Sunday, March 22, 2015

Dealing with F.L.O.P.S – (Fear & Loathing of Public Speaking)

 by Sarah Solomon
 It’s an often acknowledged fact that the fear of Public Speaking ranks higher than death on the list of people’s worst fears, inspiring Jerry Seinfeld’s joke – “At a funeral most people would rather be in the casket then delivering the Eulogy.”  So where does FLOPS come from and how can we get over it? Some social psychologists think it stems from the primal fear of being humiliated in front of our “tribe.” From an evolutionary standpoint public humiliation could be fatal because it carries the risk of being thrown out of the tribe and forced to fend for yourself. Other people believe that FLOPS stems from a specific  trauma around speaking in public. Wherever FLOPS comes from, there are many encouraging stories of how people have overcome their fears. Here’s an account of how my assistant Sarah Solomon overcame hers. I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

I will never forget the first day of my COM 1010 class when my professor handed out the syllabus and for some strange reason I was certain we wouldn’t have to give any speeches

(I mean seriously…why would I have to give an oral presentation in a communications class…obviously I’ll just be researching famous speeches and watching videos of OTHER people speaking in public but there’s no way I’ll have to give a presentation…zero chance). So the professor begins to talk about the expectations for the class, the textbook, you know, all the typical first day essentials and then she says the unthinkable. The final would be a 10-minute presentation, no notes allowed. At this point my anxiety sets in and sheer panic races through my body. I haven’t even been able to give a 2-minute speech without shaking and sweating and now she expects me to speak for 10 long, excruciating minutes? I was convinced my professor was insane and there was absolutely no way I was going to do this. But as my internal screams began to grow louder, I learned that the class was required for graduation so I had to find a way to get over my fears once and for all.

Getting over a fear is a hard thing to do but it isn’t impossible. For me, I had to find a few different techniques before I was comfortable speaking in front of a crowd. My fear was rooted in eye contact. When all eyes were on me I felt extremely uncomfortable and nervous. So I started rehearsing my presentation standing in front of a mirror, looking at myself. I did it over and over and analyzed how I spoke, how I stood and all my nervous ticks like rubbing my arm and rocking back and forth. I did this at least 20 times before my final and each time I rehearsed I felt my nervousness lessen. It wasn’t completely gone, but I definitely didn’t feel as nervous as before. Another trick that I used was a mixture of tough love and positive thinking. Every time I began to doubt myself I would whisper little things like “You have to do this”, “Being scared does not change the fact that it has to get done”, “It’s more than a presentation”, “Its only 10 minutes then it’s over”. I became my own personal cheerleader in a sense and kept whispering these things over and over all the way up to me getting up in front of the class. And just like that, my fears relaxed and I was able to give my final presentation. 

To this day whenever I have to get up and speak in front of anyone I follow the same steps and each time it gets a little bit easier. I believe the first step to getting over speaking in public is to pinpoint what is that makes you feel uncomfortable and focus on that. For me it was people staring at me, knowing that they were focused on me and only me, that made me panic. The more I watched myself the more comfortable I became because I knew what others were seeing. Hopefully the little tricks I used to calm my nerves can help you or someone you know gain some confidence and become a little bit more comfortable speaking in public. It is a big fear but anything is worth a try.
Did you or Do you suffer from FLOPS? Tell us how YOU deal with it?

I coach people on all forms of speaking and have helped many people deal with their FLOPS. Their success has a lot to do with where their fear comes from and my methods vary from using my acting techniques (which is what too me from Shy to shining) to using Neural Linguistic Programming techniques to recommending other alternative techniques like hypnosis and EFT (tapping) Check out my interview with Michelle Cleary as we discuss what tapping is and how you can apply it to public speaking.


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