Preparing yourself for a successful interview, meeting, or presentation can sometimes be a daunting feat. Unless you were born a naturally charismatic public speaker, the thought of presenting something can induce nausea from all the nerves. For the most part, it’s a false alarm — but the threat is real. You know, that odd sensation that swells from the pit of your stomach to the confines of your throat when you stand too close to the edge of a tall building. The ball of nerves you somehow can’t tame after realizing that all eyes will be on you during the meeting.
Over the course of my professional life as a 30-year-old, I’ve lead enough meetings, participated diligently as a contributor in them, and even passively sat through them as an attendee to know how to make them easier. Regardless of my role in these meetings, I knew that the only way to get through them was to handle them the same way I get through any issue: just deal with it. Obnoxiously easier said than done, right?
Here are four rituals that help me calm my anxiety before a big meeting.
1. Create a playlist with songs to ease yourself into the right state of mind
Create a playlist with songs to ease yourself into the right state of mind.
Drafting a game plan for a meeting is more fun when it’s done to a soundtrack. Sometimes you just need to ignite the spirit of motivation through music. Music does wonders for the soul, so just imagine the magical effect it has on your well-being. Choose the music to help you get in the zone, whether that means getting you to relax or pumping yourself up.
My nerves are already pretty shot before any meeting, so whenever I need to prepare, I generally steer toward something that would calm me down (rather than working myself up). My go-to is John Mayer. His voice is just so soothing that it sometimes feels like a cozy hug after a long day. It’s almost impossible for me not to be in a better and relaxed mood when I listen to him. But if he isn’t exactly your thing, listen to what makes you happy. Don’t overthink it; whatever your choice is, you do you. You’ve already got enough on your plate to worry about.
2. Set a goal (or two) and be prepared
What are you hoping to accomplish during or after the meeting? Setting a goal helps me nail down what my priorities are. These will vary depending on whether I’m in a collaborative meeting where everyone is sharing an idea, or if I’m presenting a solo project. Part of the nervousness I feel with these situations stems from dealing with the unknown. It’s a bottomless pit where anything and everything could go wrong. My self-doubt skyrockets while my self-confidence takes a nosedive — an unhappy medium I prefer not to bask in.
The best way I’ve learned to manage this is to be prepared. For example, if I’m pitching an idea in a meeting, I’ll do supplemental research to soak up as much knowledge as possible on my topic. I’ll even go the extra mile to search for answers to hypothetical questions that could possibly be asked by my team. It eases my anxious fears knowing I did the best I could to get all my bases covered. Going through these layers of preparation not only help provide me with the feeling of stability and control, but inadvertently equips me with the best presentation possible. It’s a win-win!
3. Stay away from caffeine
If you’re already a nervous ball of energy, it’s best to avoid your precious cup of mojo for now. Yes, I know that most people run on Dunkin’, and that Starbucks is bae. Coffee is a cup of happiness, I get it. But that’s just a time bomb waiting to happen. Can you imagine? Caffeine with a heavy serving of nerves drizzled with self-doubt is not the best concoction to down right before your meeting starts. So it’s best to save your caffeinated beverage for after the meeting has ended. Think of it as a celebratory drink you’ll be looking forward to instead! (If you insist on coffee, I suggest reaching for decaf.) Which brings me to my last point…
4. Set your eyes on the prize
Sometimes you just have to treat yourself. If what you need to get through a meeting is to metaphorically dangle a carrot in front of yourself, then by all means do so (because who doesn’t like a reward?!). For some, a reward is the best silver lining to get you through anything major.
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I’ve found that, regardless of what I’m facing, the common denominator of my fear always has to do with the unknown. There really isn’t a strict guideline on how to proceed. Some may breeze through a meeting without a fear in the world, while others, like myself, will sweat bullets at the mere thought of participating. The important thing to remember is that adaptability is vital. Sometimes, despite how much you prepare for your meeting, things may not unfold as you imagined. You just have to roll with the punches. C’est la vie.