POPP’s: Good or Bad?


Speaking in public is becoming a more sought after skill in many areas of life; such as in the workplace and in education too. This skill is increasingly being taught in one way or another. You can now access public speaking courses online and find the closest one to your area. In our university (Bangor University) we have POPPs classes where we put these skills into practice. We do a mixture of prepared and impromptu speeches which vary the skills we learn such as preparation and thinking on our feet. POPP’s is a big part of our grade in stats and can really benefit our overall grade if we put the effort into this part of the module. However, I do know that there is a big debate whether we should do POPP’s or not. I am going to try and give both sides of the argument and let you know what I think as I go along.

            Like I briefly mentioned, POPP’s is worth a big part of our stats grade. It is worth 15% of a 30 credit module which means it can have a big impact on our overall grade for psychology. This does suggest how important the skills learnt in this class are. These skills include increased confidence, interpersonal skills and communication. By standing in front of an audience and speaking/performing repeatedly then your self-confidence will increase which can be beneficial in all aspects of life such as work or in personal relationships. Public speaking can help in work and your career right from the start; the interview. The interview is much like giving a speech about yourself and why you are suited for the job and what they would gain by hiring you. For this you need self-confidence which giving speeches regularly can improve. Therefore these aspects are all linked. There isn’t really a chance you can avoid speaking in public all your life. You may be asked to give a speech at a wedding or special occasion. Even when a man proposes there is usually an audience (well traditionally) which they would have to speak in front of. Key communication skills can also be learnt or enhanced through the practice of giving speeches. This is because you get chance to prepare for most speeches, therefore, you have the opportunity and time to think about what you want to say and phrase things better. Also when giving a speech there is usually an opportunity given to the audience to ask questions; this can help you improve how to think on your feet and deal with the unexpected. I personally think POPP’s is a beneficial part of our course and numerous skills can be learnt or perfected. In addition to this, our speeches are not graded. We are not cruelly judged on what we say, we are given advice. I think this really helps because it doesn’t matter if we do a rubbish speech because it isn’t severely marked (we simply get a mark if we do it and give it a go) but we do get pointers on how to improve which helps increase confidence and get the practice which is truly needed.

            However, I do understand that POPP’s and public speaking is some peoples worst nightmares. Some people experience bad anxiety when thinking about giving a speech. These symptoms (for example sweating) can vary in degree. Emory University have indicated that 88% of people have social phobia. Social phobia is a fear of speaking in public. This shows that this fear is not uncommon and many people do get nervous when speaking in public so you are not alone in these feelings. Some people it is as simple as being scared of speaking in front of people or being judged or the fact that eye contact is required. Some people go completely blank no matter how much they prepare and practice their speech. I must admit that when I first gave a speech or gave a reading I was incredibly nervous and it was horrible and I just wanted it to end as quickly as possible. But now I sing regularly in front of an audience and I have given speeches on various occasions and I don’t really have a problem with giving a speech in POPP’s because the atmosphere is laid back and I know that it is all practice and will help me improve my skills. Another argument I have heard is that preparing a speech takes a long time and yes I agree. Writing a good speech can take a lot of time and practice but like I keep on saying the benefits definitely outweigh the costs. Many people fear that they do not have complete control over their speech due to unexpected questions which means they have to think on the spot as you cannot prepare for every possible question. Another argument (which I do not agree with) is that POPP’s is a waste of time. I understand that the people who are already confident in speaking in front of people don’t see the point but I think it is important that they realise that a lot of other people need the practice and experience to overcome their fears.

            There has been a lot of research in this area in how to ‘cure’ people of their social phobia. The Lefkoe method is a common method involving 4 steps. These are:

  1. Identify the causes of the fear of speaking in public
  2. The client is then shown how to unlearn these fears they have already learnt
  3. Then discover how these fears have come about
  4. The final stage involves breaking the connection between these fears and events.

All in all these steps take approximately 3 – 4 hours and then you will be cured from your social phobia. These sessions last approx. 60 minutes and are done over the phone by a certified facilitator. The certified facilitators go through rigorous training ensuring consistent results are reached in consistent time. A change is said to be noticed after each session. However these sessions are quite expensive. $200 is to be paid before each session/appointment so you can spread the cost apart. There are many people who have reported great results with this method so it is questionable whether this money is worth it to overcome a long lasting fear. Go to this link to read more and see patients’ comments: http://www.speakingwithoutfear.com/ .

            Anderson et al. conducted an experiment involving virtual exposure to reduce anxiety of speaking in public. They conducted 8 therapy sessions; 4 of these sessions were anxiety management and 4 were exposure therapy. In the exposure therapy sessions participants gave speeches to a virtual audience. All participants completed questionnaires about their anxiety before and after treatment. They also completed one 3 months later. Participants were asked to give a speech to a real audience before and after treatment and then completed their anxiety questionnaires. Result showed a reduction in anxiety levels on all self-report measures (pre and post treatment). This reduction was maintained on the follow up measures. (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/da.20090/abstract).

