There are many online options for improving your technical skills. I have subscriptions to Cloud Academy, Lynda.com (now part of LinkedIn), StackSkills, and Code School which has helped me keep my development skills sharp and up-to-date. However, what about soft skills training? How do you practice your communication skills with the convenience of an online site or mobile app?
Here is my list of the top seven free and paid online resources, software, and mobile apps:
- Virtual Orator – public speaking simulators are a rapidly growing application field. I use a public speaking simulator at work to help me hone my presentations. Virtual Orator offers a personal version of the software ($300) with an enterprise version. Public speaking simulators work by creating a virtual audience for you to practice your presentations – including your slideshow. The virtual audience reacts in real-time to your presentation based on your eye contact, your delivery speed, vocal pitch, and other speaking characteristics. You can customize the size of the audience and the venue such as a small meeting or even a large conference.
- Speech Center VR – If you own the Oculus Rift Virtual Reality gear, you can download this application for free. Like Virtual Orator, you perform in front of a virtual audience but, you have more venues to choose from such as a nightclub, press conference, and even the White House Briefing Room. There are eight public speaking courses and five scenarios for handling
- Public Speaking Simulator VR – A free virtual reality app that works with Google Cardboard. You can adjust the audience from 3 to 8 to 20 in an office setting. The audience feedback is adjustable so you only hear words of encouragement or face an unpleasant and bored crowd.
- Grammarly – Turning from speaking to writing; Grammarly is an application I use consistently in my work. There is both a free version and a paid version. You can add Grammarly as a free plugin for Firefox and Windows 10. There is an online version if you want to check an email or business letter quickly. What I especially like are the in-depth explanations of your grammar errors. I often made the mistake of using “squinting modifiers” which I didn’t know even existed until Grammarly pointed them out to me.
- Purdue Online Writing Lab – I’ve been using this site for years. It is a great free resource for improving your writings skills. I recommend the “Writing Process” articles to help you better plan and execute your writing projects.
- Hemmingway App – the Hemmingway App improves the readability of your writing. I often use it after I do a Grammarly check to refine my writing further. You can use it free online or pay $10 for the desktop app.
- IO – Readable.IO works like the Hemmingway App because it determines the readability of your writing. Readable.IO offers paid plans starting at $3 a month which includes the ability to determine of your online content just by providing an URL.
Year after year, the most consistent desired skills by employers is good communication skills. Use these resources to help you refine your communication skills and grow in your career.
Bill Brantley is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.