Getting over stage fright with the help of your smartphone
For some people, public speaking comes naturally. But if you are like me, you may um and ah too much, spurred by the worry that nerves may get the best of you, that you might speak too fast or mess up in some way. So I have been practicing my public speaking with the help of some apps.
$2 for iOS
One of those is a new app called Ummo. With Ummo, you take a prepared speech, tap the microphone icon, wait for the countdown, and then talk. As you speak, the app listens and automatically logs the words, the number of pauses, and the use of pesky filler words like . . . you know, like, right?
Ummo can show a transcript of what you have said on the screen. To improve, you can tell the app to beep when you use a filler word and edit the list of filler words to include ones you know you overuse.
Ummo can then give data like how many words were spoken and how often words were reused. It also displays your pace in words per minute, how loud you were, whether your volume was consistent, and so on. The data is presented in easy-to-read graphs, and if you tap on a point in the graph, you can see the words in the speech transcript at that moment. The idea is to learn when in the speech you faltered so you can practice and fix mistakes.
Sometimes Ummo misunderstands the words that were said (though admittedly this American-made app may have had an issue with my British accent), and I wish it kept a log of speech data to track whether there was improvement with practice. But Ummo is easy to use.
Free for iOS and Android
Part of the terror of public speaking is standing in front of a group of people who are paying attention to you. This is a problem that the app Public Speaking by Virtual Speech may help alleviate.
Public Speaking (above), which is a virtual reality app, delivers an immersive 3-D video that moves as you look around. The videos make you feel as if you are standing in different public speaking venues, like a podium in a small boardroom or a theater, sometimes with video of people listening to you. The idea is to get someone accustomed to what it feels like to be presenting to a crowd, and thus prepare for the same situation in real life.
Because Public Speaking is a VR app that shows the room as you look around, you need extra hardware to see the video — specifically Google Cardboard, a simple device that fits around your smartphone and costs $15 and up.
The app has a few extras like background noise simulation and the option to load in your own speech slides to the teleprompterlike display seen in various scenes. Though the app cannot deliver the thrill of a real public speech, virtual reality experiences can be convincing and help conquer stage fright.
Amber Light Speech Timer
$2 for iOS and Android
Free for Android
Keeping on time when making a presentation is easiest if you rehearse several times, and using an app like Amber Light Speech Timer can help. This app works like the traffic light system that some public speaking venues use, showing a green display when you are in the middle of a talk, amber as you near the end, and red at the close.
This is not as simple as it sounds, and Amber Light gets it right with clear controls and custom timers. People can choose the different color alert times and the option to have the phone buzz if they prefer a physical rather than a visual alert.
The app is for iOS. On Android, an app that works in a similar way is Toastmaster Timer.
Free for iOS
Free for iOS and Android
Prompts can also be very helpful when making a speech or a presentation. While there are apps like Teleprompter Lite and A Prompter, I find that simpler apps like Microsoft PowerPoint work just as well — you just need to make a presentation with a few cue words per slide and glance at the phone screen as you talk.
Lastly, don’t forget the smartphone’s camera app. Making a video of yourself speaking can be a powerful way to spot mistakes — assuming you can get over the sometimes icky feeling of watching yourself on camera.
Kit Eaton writes on technology for The New York Times.