your behavior.  When these monitoring and data elements are combined with more traditional biofeedback procedures (e.g., sequential muscle relaxation and/or deep breathing), you can really begin to affect daily change in your behaviors and attitudes.  People today are optimizing their levitra health by routinely monitoring their exercise exertion with the likes of Fit Bits or their heat rate with Basis watches.

    This approach and methodology can surely benefit nervous speakers.  It might look something like this:  You learn to identify what happens in your body physiologically when you get nervous. What is the first physical sign of anxiety that you experience? For example, does your heart rate, your respiration, or your sweating increase?  You learn to measure these trigger responses using your favorite quantify-self device.  When you notice the trigger, you can use relaxation techniques to short-circuit or stop the anxiety response.  The technology not only allows you to hone in on your initial trigger so you can nip the full anxiety response in the bud, but further, it allows you the opportunity to tune how you cope with it by providing you with real-time data.  In other words, you can see if three deep breaths actually slows you heart rate as it begins to ramp up.  Or, you can determine if your contracting and releasing of your muscles reduces your sweating.

    This technology affords individualized control at a reasonable cost with not too much effort.

    Virtual reality offers a tremendous opportunity to help people manage all types of phobias.  Virtual reality is the immersive simulation of a natural environment.  Typically, you interact with a virtual world by wearing a visor onto which the virtual world is projected.  Additionally, you may wear sensors on your arms, legs, and/or hands to allow you to interact in the world.  The computers that power the virtual environment are so fast that they can respond to your movements in real-time.  For example, if you turn your head to look to one side, your world-view will change as if you were really turning.

    By exposing you to a phobic situation virtually, you can work through your anxiety without experiencing a real threat.  I was fortunate enough to interview Laura Franch who is a post-doctoral student at Stanford University’s Communications program.  She is conducting ground-breaking research that explores how a virtual environment can help people manage speaking anxiety.  Her preliminary research looks to be indicating that a big way to reduce speaking anxiety is to reduce objective self-awareness.  That is, the less we focus on ourselves, the less nervous we become.  In research only possible in a virtual environment, she was able to simulate speaking in front of a live audience where a presenter not only saw his or her virtual audience while speaking, but also saw him or herself in a mirror behind the audience.  She varied the face on the person that the presenter saw in the mirror.  Sometimes it was the presenter’s actual face, and other times, it was a face the presenter chose to see prior to presenting.  When speakers saw themselves, they rated their anxiety as higher than when they saw the face of another person talking even though the body movements were the same.

    Beyond illuminating potential causes of anxiety (i.e., self-awareness), the use of virtual reality therapy could be revolutionary.  Rather than closing your eyes to visualize what a potential speaking might be like, you can actually simulate it.  The power of visualization has been documented for over three decades…imagine what simulation in the real environment can do.

    To my mind, quantify-self technologies and virtual reality will revolutionize how we speaking anxiety in the future.