Problem solved – gaining confidence

I get nervous before going to meetings and clam up if asked for my opinion in front of everyone there. How can I gain confidence?

Fear of public speaking isn’t restricted to delivering presentations. The thought of speaking at a meeting even with a few likeable colleagues makes more people nervous than you might think.

A common fear is that we will be made to look foolish as a result of not knowing what we are talking about. This is easily remedied – make sure you do know. Failing to prepare for meetings is the reason many people come undone when asked for input. It may sound too simple to be effective – but study the agenda beforehand (many of us don’t even ask for it) and compose a few points to make or pertinent questions to ask about each item. You’ll feel far better equipped to contribute once the meeting starts.

Be brave – try to identify an opportunity to speak early on in the meeting. This will help reduce the likelihood of someone else stealing your thunder by making the same incisive point you have up your sleeve – and the confidence you’ll gain will be empowering. It’s also a strategic way of keeping your nerves at bay: the longer the meeting goes on without you piping up, the less inclined you’ll be to say anything at all – and the greater the chance of a more lively type suddenly turning to you to remark on your silence and invite your opinion, something you’ll be dreading by that point.

Visualisation is a powerful tool. Before you go, picture yourself at the meeting table, as if you were watching a recording. See yourself sitting calmly, papers in front of you in an orderly fashion, making the odd note, listening to your colleagues and – most importantly – speaking with confidence and poise, and getting a positive response. How does that make you feel? Hold on to that thought for when the meeting happens for real. Before you know it, you’ll be chairing the next one.

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