How to overcome nerves in a meeting

You’re ready for the important business meeting, your presentation is well-prepared, and colleagues await around the conference table. Suddenly, an attack of nerves kicks in – and you realise what a totally debilitating problem this is when it strikes.

Everything from business presentations to staff meetings – and even making a simple speech at an employee’s leaving party – can become a terrifying prospect. The first thing to remember is you’re not alone. In fact, so many people get anxious at the thought of public speaking, that there’s even a scientific name for the condition: glossophobia is one of a family of social anxiety disorders.

Nervous Businessman

© Drobot Dean / Adobe Stock

Putting a label on the fear of public speaking doesn’t make it any easier or more difficult to deal with, but it does recognise that it’s a condition experienced by many people and it doesn’t make you any less valuable as a manager or employee.

Often leading to uncontrollable anxiety that causes your heart to race, your hands to shake, your voice to become quieter and quavering and your presentation to be disjointed and less effective, speaking to a group of work colleagues can be intimidating for many people.

This is known as the “fight or flight” response, as the anxiety causes a physical reaction of adrenaline rushing round your body. For some people, this makes them want to stand up and fight but for others, they simply want to run away. Nerves and anxiety attacks can ruin even the best-prepared presentation.

A survey in the US revealed 7% of those surveyed suffered from some form of glossophobia or speaking anxiety. The workplace survey also concluded some rather more worrying statistics: a fear of public speaking could obstruct an individual’s career advancement, causing a 10% impairment in wages – and 15% less chance of becoming a manager!

So, how do you deal with nerves in meetings? First of all, make sure you’re properly prepared and practice your presentation multiple times, so you’re 100% certain it will go like clockwork. The more comfortable you feel with your presentation, the more confidence you will have. Earlier in the day, exercise prior to the meeting to boost your endorphins.

Make sure you arrive early. There’s nothing worse than arriving with only minutes to spare and being plunged in at the deep end. Give yourself time to adjust to your surroundings and arrive early enough to practice with the microphone, check out the seating arrangements and work out where you will be standing and the view of the room you will have.

Before the meeting begins, meet and greet everyone as they arrive. Striking up a rapport with attendees will help you to feel more relaxed in their presence. Use positive thoughts and instead of worrying and convincing yourself you’ll be a disaster, try to visualise yourself being a great success, earning the admiration of the audience.

It may seem a simple suggestion but take deep breaths before you start. Breathe in slowly through your nose and exhale equally slowly through your mouth – this is a recognised relaxation technique. As you speak remember to smile, as this has the knock-on effect of increasing endorphins, replacing those anxious feelings with a calmness and making you feel better about your situation.

Work on speaking slowly and calmly and introduce pauses into your presentation. When you’re anxious, it’s all too easy to race through everything. If you feel you’re losing control, take a breath, pause and then continue more slowly. Practice your body stance – body language is important. Don’t hunch up because when you look confident and take a power stance, you’ll automatically feel more confident.

Make sure you have a glass of water on the table – feeling nervous can give you a dry mouth, which impedes your ability to speak well. Finally, don’t get worked up and wonder if people will notice your nervousness. Embrace your nerves and try to change the negative energy into positive enthusiasm instead. With simple preparation and more practice, you will soon wonder what there was to be afraid of in the first place.

A fully equipped venue that creates a professional environment will do wonders for your confidence. To book one of our meeting rooms in London, please call &Meetings on 0800 073 0499. We’ll be happy to help you through the booking process.


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