In this guide, we will discuss “How to not be nervous in meetings” and a few useful tips when managing your meeting anxiety.
How to not be nervous during a meeting
You may be wondering ‘How to not be nervous in meetings?’ or during a meeting, it could be because you fear having to do a presentation during the meeting or you may become really anxious just at the thought of having to participate. Meetings should not become a negative or traumatic experience, after all, they are important and crucial not only to get your voice heard but also represent learning spaces.
However, we understand how meetings can become overwhelming and intimidating if you are shy and you think participating could become a reason for saying or doing something to humiliate or embarrass yourself in front of your colleagues and/or your boss. But it doesn’t mean you need to endure meetings with a high level of discomfort every time. Anxiety during meetings can become a real problem for people with Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), so make sure to look for help if it starts affecting your life significantly.
Some of you might even be scared of giving an interview for a job because you feel anxious when around a lot of people, such as a meeting.
Here are some useful tips when overcoming your fear of participating during a meeting.
Why do I feel nervous during a meeting?
Meeting anxiety can be attributed to several reasons such as:
- Being introverted or shy.
- Had a negative experience when speaking in public but never properly addressed it.
- You prefer to observe and listen before speaking your mind.
- You feel uncomfortable in any type of meeting, whether it is a normal setting or virtual.
- Feeling uncomfortable talking in front of coworkers worried about their perception.
- Being new to your job.
- Having to endure demanding tasks and high-pressure.
- Coming from a previous job or a culture where speaking was not the norm.
- Suffering from social anxiety which gets triggered in a meeting setting.
If you identify one or more of the reasons you may also experience physical and emotional discomfort such as sweaty palms, racing heart, shaky voice, intense fear, feeling hot or cold, wandering thoughts, worry or negative self-talk.
Set realistic and specific goals
When overcoming your fear of meetings, it is important to set realistic and specific goals. For instance, sometimes we think that a goal could be ‘overcoming my fear of meetings’, however, it is too general. Instead, your goal needs to be as specific as challenging yourself to express your opinion about the next meeting’s topic.
Even if it is as realistic and specific you need to consider if this is something you will feel prepared and confident enough to do. Don’t rush yourself into anything, try to set goals that will take you one step closer to overcoming your fear, doesn’t matter how small. Approach the ultimate goal gradually.
Finally, don’t be too hard on yourself if you try it and the outcome is not as good as you expected. No one is perfect and this requires practice so don’t be discouraged and keep working on it.
Be prepared and practice
It is also a possibility that you don’t feel prepared or knowledgeable enough to participate or give your opinion about a certain topic. But that is completely normal, try to be prepared for every meeting because even if you wouldn’t want to participate there is a possibility someone will still ask for your opinion.
Initially, you could write a list of potential topics to discuss on the matter or even particular issues you might feel that need to be discussed during the meeting. Moreover, you could rehearse by looking yourself in the mirror and/or recording yourself through video. This way you can evaluate your behaviour.
You could also assist with other people’s presentations, conferences or meetings just as part of the audience. Take notes of what you observe are positive behaviours you can incorporate in your own repertoire.
Perhaps you have developed a plan for every meeting by preparing meticulously everything you’ll say and/or how you will say it but on occasion, you won’t be able to have the answer for every single question there is. Even though being prepared is important, being over-prepared is considered as a subtle way of avoidance.
If you have prepared the topic of discussion or you have read about it then you need to be confident to be able to respond spontaneously to any question. However, if you are not or you don’t have the answer to a specific question there is no need to feel ashamed or embarrassed. Moreover, it is Ok to recognize that you don’t know the answer or you are unsure about something and how you will do your best to look into it.
Other subtle avoidant behaviours include (but are not limited to) not making eye contact, covering your mouth when you speak or simply avoiding to speak at all during the meeting. Sometimes we think everyone is able to see or feel how nervous we are but the truth is that many people won’t even notice (or care) if you feel nervous. However, even if they do, it is not the end of the world.
Know your strengths and weaknesses
We all know what we are good at and what skills we may be lacking. But it doesn’t mean we can’t improve those skills.
According to Aelin Cuncic from verywellmind.com “In addition to being a good speaker, being a good listener is a valuable skill in meetings. If this sounds like you, use your listening skills to your advantage. If you listen carefully to what others say and choose your words carefully, others will admire your wisdom and patience.”
