Your meeting anxiety kicks off as your email flashes the reminder about the pending work presentation.
- Your throat dries,
- your cheeks flush,
- all you feel is terror,
- your tummy does sommersaults.
What will happen if you forget what you have to say?
What will everyone think of you?
Should I look for a new job where they are no meetings?
Speaking in front of our peers is one of life’s major fears.
It stems back from our childhood, having to speak in front of the class and something goes wrong.
- You stutter over a new word, or worse you feel dizzy and sick. Your classmates laugh and your teacher is annoyed at the delay in getting the story told. Your anxiety sees every meeting and focus on you as a threat.
- You sit back down, embarrassed and unsettled.
- You hear and see nothing else as the anxiety consumes you. You feel alone.
But your subconscious mind was there. It saw you in pain and it resolves to keep you from this pain. From now on it declares that it will make you feel worse should you ever decide to speak in public again. It’s for your own good, the mind has decreed.
Now here you are, twenty minutes before the meeting. Will you ever get used to them? Any yet you are still the same, nervous, anxious. How will you ever get your piece across? Hopefully they will forget you. You tell yourself any lies to make this go away.
Then you look around at Helen/Joe. They don’t work any better than you do but they’ve been promoted. Look at them, like they own the place. If only your fear wasn’t so debilitating. You could show the powers your greatness.
Your meeting anxiety is stopping you from showing your full potential.
Going into the meeting room fills you with fear. Now you can’t think straight. As creatures of habit, everyone takes up their usual seat. Thank God, she’s beside me. She’ll keep talking and then the meeting will be over. Meeting anxiety is looking for a way out.
You end up hearing nothing because your mind is so fixated on when it’s your turn. This is meeting anxiety trying to get you out of there. It remains, tormenting you, affecting your ability to breath until the meeting is over or until you’ve said your piece which will be said in a high pitched tone with crackles in your voice. You talk so fast. All in an effort to get this over with as fast as possible.
Doesn’t auger well for advancement!
Here at 6 steps to help before work meeting anxiety can take hold:
Step 1: Practice your body language and speech in the mirror
Practice in front of the mirror and record what you are going to say. Play it back and critique your performance. Make changes. See what differences standing straight will bring compared to a more slumped body position. Look at your face. Is it relaxed or tense? How does that affect your speech?
Step 2: Change the trigger
They happen every week (or change as appropriate). Accept them and therefore the “surprise” of the meetings is gone. Change how you remind yourself if the email is a stress trigger, put it on a phone reminder. A different trigger will create a different response but you must choose one that calms you.
Step 3: Dealing with the jitters
Pre-meeting jitters. Even the greatest of athletes has some form of pre-race/match nerves. Anxiety and excitement have the same root. It is an important signal telling you that great things are expected and you must step up.
Hands are sweaty, dry them.
Your heart is racing, slow it down.
Take a deep breath and think about how you want to be and how you want to come across.
Shake it out.
Chew some gum to keep the saliva in your mouth. Faulty speech is a result of a dry mouth.
Step 4: Change the habit
Do something differently as you enter the meeting room. Sit in another chair. Walk clockwise around the room instead of anticlockwise. This small action will trigger new neural connections in the brain to indicate something different is happening.
Step 5: The power of song and associating relaxation with meetings
Sing in your head. The song will relax your mind and body and think about the point of the meeting. What message have to convey to the group. We associating calm with the delivery of the message.
If you are asked questions, being more at ease enables you to answer them. If the answer evades you have an automatic response, “can I come back to you on that?”. Never say I don’t know.
Step 6: Who is my model?
Model someone confident. How does this person hold themselves when they talk, what is the voice like? Do people listen as they speak? Now notice your observations and try that for yourself.
Review the day’s meeting.
Ask yourself what can be better next time? Please note I did not write what you did wrong. Make a list of behaviors you can practice.
The more you practice the better you get.
Let your boss notice you for the right reason. You are not a little girl/boy anymore. You have a right to stand up and be noticed. Be seen and heard.
If your past still upset you, then seek professional help to cut this tie with the past.