Practicing with an AI Avatar: Overcoming Public Speaking Fear

fear of public speaking3

Glossophobia—the fear of public speaking—affects three out of four people, with 5–10% of the population facing severe glossophobia that can significantly impact their day-to-day lives. Few people immediately and innately enjoy public speaking, but unlike with clinical phobias, most discomfort with public speaking can be addressed with training exercises, practice, and a gradual, self-led increase in exposure.

The trick is to find the right training tools that can meaningfully help your team overcome their fear and discomfort, as it can resemble a Catch-22. Traditionally, the only way to improve in public speaking is to practice speaking publicly, but that doesn’t work if you’re too nervous to practice the techniques. 

However, new technology is removing that catch. AI training platforms and AI coaches can help professionals practice public speaking without the “public” part. Your customer-facing team can practice speaking in various contexts, from cold calls to demos to sales meetings. 

The AI algorithm can assess the presentation for ways to improve, all without a real person listening in. By helping your team improve at external communication, your organization can produce more confident reps while increasing revenue, gaining stronger client relationships, and creating a stronger brand reputation.

How a Fear of Public Speaking Holds Professionals Back

Being afraid of public speaking can be a significant career hindrance. It can hurt professionals’ performance during an in-person interview, cause them to hang back in meetings and conferences, and stop them from volunteering to take more visible roles in projects. But for salespeople, the potential ramifications go deeper.

After all, public speaking doesn’t simply mean giving a speech. It can include any situation where there is an audience and the speaker is presenting information. This includes sales calls, web conferences, in-person client meetings, and internal team meetings. Some of the ways a fear of public speaking can present itself are:

  • Unclear messaging: When people are nervous, they can forget the right messaging or even well-practiced content. Because their brains are busy stressing over the anxiety of presenting, their ability to respond, correct their phrasing, or speak clearly is reduced.
  • Uncomfortable presentation: A lot of communication is nonverbal, and salespeople need to look and sound confident during their presentations. Audiences read that confidence as expertise or belief in the product. But when speakers are afraid of public speaking, they often hunch their shoulders, rarely gesture, and don’t make eye contact. This disengages the audience.
  • Missed opportunities: In sales especially, many of the opportunities to make a connection are up to the salesperson. They need to be able to jump onto a call, deepen a conversation, or pursue new leads. These are all self-motivated activities, unlike a task list set by a manager. But salespeople plagued by underlying anxiety might hesitate. Maybe they’ll be too nervous to be assertive or they’ll wait a moment too long to accept a new client. Even if they’re willing to take on these opportunities, they might be too busy calming their nerves to see the right moment.
  • The appearance of poor performance: You can be afraid of public speaking and still successfully make sales. It’s hard, but it’s doable with a lot of hard work. However, from the outside looking in, sales managers and other business stakeholders might not recognize their skills. When a salesperson is reluctant to speak at internal meetings, always seems nervous and anxious, and doesn’t present confidence during performance reviews, managers may judge them negatively (even in light of clear metrics).

Related: 5 Features Your Sales Reps Need in AI Sales Training Software

Ultimately, when professionals are afraid of public speaking, they tend to make 10% less money than they could have. In commission-based roles like sales, the gap will grow even bigger. Organizations also suffer because of fewer sales and opportunities. 

How to Overcome Public Speaking With AI-Powered Training

Managers and training teams can create programs specifically designed to help people with a fear of public speaking. AI-powered training tools give glossophobic professionals a platform for practicing speaking without an audience—while still getting meaningful feedback and instruction. This quick overview of the process demonstrates how easy it can be.

Step 1: Get a Baseline Assessment of Your Speaking Abilities in a Low-Stress Environment

AI coaching platforms can objectively assess a recording or real-time performance of a public-speaking scenario. Users can speak directly to an avatar or record themselves and submit the file. Then, the algorithm creates a baseline profile of the user’s skills and weaknesses. Robust AI can measure thousands of different factors, such as word speed, verbal stumbles, repetition, and “um”s.

With an assessment at the start, users, the AI, and managers gain clarity on which areas individual professionals need to work on. Even better, it’s a very clear assessment because you’ve stripped out most or all of the nerves that come from presenting.

Step 2: Receive Microlessons and Instructions Tailored to Your Unique Needs

From the initial assessment, AI learning platforms can create microlessons and courses around the most important skills for the person to learn. These can focus on company-approved messaging (especially in highly regulated fields like pharmaceuticals), smoothing out delivery, slowing down a rapid-fire presentation, or getting rid of pauses and filler words. 

Each microlesson can end with a quick practical assessment that focuses on the lesson’s objective. The AI coach can assess growth on specific skills, and the learner can progress without having to speak in front of an audience (or wait for a busy human trainer to become available).

Step 3: Practice, Receive Feedback, and Be Assessed by an Objective AI Audience

This process will continue, with the learners having frequent opportunities to practice, get coaching and feedback, and see measurable gains in their public speaking and communication skills. Because the coaching and feedback tools are powered by AI, learners don’t have to wait for someone else to have time to assess their presentation. They can practice whenever they have a few minutes or deliberately set time aside every day to make progress.

Related: The Power of Immersion: Using Sales AI Simulators for Realistic Sales Training

While this doesn’t yet address the “public” part of public speaking, it gives people room to practice presentations and gain new skills. This is important for several reasons:

  • Glossophobia may have prevented them from practicing messaging or core elements of good public speaking.
  • By objectively improving, they can gain confidence and familiarity with good speaking tactics that translate to presentations in front of an audience. Even if they continue to dislike public speaking, they can practice delivery enough to seem more natural.
  • Managers know exactly what is holding back performance and can fine-tune training accordingly. The AI analysis can confirm that the employee is good with messaging, product knowledge, and strategy but simply struggles with audiences.

Step 4: Start Implementing Your New Tactics and Skills in Front of a Live Audience

The fourth step is for professionals to start using these new skills in front of live audiences. Depending on the degree of glossophobia they have, this can look different for each employee. 

Now that they have a lot of practiced tactics, some may be ready to jump into client calls with a little bit of nervousness. Others may need a more gradual ramp-up, such as presenting to a visual AI avatar on the screen, other people in the room, or a coworker, before finally being comfortable with real clients.

Benefits of Addressing Public Speaking Fears Through an AI Platform

Traditional tools for helping people overcome a fear of public speaking don’t often work. When people speak in an empty room, there’s no feedback. When they speak in front of a trainer, their nerves can get in the way of demonstrating their skills. 

However, using an AI coach eliminates those intrinsic challenges. They can practice in front of an audience that isn’t really an audience and address the fundamentals or advanced skills of public speaking once that stumbling block is out of the way.

Some of the key benefits of this approach for professionals are:

  • Practice in no-stress or low-stress environments
  • Build the skills that nerves get in the way of
  • Get quantitative evidence of strengths and improvements
  • Gain confidence for different opportunities to speak

Organizations also benefit through:

  • Data-driven insights into growth and learning
  • Less time-intensive (and resource-intensive) training
  • Salespeople are building skills for sales, demos, networking, and internal promotions

Help Your Team Overcome Fears of Public Speaking With AI-Enhanced Training

Public speaking is an unavoidable part of sales and leadership at any company. If you give your teams the resources to become more comfortable speaking in front of an audience, you can see a fast return on investment, better connections, and more confident sales reps. Not only are you strengthening your business, but you’re fundamentally improving your employees’ experiences on the job. 

At Quantified, we’ve developed an AI-powered coaching and training platform to help people develop the skills they need to thrive at work. Request a demo today to see how AI-based training can help teams overcome their resistance to public speaking.