Your virtual meeting begins in an hour, and the thought of it makes you unsettled. A million worries run across your mind. Anxiety starts to crawl up your skin. How you wish you could get rid of pre-meeting jitters!
For many professionals – probably many more than you think – team and client meetings can be an uncomfortable scenario. This is doubly scary for fresh graduates who don’t have the experience of sitting in on countless hours of discussions and pitches.
Maybe you’re introverted and genuinely prefer listening to others’ ideas than speaking up. Perhaps a certain co-worker may dominate the discussion, not allowing you to get a word in. Or you’re pressured by the expectations in the room, permitting nothing but nervous nods and stutters out of you.
Whatever the case, sitting frozen through yet another meeting can be frustrating. If you want to get ahead in your career, then it’s important that your voice is heard.
Tip 1: Save Yourself by Starting Early
As cliché as this tip may be, but it’s true! Be it a virtual or physical meeting, advance preparation helps you feel organized and calm in conflict, which means decreased stress levels.
Firstly, make a checklist of items you need for your meeting. Not only is this a powerful tool to help you organise your presentation materials, but it gives you peace of mind knowing that you have everything ready.
Don’t wait till the last minute to prepare your notes and materials! If you’re presenting, draft your slides, key talking points and make copies of handouts in advance. Make sure to have your laptop charged as well as your notebook and pen set out in advance so you won’t fumble around for them before the meeting.
If you’re conducting a virtual meeting from home, be sure to test run your laptop camera and microphone. Set aside some time to scout for a spot in your home with decent lighting, a clean background, stable Wi-Fi, and minimal noise.
Tip 2: Expectations? Manage them!
Learning to anticipate and prepare for what your colleagues’ or clients’ expect from you greatly help in reducing anxiety during meetings.
Make a list of questions that you believe you may receive and prepare the answers for them. This primes your brain to generate solutions, which comes in handy when you’re confronted with out-of-the-box enquiries.
Worried about juggling questions in the middle of presenting? Opt for a 15-minute Q&A following your presentation where you can fully focus on answering. Don’t forget to inform the attendees of this arrangement before you begin!
Tip 3: Speak Up and Speak Early!
As an attendee with speaking anxiety, here’s how I overcome it: Speak up as soon as possible!
Yes, I know, this is probably the most alarming tip in the entire list, but hear me out! The longer you wait to speak in a meeting, the harder it becomes. Why? Well, because procrastinating only gives your anxiety time to manifest, for your negative thoughts to start swirling, for your hands to start shaking.
By voicing out as soon as possible will not only rid anxiety of power to control you, it’ll also boost your comfort level and confidence for any further questions or comments that you wish to give.
Tip 4: My Opinion Matters
In school, students are often instilled with the ‘stay silent and listen’ behaviour and punished for being ‘disrespectful’ if their opinions challenge the educator. Such incidents ultimately snowball into a much larger social issue that progresses into adulthood.
So if you’re suffering from speaking anxiety, ask yourself, do you internalise concepts such as, “people won’t like you if you try to stand out” or “my opinion doesn’t matter”?
It’s time to challenge this!
When you have a point to make yet find sabotaging thoughts creeping in, acknowledge that it’s your inner-critic trying to keep you safe. Experiencing fear is a sign that you’re about to say something of significance! Seize the moment and make that leap!
Remember, you’re part of your organisation because you’re qualified, you’re effective, and you matter.