The pandemic is in our rearview mirror, but videoconferences are here to stay. Those with meeting anxiety are equally terrified of being both noticed and unnoticed, and having meetings online amplifies this stress.
As an executive at a fully remote virtual assistance company, I coach my team to overcome meeting jitters regularly. Your shortness of breath, racing heart, sweaty palms, and adrenaline rush are appropriate responses to a raging rhino but can (and should) be avoided during virtual meetings in your home office.
Defining Your Meeting Anxiety
You can feel anxious during on-camera meetings for a host of reasons, and it’s important to get to the root of the issue. Perhaps you are uncertain about the meeting’s details, such as what topics will be discussed, who will attend, or whether you will be expected to contribute. You may feel particularly nervous if you don’t have on-camera meeting experience or are newer to the tech involved with videoconferencing. Maybe you’re new to the job and are particularly sensitive about making a good first impression. If you are introverted or naturally shy, you probably feel less comfortable speaking in front of coworkers. Perhaps you come from a culture where speaking up or putting yourself forward isn’t the norm.
Meeting anxiety can set in for any of these reasons. When the cycle begins, your brain only focuses on that one stressor. Your voice shakes, your cheeks burn, and your hands tremble. Your mind races with negative self-talk, and intelligent thought scatters. The key is to learn how to break this cycle.
Our bodies are conditioned to respond this way so we can either escape or confront danger. Fight-or-flight mode is an involuntary response, but we can train our bodies that meetings aren’t a threat.
Tips for Overcoming Meeting Anxiety
If you dread weekly meetings, the last thing you want to do is think about them ahead of time. However, this is the best way to overcome your anxiety.
First, prepare by learning what the upcoming meeting will cover. Meeting agendas are the best place to start. Once you know the topics people will discuss, a little research can arm you with talking points to bring to the table. Remember, you’ll never be able to know exactly how the entire meeting will go. Focus on the main points and the areas to which you can best contribute.
Next, prepare your environment. If you are meeting somewhere other than your own office, make sure you have an uncluttered background and a quiet area free of distraction. In addition, locate all the supplies you’ll need, including your laptop, headphones, and materials for taking notes.
Finally, prepare yourself. During the minutes before the meeting, analyze how you feel to determine how you should de-stress. For example, you can combat your negative thoughts with positive visualization. You can alleviate your nervous jitters with stretches or exercises. You can control physical responses such as shortness of breath and racing heart rate through breathing exercises and meditation.
Logging in early can also be a good idea to alleviate some pre-meeting jitters, as showing up right as the meeting starts typically leaves you feeling scattered and rushed. However, if you greet coworkers as they join, you break the ice.
During the meeting, try to contribute to the conversation early. Your anxiety mounts with every moment you wait. Speaking up during the first few minutes relieves mounting tension and makes the rest of the meeting so much more tolerable.
If you feel stress taking over during the meeting, don’t let it turn into a vicious cycle. Distract yourself and stay engaged in the moment by taking notes. You can also counteract nerves with breathing exercises. Simply controlling your breathing is proven to lessen the fight-or-flight response and invoke calmness.
Like it or not, videoconferencing is the new normal, and we all have to adapt. It establishes connectivity and is a vital part of the remote workplace environment. At Cyberbacker, we require cameras to be on for meetings. We find regular exposure eases nerves and increases self-confidence. With practice and the right coping strategies, you’ll feel more comfortable and less anxious during on-camera meetings.
Shiela Mie Legaspi, President at Cyberbacker.