How to overcome meeting anxiety: simple tips and strategies
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Attending meetings is a common requirement in many occupations, but this can feel like a difficult task when you suffer from meeting anxiety. Whether you feel nervous speaking in front of a crowd of people or feel self-conscious about sharing your ideas with your team, meeting anxiety can be the cause of many missed opportunities or promotions. In this article, we explain what meeting anxiety is, the common symptoms, the benefits of learning coping techniques and tips for how you can overcome meeting anxiety and prevent it from holding you back in the workplace.
What is meeting anxiety?
Meeting anxiety is a form of social anxiety that typically impacts people before attending a meeting. You may experience a feeling of intense worry or nervousness that makes attending a meeting unpleasant and something you wish to avoid. These feelings are usually more common during meetings that require you to present information and ideas in front of a group of your colleagues, or when topics such as salaries and promotions are being discussed.
Though everyone experiences anxiety in different ways, you may also experience common physical symptoms of anxiety such as:
increased heart rate
a feeling of tightness in your chest
rapid breathing or shortness of breath
feeling dizzy or lightheaded
blushing, feeling hot or flushed
Why learning to overcome meeting anxiety is important
It can often be tempting to avoid workplace meetings entirely to help overcome meeting anxiety. Although this may appear to work in the short term, it can also lead to an increase in anxiety over time if missing particular meetings makes it difficult to do your job. A more beneficial tactic is to practice strategies that can help ease your anxiety surrounding meetings at work. Here are some examples of the benefits to managing meeting anxiety:
Reduction in stress
Meeting anxiety can cause you to experience feelings of stress that can impact other areas of both your personal and professional life. Learning strategies to manage your anxiety can help reduce your stress levels and help you feel more confident in the workplace. If you find yourself stressing over an upcoming meeting the night before, learning coping techniques can also help you relax and switch off from work when you're at home.
Better job performance
Once you combat your anxiety, you may find it easier to engage with your work and the topics discussed during the meetings you attend. Being able to focus more on the content of the meeting and contribute ideas and plans to your team can help you perform better in your role. You can gain a lot of insightful knowledge during meetings and they provide a platform for you to ask questions that can increase your chance of completing a follow-up task successfully.
Increased job satisfaction
Feeling anxious and stressed in the workplace can lead to you feeling unhappy in your job role or like an outsider amongst your colleagues. Overcoming these feelings using coping strategies can help you find a love for your career again and help you feel more satisfied in your job. Managing your anxiety surrounding workplace meetings can help to relieve any feelings of dread you may experience and help you rekindle a passion for your work.
How to overcome meeting anxiety
Here are some strategies you can use to help you deal with meeting anxiety:
1. Use relaxation techniques
Try incorporating relaxation techniques into your working day to help ease any anxious feelings you may be experiencing. These techniques can help bring a sense of calm before you enter a meeting. Some common techniques you may find useful include:
Breathing exercises: Set aside some time to pause and take some deep, calming breaths. Note the pace of your breathing and incorporate meditation techniques to help calm your nerves and promote focus during your meeting.
Positive affirmations: Using positive affirmations can help boost your confidence before a meeting. Try repeating phrases such as 'I deserve to be here' or 'I am capable and confident' to help settle your anxiety before the meeting starts.
Distract yourself: Try not to sit and dwell on your anxiety, instead keep your mind distracted by focusing on tasks that need completing. Ticking things off your to-do list and staying productive can help minimise stress in the lead up to the meeting.
2. Prepare ahead of time
You may feel more confident going into a meeting if you have taken the time to prepare early. Ensure you have everything you need before you go in such as a pen, paper or your laptop to take notes and a drink or snack to avoid a dry throat or rumbling stomach. If the person running the meeting has sent you a meeting agenda, read through it and familiarise yourself with the topics they're planning to discuss to help avoid any unexpected surprises during the meeting.
It's become more common in recent times for meetings to take place remotely over a video call, taking time to prepare the surrounding environment at home can also relieve some anxiety. Decide where you want to sit, ensure it's comfortable and has access to a charging point for your device. If you're going to be on video, pick an area with an appropriate background for a professional meeting that also provides some privacy from the rest of your home.
3. Practice before the meeting
If you know you're going to speak in a meeting or make a presentation in front of your colleagues, it's useful to practice what you're going to say. If you have questions or an idea about a topic that's going to be discussed, it's useful to write them down and rehearse saying them out loud. You might also benefit from practising in front of close friends or colleagues and asking them for feedback that can improve your technique and boost your confidence.
4. Speak early
The longer you put off speaking during the meeting, the more intense your anxiety can become, making it difficult to speak at all. Though public speaking is a common source of anxiety for many people, contributing your ideas to the group early can help reduce the build-up of fear. If delivering a presentation is a requirement during the meeting, volunteer to go first so that you're not sitting waiting for your turn. When done, the focus can shift onto your colleagues, taking the pressure off of you. This allows you to combat your fears and can even act as a reassuring memory for future meetings.
5. Communicate with other participants
Sometimes anxiety comes from feeling uncertain about the purpose of the meeting and your role as a participant. If you have unclear expectations, try reaching out to the meeting host for clarification. This not only helps you prepare for the meeting but shows you care about the meeting and want to take part. Being proactive and finding out as much detail about the meeting's content and the other participants can also help you relax as it eliminates the unknown.
6. Focus on success
When feeling anxious, it's common to focus on feelings of rejection and failure, which can ultimately add to your worry. Instead, try to visualise success and try not to make assumptions about what your audience may think of your presentation. If you're speaking or presenting in a meeting, the other participants are there to listen to you for a reason. Focus on the value of the information that you're contributing and how it can help your team reach its objectives.
7. Know your strengths
If you suffer from meeting anxiety, then one of the most common triggers is public speaking. An aversion to speaking doesn't mean there aren't any strengths you can bring to the meeting. While working to improve your public speaking skills is important, being a good listener is also a valuable skill when taking part in meetings. You might be an excellent minute taker or have a talent for relaying essential information once the meeting is over. Focus on these strengths and on what you can do to reduce your worry over the skills you feel still require some work.
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