Overcome the Fear of Being Put on the Spot in Meetings


Have you ever been in a meeting and not spoken up because you were concerned what reaction you might receive? Do you fear that you’ll be standing up unable to find the right words (or any words) to address the situation? Well, you are not alone.

One of the clients I’ve been working with recently avoids bringing up topics in meetings that are difficult for fear that they will be challenged in the meeting.  The fear of being put on the spot and not being able to quickly respond prevents this person from being as successful as they could be. As a result, their direct reports are able to continue in less than ideal behaviours. Not what’s best for the organization or for this manager – because it creates ongoing stress and anxiety.

So what can you do before you have complete brain freeze?

  1. Breathe. Learn to take deep breaths – in through you nose and out through your mouth. By slowing down your breathing, you will naturally relax your body more. A relaxed mind tends to think more clearly.
  2. Visualize successfully speaking up and getting a positive response. The power of visualization has been used by professional athletes for years. Notice how your body feels; use this technique to prepare for any and all “speaking up” conversations. If any stress or anxiety arises during this, use your breathing technique.
  3. Get clear on what you really want to say. Sometimes we speak before we think and that can create challenges, especially when coupled with anxiety. Taking the time to get your “sound bite” clear in your mind will assist you to be more concise and confident sounding to others.
  4. Practice the behavior. Get in the habit of taking risks and sharing your thoughts in meetings. Start with smaller things and set your goals a bit higher each time. Then ask for something (that’s important to you) to be put on the agenda and lead the discussion or if you facilitate the meeting, put a topic on the agenda that you have been avoiding.
  5. Reflect on your successes. The first part is speaking up, the second is about how well did I say what I wanted to say? Now as they say, rinse and repeat. Next time, set the bar a bit higher and keep challenging yourself to work on this goal of speaking up and fully acknowledge your wins.
  6. It is okay to not have all the answers. Remember that you don’t have to have all the answers in the moment. One of the gifts of working with people is that you can get back to them with an answer once you have reflected on it.
  7. Consider hiring a coach to assist you with your communication and presentation skills. By doing this you will build skills and have accountability to ensure that you don’t let anxiety win. You will gain confidence and competence in speaking effectively.
  8. Take an Improv Training Course. Improv is a team sport (it is not stand-up comedy)! Improv helps you to become more self-trusting as you realize that you can respond in the moment. And sometimes you get a really good belly laugh in the process – and that in itself is worth the price of lessons!

By making this a focus and changing your energy, thoughts and behaviours, you will shift into a new comfort zone. Speaking confidently is an important business and leadership skill. You deserve to be able to speak up and be heard no matter what meeting you are in!

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