            There are also various other courses and clubs which can help reduce anxiety such as the toastmasters club. You can search for courses online as well. One website is:  http://www.skillstudio.co.uk/public-speaking/?gclid=CNHS9efB364CFREPfAodLHz_ZQ. It is encouraging that there is so much help out there for people to improve this skill, as I have emphasised throughout this blog, it is a great skill to have and be incredibly useful in many aspects of life. I personally think POPP’s is a good thing and have found that many people benefit from these types of courses. To finish I would like to leave you with a quote from the Ohio State University extension: “Good public speakers are made, not born.”

Here are the other references I have used in this blog if you want to have a look:





11 responses »

  1. At the beginning of first year I dreaded attending my POPPS classes. I don’t believe I am a person that suffers from a social phobia from it or gets particularly anxious but one thing I don’t like doing is talking about myself. I avoided POPPS like the plague in first year and consequently was awarded an F3 for this part of the stats module. This year I decided to take it more seriously considering everything counts from this year! and if i’m honest, it hasn’t been all bad. I can’t believe i’m saying this but I almost enjoy POPPS. The skills that it teaches are beneficial and I believe that it has made me more confident talking in front of others and has taught me ways to maximise my potential.
    I think that although we’re thrown in at the deep end with soemthing that clearly is a common fear for many people, if people take the steps to help overcome it then they will benefit in the end, especially next year when it comes to presenting their dissertation. I do think that more should be done within the university to ensure that everybody is getting the most out of their POPPS classes. In the study that you mentioned by Anderson, the exposure technique they used proved to reduce anxiety levels based on self-report methods. Althought his may be time-consuming I think it’s something that should be thought about for those who are really having a hard time with their POPPS speeches. It could mean the difference between a good and a bad grade next year.

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  3. POPP’s is definitely beneficial to all psychology students, every student needs to become confident in their public speaking abilities not just for the fact that it will come in useful in the future, but for your dissertation presentation. POPP’s is trying to prepare you for something that counts for quite a bit of your final grade, which is very helpful. POPP’s gives you a very good opportunity to get into the routine of making presentations and helping you gain confidence in presenting them. Before I came to university I had never given a presentation so was completely panicked when I had to do them, but now that I have got into a routine I am better equipped to plan them and present them. However, your presentations aren’t graded in POPP’s which could be considered a good thing, but I think it could be quite negative, if you aren’t graded, you don’t feel pushed to make your presentation as good as it can be, which doesn’t really help you improve in your presentation skills. Although I feel I can do a presentation, I don’t feel I have done a presentation to my best ability as it isn’t graded, however the peer pressure of being in a class makes up for that. You feel you need to make your presentation as good as it can be in order to avoid disapproval from peers. So POPP’s works in a very positive way to improve your presentation skills.

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  5. I think the problem that I see in POPPS is the fact that everyone gets the same grade regardless of the quality of our speeches. Whilst I’m not proposing that those who have weaker speeches and obvious problems standing up should get a fail, I believe those who perform good speeches should get better grades as a result. If someone gets a better mark for an exam than another person, what do we say? They know the subject better and or they prepared more. If someone submits a better assignment what do we say? They know the subject better and or they prepared more. So why when someone performs a better speech than the others, do we not say “they know how to speak in public better and or they prepared more”. I believe this is the problem with POPPS. I’m all for easy marks for just doing compulsory work but I don’t see why those who are good at POPPS don’t get grades reflective of that whereas those who are good at exams constantly get better marks than those who are less good.

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  7. I thought that your blog was really well structured and well debated both sides of the argument.
    Admittedly, back in first year, the thought of POPPS was the worst thing about coming to uni. Even though I had done a few speeches at school I was still terrified. However, now I can see how much I have improved in my public speaking and I do agree that it is an important part of our degree course.
    The only thing I dislike about POPPS is the impromptus, mainly because they are so unrelated to anything; I tend to think that they are a waste of time. I also think that they are the part POPPS that creates the most anxiety because your does just go blank when you’re up there.
    I also thought your research was good and it helps people who are suffer from social phobia that they aren’t alone and that there is a simple cure.

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  9. I do think this is a good blog, but it does depend on how confident a person is speaking in public to how much they like, or dislike POPPs. I, for one, love POPPs, but this is due to previous experience of speaking in public. However, I think if I had little experience it would be very scary. But the whole point of coming to university is to learn life skills, not to just get a degree, and I think POPPs does provide the correct enviroment to be able to do this. As the groups are fairly small, and you see the same faces week-in and week-out, the fear of talking infront of “strangers” should disappear, as there will be no reason to be judged by a peer. The roles used in POPPs also provide a basis for less confident people to build a ground to work from; simple roles such a word of the day gives someone the chance to suggest the word and explain the reason for their choice, boosting confidence enough to ensure they continue with the roles and then speeches.

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