Business meetings can spark a significant amount of stress. Presenting in front of your peers represents a common source of anxiety. But you can’t let the insecurities get to you. To succeed, you’ll have to learn to overcome your fears and excel at face-to-face encounters.
Think of it this way: most business takes place in a relatively impersonal way. It exists on spreadsheets and in emailed memos.
Meetings are different, however. There’s a personal element involved. It’s much more like a performance…exactly the kind of thing that can stir anxiety and self-doubt.
Don’t let those factors stand in the way of your goals. There are steps you can take to lower the stress levels caused by business meetings. Here are eight tips that will help you conquer your anxieties and turn each meeting into your time to shine:
Have a Plan
Trying to improve your way through a meeting is a recipe for disaster. You are likely to get off track or forget to include important talking points. The event is liable to become a disorganized mess.
Take the uncertainty out of the equation. To make sure everything moved as productively as possible, craft a detailed plan before heading into the meeting. It will keep things on point and will provide you a safety net, a fact that will help keep your confidence up.
Know Your Facts
As part of your pre-meeting preparation, learn as much as you can about the subject at hand. The more research you can do, the more productive the meeting becomes.
Headed into the event, you want to achieve the absolute peak of knowledge about the meeting’s topic. This will represent your starting point, a base to build on at the meeting. You can then complement this with information from the other participants.
Take Your Research a Step Further
Don’t just limit your research to the readily-available facts. Bringing something new and original will give the discussion added depth. It will also give your presentation the added “wow” factor you need to impress the others there.
There are a couple of ways to reach this goal. You can do this by analyzing existing data in an innovative way. Or, you can seek out new sources of information.
Consider things like market surveys for focus groups as a way to learn more about your customer base. The added perspective will take your analysis to the next level.
Prepare Visual Aids
A meeting is a kind of performance. You don’t need to be entertaining, per se. However, you should strive to keep people’s attention and deliver information and easily digestible manner.
Visual aids help achieve these goals. As part of your pre-meeting preparation, boil down your data into meaningful visual presentations. It will give you some structure to lean on and will improve the experience for everyone else.
Keep Your Specific Audience in Mind
Not every meeting is the same. Presenting to a group of clients is distinct from brainstorming with your colleagues, which, in turn, is distinct from providing a business update to management.
Each of these situations requires different kinds of information and subtle alterations in tone. Keep that in mind while you are planning. Know your audience and devise your meeting appropriately.
Find Time for Others to Speak
The most productive meetings involve a cross-current of ideas. The purpose of including other people in the decision-making process is to add valuable perspective and solicit new ideas.
Keep that in mind as you make your meeting agenda. Save time for the other participants to share their points of view.
This has an added benefit. Letting other people speak takes some of the pressure off of you, thus diminishing your stress level.
Save Time for Questions
On a similar subject, be prepared to discuss the topic of the meeting in an off-the-cuff way. You might have a detailed presentation, but it won’t provide every scrap of information the other participants will want to hear.
Be ready to answer questions. A vigorous Q&A can unlock interesting solutions and valuable insights. Don’t view this as a challenge. See it as an opportunity. If you do your research well enough, you will be ready for any inquiries.
Control the Follow-Up Process
A meeting is only as productive as its aftermath. Once you reach the decisions you came to the conference room to discuss, you need to follow through with the plan of action afterward.
As such, be prepared to control the post-meeting process. Take notes on who should provide what activity, and keep in contact with everyone about their progress.
Looking ahead past the meeting helps you keep your stress levels low. After all, if you see the discussion as part of a wider process, the individual event will seem less daunting. Maintain a long-term view and it will be easier to forget about your near-term anxiety and focus on your broader goals.