Your Smartphone Could Improve Your Public Speaking

Man speaking publicly with microphone.

In both litigation and transactional work, formally and informally, lawyers spend a lot of time speaking in front of people. New lawyers may find themselves particularly uncomfortable in public speaking settings, but even seasoned lawyers likely have some bad speaking habits that have crept in over the years. Two new smartphone apps are trying to help people get over their nervousness and verbal tics and be better public speakers. [New York Times]

Ummo (which is presumably pronounced “umm-oh”) is somewhat of a personal speech coach. It is designed to get you to notice—and then stop using—your “garbage” or “filler” words. 

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.

Basically, Ummo will shame/nag you into dropping all of your uses of “umm” and “I think” and “you know” and the like. It will also tell you how often you reuse words, display your pace, and tell you if your volume varied too much during the speech. The upside of Ummo is that it is only $2. The downside of Ummo is that it is only available for iOS at this time.

If your issue isn’t that you have some verbal tics you’d like to eliminate but instead is that you are terrified of speaking in front of an audience, you might consider Public Speaking for Cardboard, which is available for both iOS and Android. Public Speaking is a more  futuristic virtual reality type of speaking experience.

Public Speaking, 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.

In order to get that cool virtual reality feeling, however, you are going to need something besides just your smartphone. Enter Google’s ridiculously cheap VR device, Google Cardboard. It looks vaguely like one of those old ViewMasters and allows you to “see” the room you are speaking to when using the Public Speaking app.

You can choose from large audiences, small boardroom-sized audiences, and interview simulations, among others. The VR interface is in its infancy, so things look slightly cheesy, but if you need to practice in front of an audience and don’t have some real-life minions to gather to listen to you each time, it is as close as you will get right now. No matter what tools you choose to use, every attorney can benefit from spending time polishing their public speaking skills.


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  • Or just join Toastmasters and actually get in front of a crowd.