3 Ways to Reduce Big Meeting Stress

We’ve all been there—stressed about the big meeting. It makes sense, there are a bunch of things to worry about. You could easily screw up by saying something stupid, mixing up topics, making the conversation too technical, or (worse yet) you could fail to express what needs to be communicated. Becoming an effective consultant requires you to embrace the big meeting, clearly communicate your message, and find success.

Here are three meeting prep tactics that I’ve used to overcome my own big meeting stress.

1. Plan

This point should be a no-brainer, but I’ve watched many people go into big meetings without any planning or preparation at all. Here’s what I normally do:

  • Ask for the agenda before the meeting. If the agenda is my responsibility, I distribute it before the meeting.
  • Find out who the participants in the meeting are. Make sure that I understand a little bit about their background and why they are at the meeting.
  • If I need to present materials, then I come prepared so that technology will not get in my way. I make sure that I understand the technology capabilities of the meeting room before showing up.
  • Outline the possible contention points so that I won’t be caught off guard.

2. Visualize & Act

Once I’ve prepared for the meeting, I visualize the meeting and step through the possible scenarios in my mind. I imagine the small talk before the meeting begins, the progression into the major meeting topics, the difficult conversation that may take place. I then develop and rehearse my responses for those various situations.

When it’s time for the real meeting to happen, I simply play the role that I rehearsed in my mind. It’s easy and fun. In a strange way it kinda feels like an out-of-body experience.

If something unexpected happens during the meeting and I don’t know what to do, I look to defer an immediate response and instead ask for more time to evaluate the request.

3. Put it in Perspective

No matter how big the meeting feels, in the realm of things it’s most likely not that important. I always try to put things into perspective by imaging myself 5 years in the future looking back at a particular meeting. What I commonly realize is even at a 5-year horizon this particular meeting will have little impact on my life.

At that point, it’s easy to have fun and own it!