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Overcoming Nerves During Business Meetings

By: Garry Crystal - Updated: 8 Nov 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Business Meetings Nerves Anxiety Deep

Nerves can be a debilitating problem for many people. Business presentations, staff meetings and simply making a speech at an employee’s leaving party can be a daunting prospect. But there are common methods that can be used to help overcome this problem.

Anxiety and Public Speaking

Speaking in front of a large group of people can be a fearful prospect for many people. For a great number of people the pressure when speaking in public can lead to uncontrollable nerves and anxiety attacks. The flight or fight response will often kick in as adrenaline rushes into the body when excessive stress occurs. There are many different reasons why people encounter increased nerves during business meetings. But anxiety problems can be conquered by following a few simple methods.

Breathing Exercises to Overcome Business Meeting Nerves

It seems simple but deep breathing is often cited as one of the best ways to overcome nerves during business meetings. It’s known that people who suffer from a speech impediment such as a stammer can use a set of breathing exercises to conquer the problem. Adrenaline will cause the heart rate to increase and will cause shallow breaths meaning less oxygen. Taking deep breaths before a speech allows more oxygen into the body. Deep breaths will calm the body and slow the speaker’s heart rate.

Speak First During Business Meetings

People who suffer from nerves can sometimes find the problem increases if they have to wait a long time before they have to speak. Many people who do suffer public speaking nerves do not encounter the same problem if they are simply allowed to speak as soon as possible. If there is a list of speakers have a word with whoever is organising the meeting and ask to talk first. Having to wait for other people to talk can increase nerves and the pressure felt by the speaker. This is similar to simply jumping in and ‘getting it over with’ but it can make a difference to nerves during a business meeting.

Do Adequate Research before a Business Meeting

Being fully prepared and knowledgeable before a business meeting can help to conquer nerves. There is nothing worse than having to bluff your way through a business meeting. Other co-workers at the meeting will usually be able to pick up on the fact that the speaker is waffling, reverting to business jargon and is inadequately prepared. A bored or confused looking audience will only increase the pressure of the situation. If the speaker is adequately prepared it will help to make the business meeting more enjoyable.

Rehearse and Visualise the Business Meeting

Stage a mock business meeting a few days before the actual business meeting. This means reading out aloud the intended business speech and visualising the people who are to be at the meeting if possible. Memorising as much of the speech as possible is a good idea; this will also avoid shuffling through notes. Memorise the opening of the speech on the day of the meeting to ensure that it is fresh. Fear of the unknown is a big factor with nerves, and rehearsal and visualisation will help to conquer this.

Eliminate Irrational Fears to Overcome Nerves

Many people suffer from irrational fears before public speaking or even simply speaking during a business meeting. The speaker will often visualise the negatives such as everyone is staring at them and hoping for some embarrassing slip up. The reality will usually be far from this scenario; a business meeting is simply the passing on of information and ideas with everyone having a say. Irrational fears can be overcome by looking at the positives and realising that these fears in themselves are not rational and are simply part of the fight or flight response.

Top Ways to Overcome Business Meeting Nerves

The most common and successful ways to conquer business meeting nerves include:

  • Deep breathing before talking at a business meeting
  • Rehearse and visualise the business meeting and prepare adequately
  • Make sure to hydrate properly and drink water during the meeting to avoid dry mouth
  • Relax and shake out the nerves before going into a meeting
  • Massaging pressure points such as the forehead will help the flow of blood to the brain
  • Exude confidence even if you do not feel confident and remember to smile
  • Avoid substances such as cigarettes and coffee before meetings
A great number of people do eventually manage to conquer business meeting nerves. Experience will usually help to make the business meeting scenario less daunting. Nerves are expected and are not unusual but some people do suffer from excessive nerves and anxiety. It will usually take only a few successful business meetings to eventually calm those nerves.

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[Add a Comment]
Smithy - Your Question:
I am a public sector worker who has been in a role for 9 years which demands that I attend, chair, present and even train people in a variety of environments. I have had internal anxiety attacks in meetings, extreme nervousness and a host of physical symptoms related to stress.I can say that over time these have lessened and cognitive therapy helps enormously. My advice would be to not avoid these situations however uncomfortable and facing your fears (which are being judged and criticised) is the best way forward. Avoidance makes things much worse. Having a sympathrtic employer does help and remembering that its nit a weakness to be anxious and panicky rather an over stimulation of the fight or flight response.

Our Response:
Great advice. It doesn't mean you can do your job any less, it simply means you have issues with certain aspects of your job, which is completely normal. It's really positive that you find CBT works, and it's always helpful if your employer is understanding. Let's hope your confidence in this area continues to improve.
WorkEtiquette - 9-Nov-17 @ 9:36 AM
I am a public sector worker who has been in a role for 9 years which demands that i attend, chair, present and even train people in a variety of environments. I have had internal anxiety attacks in meetings, extreme nervousness and a host of physical symptoms related to stress. I can say that over time these have lessened and cognitive therapy helps enormously.My advice would be to not avoid these situations however uncomfortable and facing your fears (which are being judged and criticised) is the best way forward. Avoidance makes things much worse. Having a sympathrtic employer does help and remembering that its nit a weakness to be anxious and panicky rather an over stimulation of the fight or flight response.
Smithy - 8-Nov-17 @ 3:49 PM
@Ash - I used to suffer terribly. I found the older I became, the less it became an issue. Practice and lots of it really helps. I think taking anti-depressents is not a good cure as they do affect the brain and as you say, they change your personality. Plus, you would become self-reliant and find it difficult to come off them. Could you try to do more talks outside of work? For instance, join a book group, or interest group then you can practice chatting and speaking out loud without having the pressure of a workplace envoronment. As your confidence grows it should overlap into your work meetings. Changing your career seems pretty drastic. You just need to face your fear, but do it in a place where it doesn't matter if you are nervous i.e outside of work. Good luck.
JoJo - 23-Oct-17 @ 10:03 AM
I suffer from severe anxiety during meetings. It is like the others have mentioned. Racing heart, shaking hands, twitching neck , convulsions in my stomach. I have tried propranolol to decrease some of the flight or fight symptoms by stopping the heart from racing away. I'm just not suited to a high pressured unnatural environment. Been considering retraining for a job outside of commerce. Have a look at highly sensitive persons on google. Tried taking SSRI to increase the serotonin in the brain. It makes one stop worrying about things, but also makes you stop worrying about taking care of yourself and your future. Felt like my personality changed, so I couldn't tolerate it.
Ash - 22-Oct-17 @ 12:38 PM
I'm a business owner and within the last few years I've developed the same phobia. It's actually causing my business to suffer. I can't even approach any new potential customers due to the severe nervousness, shaking and inability to control my breathing. I've be prescribed several different medications with no luck. I can't seem to overcome this problem. It's gotten to the point that I've considered trying to sell. So if anyone finds a possible cure, please share.
JB - 8-Mar-17 @ 2:29 AM
I stated a job that involves alot of meetings that I never had to do in my 25 years of working I got extremely nervous that I just wanted to quit the job but I was in the oil and gas industry and after the downturn in Australia I had to get in another industry that took me 12 months to get in. i would love to leave only because of this fear of meetings. Its been six months I have got better with the workshop type meetings when I get to speak when I want too. But when we have a weekly up date meeting when it goes around the table, I feel like the most fearful thing I have experienced in life. I don't know what to do I still get scared shaky and even take valium the 20mins before the meeting. I have tried all these ideas and they dont work if any one out there can give me some great adviceI would be ever so greatful. Regards Nick
Pricey - 23-Jan-17 @ 7:09 AM
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