Overcome the Fear of Speaking in a Meeting
by Ron Kurtus (revised 12 February 2012)
Many jobs require participation in meetings, where you may have to give a status report, give an opinion on some project or even make a short presentation.
Speaking a in a meeting is similar to public speaking, except that the audience is very small, often consisting of your boss, fellow workers and sometimes a customer representative. Anxiety or fear can set in if you think you will be called upon to speak to the group. The way to overcome that fear is to thoroughly prepare before the meeting, have some safety net material, and form a positive mind-set during your talk.
Questions you may have include:
- How do you prepare for the meeting?
- What sort of safety net can you have?
- What positive mind-set is necessary?
This lesson will answer those questions.
Preparation for meeting
Before you go into a meeting, you need to be thoroughly prepared. Too often workers will just come into a meeting cold. Some may be glib enough to answer questions when put on the spot, but others can end up looking unprepared.
Consider the meeting agenda beforehand. You should especially anticipate whether you are expected to be called upon to give some sort of status report. Even meetings without a formal agenda have some expectations about them.
Practice giving report
If you are expected to give a status report or make a short presentation, you need to practice it beforehand, just as you would practice a formal speech. Stand up before a friend or family member the night before and give your short talk. You can tell if the words flow smoothly or if you are stammering and seem uncertain.
Why bother preparing?
You may wonder why you should go through so much trouble, since it is only a meeting, especially if it is a weekly meeting. The reason is that the impression you make with your boss at a meeting will be reflected in his opinion of your skills and potential for raises or promotions. Even your fellow workers will have more respect for you, if you sound like you've done your homework and are on top of things.
It is good to have material to use as a safety net for when you are called upon to speak to the group. A major reason for fear in saying things at a meeting is that you may get tongue-tied or forget things, such that you sound stupid.
If you are supposed to give a status report at the meeting, have it written out in hard copy. If there is enough material, you can have copies made to hand out. then you can use your copy as a guide in going over the status.
If you are going to give a short presentation to the group, you should have visual aids. You can use an overhead projector, laptop monitor or even a white board to show an outline of what you are talking about. This takes the pressure off you, as everyone is looking at the visual aids. Also, it provides a guide, so that you don't forget things.
Your mind-set for going into a meeting and talking is that you have some important information that your audience—the boss and fellow workers—want to hear.
Before going into the meeting, take a deep breath to center yourself and get relaxed. Count to 10 before entering the room.
When called upon to speak, take your time. Count to 5 to yourself before starting. If you act anxious and ready to start the process, you will get anxious and nervous.
Not trying to impress
You are not trying to impress anyone or show how smart you are. True that you are trying to make a good impression as being well prepared, but that is different than trying to impress your audience. Instead, you need to think in terms of conveying important information. If you make a mistake, you can thank the person for correcting you and helping you with the presentation of the information.
Realize that at least your boss or supervisor is interested in that information, so you want to express it in a clear manner.
You need to listen thoughtfully to what your boss says and what others say. Don't get distracted. Just as in a public speech, you need to be aware of the audience and their moods. Listening will mean you are showing respect. Other should then respect you too.
If you have to give a status report, give an opinion on some project or even make a short presentation in a meeting, think of it as similar to public speaking, except that the audience is very small. The way to overcome fear of speaking at a meeting is to thoroughly prepare before the meeting, have some safety-net material, and form a positive mind-set during your talk.
Make a good impression
Resources and references
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