Overcoming Public Speaking Anxiety of Software Engineers Using Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy

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Public speaking anxiety is a type of social phobia, which might be commonly seen in novice software engineers. It is usually triggered by a fear of social performance especially when the performer is unfamiliar with the audience. Today, many software engineering activities (e.g. code inspection, peer review, daily meetings, etc.) require social gatherings where individuals need to present their work. However, novice software engineers may not be able to reduce their performance anxiety during their course of education. In this study, we propose a virtual reality approach to construct a practice environment for improving novice software engineers’ pubic speaking experiences. Consequently, we examine the effects of virtual reality intervention on the public speaking experience of six novice software engineers from a computer engineering department. We designed a virtual auditorium to simulate the presentation delivery environment and findings suggest that using this infrastructure for training purposes can reduce presenter anxiety levels – which is consistent with related published studies. We believe that this virtual auditorium environment can deliver benefits for students and practitioners alike in terms of addressing the anxiety that is often associated with early stage career presenters.