Don’t worry…Be App-y: Apps and tools to hone and develop confident, clear, & engaging communication skills

Whether you’re presenting at a wedding or in a meeting, pitching or protesting, speaking online or in person, we can all benefit from honing our communication skills. There is no magic to getting better, though. Like improving at a sport, you have to focus on repetition, reflection, and feedback. Books, videos, coaches, and support organizations serve as an essential starting place in helping you become a better communicator. In addition, you now have access to a number of apps and digital tools that can reinforce and extend what you learn as you strive to become a more confident, clear, and engaging communicator.

Below, I identify several useful apps/tools and highlight specific features that I believe can be very instructive. [Note: Many of these apps/tools are very robust and have extensive abilities beyond what I mention, including tutorials, metrics, and examples.]

Two clear benefits exist from working with apps/tools like these:
 
 (1) These apps make you aware of your habitual communication behaviors and help you develop skills that you can choose to invoke based on what is needed in the moment.

(2) These apps bolster your confidence in communicating in high stakes situations, such as interviews, sales calls, all hands meetings, conferences, etc.

Repetition. Practice and desensitization are essential to building and honing communication skills. These two apps serve to guide your practice and help you simulate high stakes situations:

-Virtual Speech provides you with a virtual audience to practice in front of. While wearing VR goggles, you select one of several speaking environments (e.g., a large auditorium, an interview, a small conference venue) and audience type (e.g., engaged, disinterested, etc.). From here, you are free to communicate while seeing a simulated 360 degree environment — audience in front, screen behind you, etc.. The tool even allows you to upload your PowerPoint slides so when you gesture towards your slide, you can actually see it.

-Rhetoric the public speaking game is a fun, creative, two-player game that helps you practice using different communication devices, such as analogies, stories, quotes, etc. Patterned after a board game version, you roll a die and move around the app’s board. You are provided with either a question to respond to or a topic for a speech along with a particular rhetorical device to use.

Reflection. Communication habits die hard and awareness building is a critical first step to making meaningful change and progress. The following five apps provide useful, personalized data to show you what you are doing or not doing:

-Orai, LikeSo, Ummo, Ambit and Voice Vibes help with vocal delivery by giving you specific information about your word choice, pacing, pauses, variation, and tone. With regard to word choice, these tools identify disfluencies (“um’s” and “uhs”), filler words (“like,” “so,” “right”), and at least one even allows you to program desired terminology to keep track of (think: new product names or acronyms to define).

Feedback. Beyond your own reflection, third-party insight can really catalyze communication skills development. The tools mentioned below represent two approaches to providing external communication feedback:

-Quantified communication takes your securely uploaded videos and by leveraging machine learning provides you with a detailed report on your presentation and presenting as well as a comparison to a benchmark of your choice (e.g., fortune 500 CEOs, MBA students, etc.). Your feedback is presented in specific categories including, confidence, persuasion, trustworthiness, etc. To avoid analysis paralysis, you are also provided guidance on which areas to focus to improve your overall rating.

-Wipster, Rehearsal.com, and GOReact allow you to upload a video and then have others — peers, mentors, coaches/teachers — type in or video/audio record feedback that is displayed at that specific location in your presentation. That is, you get time stamped feedback that you see in real time when watching your recording. You can see the feedback itemized and jump specifically to that portion of your presentation if you wish.

When used in conjunction with direct coaching and instruction, these apps/tools can accelerate and deepen your communication skill development. With a little effort and persistence, you can make big strides in your communication effectiveness by using these innovative apps and tools.