shutterstock_134507810…Google Glass.

Seriously.  I had the chance recently to try out Google’s new gadget.   The nice folks who were making it available to me had thoughtfully loaded Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address on to it, knowing I was interested in speeches.

It was revelatory.  I could give the speech, eyes on the audience, hands-free, while reading the text out of the corner of my right eye.  It was clutter-free, liberating, and easy to do.  It took me only a few minutes to get used to the technology as a prompting device.

Ten minutes in, I was forgetting Glass was on my head, so intuitive did the whole array feel.

Without breaking a sweat, we came up with five killer applications for public speakers.  We just need someone to build them.

1. The Teleprompter.  Whether you put your notes, a full text, or just cues for slides, you can have whatever you need in the way of support for your talk.  The hands-free aspect is more important than you might think.  Studies show that limiting gesture limits your thinking, so holding a clicker or note cards or a text will actually make you dumber.  If you’re dumber, it’s harder to give a brilliant talk.  Hands-free rules.

2. Fielding Audience Questions.  It would be very easy to design an app that linked with people’s phones and computers so that they could send questions to your Glass screen.  You could then review them and take them in any order you pleased.

3. Feedback Analysis.  Taking audience participation one step further, how about an app that takes audience voting, analyzes it, and puts it instantly on your screen so that you can say, “45 percent of you believe that aliens walk among us, and the other 55 percent believe that they are themselves aliens.”

4. Slideware.  No reason not to put your entire visual accompaniment to your talk – slides, video, etc – in thumbnail form on the Glass, so that you can cue up the next slide, add notes so that you can remember what to say, and so on.

5. Virtual Reality for Speech Phobics.  My favorite idea that came out of the discussion was a virtual reality program for people who suffer from severe stage fright.  You project an auditorium – a virtual reality auditorium – and put one virtual person in it.  You get used to talking to that one person.  You add a couple more.  You get used to that.  Pretty soon you’re talking to multitudes without fear.

I’m sure you can imagine many other uses for this technology.  An hour playing with the Glass made me a believer.  Don’t be too quick to buy into the mediocre press narrative Google Glass has been getting.  Yes, privacy is an issue.  But this is a transformative technology for public speakers.  Let the apps start coming!  What would you like to see on the Glass?






  1. I have always been appreciative of having learned to fly in old Cessnas…little technology or cues to help, relying on situational awareness , focus, training and intuition. Today’s glass cockpits remove the pilot from the underlying realities that you experience in small, unadorned cockpits. But when things break, I’m glad I learned the hard core way.
    Google glasses seem to offer a similiar experience, lifting speakers from the visceral experience of standing alone in front of hundreds of strangers with not much more than your readiness…
    I am glad to have grown up in a speaking environment of scant technology
    that requires so much of me. When things go wrong, I always have me.On the other hand, just like a glass cockpit, I sure will appreciate the help!

    1. Hi, Betty — thanks for the comment. I love the image and the idea of learning the basics without the tech, and then, of course, learning the tech too:-)

  2. So the way I’m reading this, Nick, is that you don’t really think the privacy concerns are significant enough to trump the utility you’re getting from it for your particular trade?

    I don’t have any beef with Glass — full disclosure — but perhaps a more bespoke piece of technology that doesn’t have the wired aspect of Glass that you can use strictly as an aid during speech/presentation delivery and that can’t be patched into or accessed from outside of the venue in which you’re speaking.

    I’m just being persnickety…in any event, this is getting crossposted…

    In any event, the creator of Google Glass — Dr. Steve Mann — gave this very engaging — and hilarious — speech at TEDxToronto from this past Sept. 26, 2013:

    Let me know what you think if you’ve a chance to view…and Nicky, please forgive me if I’d sent this your way already…

    1. Hi, Adam —

      Thanks for the comment, and I do take the Glass security issues seriously. What I was saying was that I saw great possibilities in the Glass specifically for public speakers –and that was news to me, and so I thought I’d share with blog readers. Thanks for the link — I’ll check it out….

  3. Funny, this is always how new technology tools are introduced…they put them into the hands of an expert/virtuoso, and the amazing potential is revealed.

    And then these tools go mass market. And while there are some nice incremental gains for professionals at the top of curve, but the real impact happens for the amateur.

    Technology flattens learning curves. So anyone can write a blog, edit a video, deliver a presentation, or give a speech from a teleprompter. But this path leads to mediocrity.

    Steep learning curves are valuable. To wit: If you were back teaching Public Speaking at Princeton, would you permit your students to use Google Glass?

    1. Hey, Andrew — thanks for the insight. There’s a time element involved, too: while it’s cutting edge, the pros use it. As soon as it’s widely available, then the pros move on to the next thing.

      If I were back teaching Public Speaking at Princeton, I would indeed have my students use Glass — teachers are all about flattening learning curves.

  4. Nick, I really liked the ideas you brought up here. A few additions I had were Facial Recognition and Monitoring of Word Clouds.

    Although this probably crosses the line of the security issues mentioned already, can you imagine what facial recognition could add to a presentation as the presenter looked out over the audience? You wouldn’t need to get into specific details of a persons profile but by having basic information such as industry, company name or other issues you could filter for. Could have the benefit of adding specifics to a presentation that really hits home with your audience. The same could be said of monitoring a Word Cloud for key words to focus on.

    However, after thinking about the application of these and other ideas I started to see the Presenter as a cog in the tech wheel. Still getting the message to the audience but not quite as connected to them. I could see this type of tech being used by an assistant or management to feed live prompts to the speaker. The best presentations however, have been when there is a “heart” connection with the audience. That’s only achieved by being first being passionate about your message. Secondly being present with your audience and completely connected with them.

    Nick, I want to thank you for the exercise of doing some mental gymnastics with this idea of Google Glass. I’m a tech guy at heart and love seeing new applications of the new tech that is becoming available.

    As for any of the security issues that this has brought up… My thoughts are this. When brainstorming on new ideas like this you have to first ignore the existing boundaries of accepted use. Push into the grey area, even if that is beyond what may be currently acceptable. If the idea is worth pursuing then figure out how to create safe boundaries to operate in later.

    Thanks for the post.


    1. Doug, thanks for your thoughtful comment. Your point about heart and connection with the audience is a really important one. No speaker should distance herself from the audience with technology, and technology should be avoided if that what happens as a result.

      I like your further ideas. I could you facial recognition software in everyday life, trying to remember people’s names! Imagine the power in a speech.

      Thanks again.

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