Yoodli offers software (and games) to improve public speaking

Yoodli co-founder Varun Puri introduces his company’s speech analysis software. (Yoodli via YouTube)

Six months after coming out of stealth mode, a Seattle AI startup called Yoodli raises the curtain on a free website designed to improve your public speaking.

And as if that weren’t enough, Yoodli also offers free games.

“Think of them as Wordle, but for communication skills,” Yoodli co-founder Varun Puri said in an introductory video.

Yoodli’s main workout routine can be a headache on its own: you can upload an audio or video clip, or make a real-time recording of your speech using the app. Press a button and the software analyzes what you say to flag filler words (like “um” or “ah”), repetitive phrases, cover words (like “you know”), non-inclusive words (like saying “guy” instead of “people”) and if you speak too quickly or too tentatively.

At the end, Yoodli gives you a confidence score and points out ways to improve. Check out this example, which dissects a speech given by billionaire Elon Musk. (The speech scored a 2 on Yoodli’s five-point grading system).

Puri insists public speaking should be fun, not a chore. This attitude even applies to the company’s name, which riffs on the word “yodel”. Six months ago, Puri explained in an email that the name “has a fun, catchy ringtone and represents our playful company culture (try saying Yoodli quickly three times, you’ll end up smiling).”

Yoodli’s public speaking games mirror that same kind of game: one of the games challenges you to see how long you can speak without, uh, saying a filler word. Another gives you seemingly random words to work with in real-time conversation. Yet another game asks you to make analogies on the fly. (For example, “A blueberry is like a toilet because…”)

“Building your speaking skills is like training a muscle,” Puri said in a press release. “The same way we warm up before sporting events or calm our mind through meditation, we can train our body before speaking. At Yoodli, we believe that speaking preparation can be fun and stress-free. That’s why we designed daily AI-powered drills to help people improve their speaking and impromptu interview skills.

Yoodli, from the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence’s AI2 incubator program last year, has already garnered endorsements from experts in the field – such as Craig Valentinewho won the Toastmasters International Public Speaking World Championship in 1999.

But you could say one of the best mentions comes from Puri himself, who said he uses the software to prepare his presentations. Puri and his co-founders were persuasive enough to attract $1 million in pre-seed funding last year from AI2 and Madrona Venture Group.

Puri and another of Yoodli’s co-founders, Esha Joshi, are among the finalists for the Young Entrepreneur of the Year category of the 2022 GeekWire Awards. Visit the GeekWire Awards website to see all the finalists, vote for your favorites and reserve your spot for the May 12 awards show at Showbox SoDo in Seattle.