Public speaking can be terrifying. Imagine standing in front of a large crowd to present your topic. You must captivate their attention and interest while delivering your idea that resonated with your audience. So how can you practice this essential communication skill?

We were inspired to help young women build up crucial skills that will help them advance to senior and managerial roles, as the lack of representation at the top of industries is especially evident. The proportion of women in senior leadership roles is 33% in North America and 36% within Canada. Honing public speaking skills enhances your chance at job interviews and network events, as well as helps you better leverage your team and increase your sales opportunities.


What it does

SpeakHER is a public speaking practice tool for young women at any level of their career, whether it is students or working women, that want to advance their skills. The web app provides live feedback on your presentation to help you maintain eye contact and appropriate speech volume level while alerting you when filler words are used and allowing you to watch yourself present and track your progress. The user clicks record whenever they are ready and SpeakHER begins recording their webcam as well as converts their speech to text in order to keep a record of the user's history and improvement. While recording their presentation, SpeakHER gives live feedback such as alerting the user when filler words are used, such as "like", "basically", or "you know", as well as alerts the user of their speaking volume to make sure it stays within an appropriate range that is not too low or too high. When done recording, the user can play back their video, as well as get a report outlining their score on areas such as the number of different filler words used, eye contact measures and speaking volume level. The user has the option to save their recording and can access it later from their video history. SpeakHER prepares you for presentations, interviews, and many more opportunities that require strong public speaking skills by helping the user speak with confidence and avoid the most common mistakes made while presenting.


How we built it

We used speech recognition API to convert speech into text in real-time, and through JavaScript, we built an alerting system that captures any filler words used to notify the user to avoid using them. We utilized MediaRecorder WebRTC API, which accesses the webcam and records when prompted. SpeakHER shows the user their video while recording it in order to let them have the chance to see how their presentation looks to others and find areas to improve. To build the volume meter, we used a WebAudio API to show the user their volume level in real-time and update them on whether it is an appropriate level, and when it is too high or too low. Webgazer was used for tracking eye gaze to maintain eye contact by alerting the user when their eyes are not on the webpage. We used HTML and CSS to make the website and stylize it.


Accomplishments that we're proud of

We are proud of creating this helpful platform that is able to help young women advance their skills and not be intimidated by gender gaps in underrepresented senior roles. We are proud of leveraging various new technologies and APIs to perfect our web app as well as creating this beautiful user interface for our app, which we weren't experienced with before. Creating such a comprehensive and functional app that has this variety of features that fully function is also something we are very proud of.


Challenges we ran into

It was difficult to get the alerts for the filler words to be live as the user says them, as well as count how many times they were repeated. The program restarted the textbox every time the user paused in between sentences, so we had to find a way to append the text in a clean and concise manner. We needed to understand the different aspects of the speech recognition API and how to utilize it to get the results we wanted. It is also really hard to get an accurate representation of the volume level from the microphone for the volume meter, but through many testing rounds, we were able to build a fully functioning volume meter that also alerts the user on their speaking volume.


What we learned

We learned how to use new, complex APIs and apply them to our project. We learned how to convert speech into text in a continuous way so that the user's entire speech is captured, and how to save the video and user data for later viewing. The complex functionality of the speech to text API is something we really delved into to understand better and overcome the challenges we faced. We also learned how to create a reactive user interface where users can select from various options. Implementing the eye gaze tracking API was also very exciting and new to us, and we had to experiment and try out different ways until it worked on our app.


What's next for SpeakHER

We would like to provide a more customized and personal experience through SpeakHER, where users can define their goals and targets for the specific practice video they are doing such as the level of formality of the topic and the target audience. We would also like to expand on the other pages such as the Tips page, where the user can get tips on communication and leadership skills in order to further their development and apply it in real-time through SpeakHER.

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