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8 Tips for Dealing With Meeting Anxiety

It is normal to experience some anxiety in work meetings when the stakes are high and you are unsure of the outcome. However, anxiety could impede your performance and thus lead to a worse outcome. To avoid this, you need to figure out how to deal with meeting anxiety constructively. Here are eight tips to help you.

1. Meeting Prep

Anxiety is a feeling of unease about a situation in which the outcome is uncertain. Your meeting could go spectacularly well, or it could go horribly. While it is impossible to control every aspect of a meeting, preparing beforehand gives you more control over what you are responsible for. As a result, you may have more confidence.

Here are some specific ways to prepare before a meeting:

  • Gather information about the discussion topics through research

  • Outline what you are going to say

  • Decide what you are going to wear, preferably something comfortable yet professional

  • Consider what you need to bring to the meeting, e.g., visual aids, and pack them, so they're ready to go

These steps can help you prepare for any meeting. Still, additional steps are needed if you are meeting virtually, such as finding space and ensuring that you have the necessary hardware and software in working order.

2. Practice Presenting

You can't control everything that happens during a meeting, but you can manage your presentation. Practicing what you will say beforehand helps make you more comfortable with speaking, improving your confidence. To help make your presentation more effective, you should either rehearse in front of someone whom you trust to give you constructive criticism or record yourself so you can critique your performance.

The more you speak in front of groups, the more comfortable you become doing it. You should join an organization such as Toastmasters to practice your speaking skills if you are expected to present in front of a group often.

3. Reach Out to the Team

Part of the reason you may be experiencing anxiety before meetings, especially if you are not in charge of them, is that you don't know what to expect. Before the meeting, reach out to your manager about the purpose of the meeting and whether there's anything you need to bring or anything specific you need to prepare beforehand. If the manager is unavailable, try reaching out to other team members.

4. Practice Relaxation Techniques

Stress is the body's response to a perceived threat; it's a way of preparing for either fighting or fleeing. Neither response is appropriate for a work meeting, so the stress you feel is counterproductive. Relaxation techniques, such as yoga stretches or deep breathing exercises, can help you relieve stress to feel calm in the meeting. If you have the time beforehand, it can also help to take a short walk, around five to 10 minutes, preferably outside, because connecting with nature can be soothing.

5. Acknowledge Anxiety

Knowing how to calm anxiety before a meeting is difficult if you are in denial about feeling anxious. Acknowledge to yourself that you are feeling anxiety, what you are feeling is normal, and you can manage it. Try to reframe your feelings into something positive. For example, feeling anxious means that you care about the outcome of the meeting, which is a good thing.

Review all the preparation and practice that you did before the meeting and how it applies to what you are about to do. Give yourself a pep talk telling yourself that you know what you need to do, and you can now apply your excess energy from stress towards doing it well.

6. Speak Early in the Meeting

If your anxiety is specifically about speaking during the meeting, it can get worse the longer you wait to present. Volunteer to be the first, or one of the first, to speak. When you get the most challenging part of the meeting out of the way early, relaxing during the rest of it is easier.

7. Stay Engaged

Even if you don't get a chance to speak or present at the meeting, you should still engage with the material. For example, you can take notes on the topics covered and the discussion, which may help you remember them later.

8. Take Action Steps & Review Yourself

If you are anxious that other people will think you aren't paying attention, take steps to show that you are. Complete any tasks assigned during the meeting right away. Email the notes you took for other people's reference or share your slides or additional information if you were presenting.

After the meeting, review what happened. Take note of anything you want to change or improve before the next meeting, but concentrate on the things that went well so you can repeat them later.



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