When it comes to most college-level classes, you’d think we’d have a firm grip on how to give data-driven feedback to students. But when it comes to public speaking, we’re still decades in the past. The modern public speaking class comes down to subjective analysis and verbal recommendations based on short exposures to the students’ actual skill levels as speakers. Here’s why it’s time for public speaking tech to start driving the feedback in the college classroom.
Subjective feedback is less effective
Most college students start out their first day of a public speaking course, if it’s even offered or required, with a full syllabus. By the end of their course, they’ll have written feedback, group feedback, and maybe even some recordings of their performances. But how is a student supposed to bring that all together?
Practice will garner some improvement with coaching and feedback from the instructor, but that feedback usually isn’t based on hard data; it’s based on human perception. And human perception (especially memory) is not 100% consistent or even accurate. Students need targeted, specific feedback with measurable ways to track their progress over time. That’s where public speaking tech comes in.
(Better) practice makes perfect
In an ideal world, a student’s practice environment would be as like a performance setting as possible for every single practice session. But often students in these classes are practicing in front of a mirror, friends, or classmates. They only have so many opportunities in these packed classes to perform in front of a real audience. That’s where they get the biggest bang for their buck as developing public speakers, but oddly they have the least access to it. There are too many students to make time for everyone to perform with the consistency necessary for real improvement.
What students really need is an accessible practice space to get continuous, trackable feedback that simulates the real experience of presenting as much as possible. The key to our own approach to public speaking tech is creating an accessible practice space with responsive avatars to provide in-the-moment behavioral feedback.
Immediate feedback is critical to performance gains
Entering the PitchVantage system, you immediately get a sense of the power of the simulation on your performance. Sounding monotone? Our avatars might whip out their phones as they seem to tune out of a student’s performance. Speaking too quietly? Get ready to see some frowning from the audience. This is the most authentic way to practice because students learn how to read their audience and actively optimize their performance during the presentation. Many classrooms operate on a system of giving a performance, expecting a grade a week later. But with public speaking tech, the feedback is instantaneous and self-reflective. Students can see the audience struggling to attend to your talking points, so they can actively adjust their speech to accommodate. After the presentation is finished in the simulation, the system provides data driven feedback based on each second of the performance. Human evaluators and instructors just can’t do this— they can provide a general perception of the total performance, but not at the granular level that data provides.
It benefits professors too
The benefit to the students is clear— but how would this affect how professors organize their courses? With this simulation-based software, professors could track students’ practice sessions and their progress over time. The grading practically writes itself. Professors would have the data necessary to fully customize their curriculum based on any cohort of students. They could target issues that most students struggled with during a certain time, create break-out groups to focus on specific issues like volume variability or pauses, or even focus completely on crafting content for speeches for a variety of environments. Instead of slogging through impersonal lectures and tedious grading, data can lead the way to a more effective college classroom.
Public speaking can pave the way for future success
So why are public speaking skills so important? Communication is the foundation of our social and professional lives. The Association of American Colleges and Universities recently reported the 72% of college graduates were unprepared for employment due to a lack of communication skills. Basic communication comes naturally, but professional communication takes practice. And public speaking tech can provide students with the skills they’ll need to excel in their careers. Not only will they gain better communication skills, but learning to review highly relevant data and applying that information is a coveted skill for most employers. Public speaking also builds a long-lasting foundation in other areas, like leadership, corporate storytelling, and even confidence.