Moreover, there is no need to be the loudest in the room for people to hear what you need to say, you can still make an impact by using a soft voice. If you feel like there is nothing you may add initially, you could try backing up a coworker’s idea or comment. Also, if you are more analytical and you are very observant, you could come with thought-provoking questions.
Use relaxation techniques
As we have discussed, feeling nervous or anxious can trigger a series of physical and emotional symptoms that are very unpleasant. Here are some techniques you can suing during distressing times:
- Distract yourself: it is normal for your mind to wander when you are nervous so try to keep a pen and paper to take notes during the meeting to distract your brain.
- Deep breathing: focus on your breathing pattern. When we are nervous it tends to become shallow which can make it difficult to breathe. Try to take slow and deep breaths while counting and doing the same while exhaling. This will help you get back into your normal breathing pattern and relax.
- Positive self-talk: when we are nervous we have many negative thoughts about how we better stay quiet or how people are not really interested in what we have to say. Try saying to yourself ‘they do want to hear what I have to say’ or ‘everything I have to say is as valuable as what everyone has to say’.
Why is this blog about How to not be nervous in meetings important?
As we have discussed on this blog about ‘How not to be nervous in meetings’, there are many reasons why you could feel nervous during meetings but it is not impossible to overcome your nerves. For instance, setting realistic and specific goals to work on, be prepared for the meeting and practice as much as you need but without scripting everything you will say since sometimes you will have to improvise. Moreover, it is normal if you don’t have an answer to a question.
Also, watch out for avoidant behaviours which are the ones that reinforce your meeting anxiety. However, if your anxiety is too overwhelming or you feel your life is being significantly impacted by it then we recommend looking for a mental health professional for additional help.
Please feel free to leave any comments or thoughts about the content of this article!
Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about How to not be nervous in meetings
Why do I get anxiety in meetings?
There are many reasons why you could get anxious in meetings. For instance, some of the most common are: the fear of saying or doing something that could be embarrassing or humiliating or saying or doing something ‘stupid’.
How do I stop being so nervous?
If you would like to stop being so nervous, here are some recommendations:
– Know that being nervous is considered normal, so acknowledge the feeling as such.
– If you get nervous at meetings or presentations, it helps to be prepared.
– Flip the switch from thinking about negative outcomes and start thinking positive.
-Talk to someone you trust about how you are feeling.
– Try meditation or relaxation techniques.
How can I calm my nerves before work?
To calm your nerves before work, try to slow down your breathing pattern, practice positive thinking or reassuring self-talk. Also, identify what triggers your nerves, is it a meeting, your daily tasks, your boss or a colleague? Identifying what makes you nervous before work can help you address the issue.
How can I improve my social anxiety?
If you would like to improve your social anxiety, here are some tips:
– If working with a therapist is not really an option you have considered or don’t feel comfortable with, try self-help manuals where you can work on your own.
– Practice deep breathing techniques daily.
– Create an exposure hierarchy where you write a list of the things that are the scariest to you during social interactions and give them a rating from 1 to 10 where 1 is the least scary and 10 the most.
– Create objective and realistic goals to work on. Don’t pretend to expose yourself to social interactions without having the tools.
What causes social anxiety?
The exact cause of social anxiety is unknown. However, researchers have found that there could be an interaction between environmental factors and genetics. Moreover, being exposed to certain situations such as bullying may contribute to developing the disorder
What we recommend for curbing Anxiety
Below are some of the services and products we recommend for anxiety
- Anxiety Weighted Blankets are by far the number 1 thing every person who suffers from anxiety should at least try. Anxiety Blankets may improve your sleep, allow you to fall asleep faster and you can even carry them around when chilling at home.
- Online therapy is another thing we should all try. We highly recommend Online therapy with a provider who not only provides therapy but a complete mental health toolbox to help your wellness.
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Cuncic, A. (2020, Jun) 5 Tips for Coping With Anxiety in Work Meetings. Retrieved from verywellmind.com.
Gokick.com: “Conference Call Anxiety? Follow These 8 Tips for Confident Speaking In Meetings”
Molinsky, A. (2017, Mar.) Afraid to Speak up in Meetings? Try These 7 Tips. Retrieved from psychologytoday.com.