Face Your Fears! 5 Tips For Better Meetings


By Joshua Baez, Marketing Consultant for Heinz Marketing

It’s October, and that can only mean one thing: things are about to get spooky!  And really, there’s not much spookier than having to run a meeting.  No matter how prepared you are, there’s always that underlying fear that something will go wrong, and no matter how irrational that fear may seem, it’s surely enough to make most of us think twice before opening our mouths.  I like to think of myself as a strong public speaker, but put me in a conference room alongside my coworkers, clients, and bosses, and I go from a megaphone to a church mouse.

Coincidentally, I’ve just gone to see the new IT movie, and boy is it scary.  But it got me thinking – horror films aren’t just about blood-curdling screams and outright terror – they deal with (well, the good ones at least) a much more basic premise: the journey to overcome your fears.  And while the new IT movie is terrifying (ask my coworker, Brian all about his love for clowns), it’s also a reminder to the viewer that conquering what scares you most makes you stronger and all the better for it.

So, if a group of kids can beat a demon-clown-monster, surely you can get over your fear of running a meeting.  Here are 5 ways to do so.

Breathe.  Breathing might seem like common sense (I mean, we do it every day), but really, next time you’re put on the spot in a meeting, rather than jumping right in to answer, take a moment and breathe.  Doing so can help give you more time to think, prevents you from stumbling over your words and from overusing fillers such as “um” and “like,” and helps you set the pace of the conversation.  Take your time and formulate your thoughts into a meaningful, cohesive statement – the room can wait a few extra seconds, and you’ll feel much better after doing so.

Write an Agenda.  It’s hard to be prepared for every possible path a meeting might take, but that shouldn’t stop you from preparing anything at all.  Agendas are lifesavers in situations such as these because they are the literal guiderails of meetings.  And if there is no agenda, write one for yourself.  As you go through it, be sure to include all the details you want to cover in the meeting – talking points, data sets, recommendations, funny jokes (don’t do this one).  Having an agenda to reference back to takes the pressure off of you having to memorize everything to be discussed.

Confirm Your Data.  There are few feelings worse than presenting data that’s inaccurate, especially when the people in the room know it too.  But sometimes data gets misinterpreted, spreadsheets don’t get updated, or Excel functions just don’t paste over correctly.  Instead of reporting in a vacuum, have a teammate review your work to ensure everything lines up correctly.  This way, your presentation isn’t spent playing defense, and your audience can actually take your recommendations confidently, rather than second-guessing them at every decimal point.

Take Notes (and Send a Recap)

Taking notes will not only help you better track conversations as they happen, but they also help to ensure you’re documenting everything that’s being said.  This is especially useful after the meeting when you need to reference back to a suggestion that was made or solution that was agreed on.  Make the most of your notes by writing them directly on your agenda, then send them out in a recap with clear next steps to all relevant meeting participants.  Doing this will help keep things on schedule and prevent tasks from falling off the radar, ensuring your next meeting will continue to drive initiatives forward rather than being a repeat of the last.

You Don’t Have to Know Everything

You might think you need to have all the answers when you go into a meeting, but the truth is you don’t.  No one knows everything, so shake off this expectation and you’ll immediately start to feel more confident in your abilities to run a productive meeting.  It’s okay to ask questions, whether you’re running the meeting or just participating in it.  Questions help open the blinders and could lead to even better, more productive discussions.

Follow the steps prior and you should be in pretty good shape once your meeting has started.  From there, go with the flow, ask questions of others, and realize that you don’t need to carry everything on your shoulders.  You have a team for a reason – you might be running the meeting, but a meeting is only as strong as the conversations it yields.

What are some things you do to prepare for a meeting?  And what are some of your business fears you want to conquer for Q4 and 2018?