How to get over meeting anxiety

Ana Erkic

Last updated on: November 16, 2022

Does the thought of having to present at a work meeting keep you up at night?

Do you feel your heart pounding in your chest as you struggle to form a coherent sentence in a work meeting? 

Do you feel that all your teammates can see you struggling to keep your composure as you’re delivering a simple update at a team meeting? 

If you answered Yes to these questions, you might be struggling with meeting anxiety. 

The bad news is that anxiety can have a detrimental effect on your work performance if left untreated. In fact, a survey by the Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA) reveals that 43% of employees with an anxiety disorder avoid participating in meetings altogether. 

The good news is meeting anxiety can be managed and overcome. 

In this blog post, we’re breaking down all tips on how to deal with meeting anxiety and speak more confidently in meetings.  
Read on to find out:

  • What are the symptoms of meeting anxiety?
  • Why do you get so nervous talking in meetings?
  • How to overcome meeting anxiety?

What is meeting anxiety?

Meeting anxiety can be defined as an excessive fear of attending or speaking in work meetings. It is a type of social anxiety that manifests as excessive worry and discomfort before, during, and after work meetings.  

Although some professionals may experience some anxiety symptoms during audio calls, meeting anxiety is usually mostly present during in-person and virtual meetings requiring video presence.

While many professionals may at times experience fear facilitating meetings, it is not to be confused with meeting anxiety, which: 

  • Lasts longer, 
  • Has more severe symptoms, and 
  • Has a much more pronounced impact on the work life of individuals experiencing it. 

People that struggle with meeting anxiety experience intense symptoms in every meeting they attend. On the other hand, people that don’t feel comfortable facilitating meetings only struggle when they are assigned a facilitator role in a meeting.  

Remote and hybrid work have introduced new challenges for people struggling with meeting anxiety. On-camera virtual meetings — although beneficial for team connection and collaboration — can be particularly draining for people dealing with meeting anxiety. In fact, the latest meeting statistics show that professionals chose audio-only meetings as the preferred virtual meeting format. 

In addition to a general sense of discomfort and exhaustion popularly known as “Zoom fatigue,” professionals experiencing meeting anxiety can also find the virtual meeting environment too artificial and disconnected from natural interactions, which can result in even more stress. 

How can anxiety in meetings impact you?

Meeting anxiety affects people’s ability to remain fully present and pay attention during meetings. Excessive worry and an overwhelming sense of discomfort impact their performance and appearance during a meeting. Moreover, the overall sense of feeling drained can last up to a few hours after the meeting has ended.

The most common physical symptoms noticed with people struggling with meeting anxiety include:

  • Shaking and trembling
  • Blushing
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Sweating
  • Nausea 
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness 

Meeting anxiety can also cause several unpleasant emotions and thoughts. Here are the most common ones:

  • Feeling incompetent or less than
  • Worry about how you look or sound during meetings 
  • Feeling embarrassed about blushing or shaking 
  • Worry about being judged
  • Self-conscious about asking questions or speaking in a meeting
  • Worry about sounding unprepared
  • Feeling drained after the meeting 

If you recognize these symptoms in your regular work meeting routine, you might be suffering from meeting anxiety.  

While your first impulse might be to avoid participating in meetings altogether, there are far more constructive ways to manage and even overcome meeting anxiety. 

Let’s start by dismantling the root of the problem. 

Why do meetings make you anxious?

Before we get into actionable solutions for overcoming meeting anxiety, let’s first outline some of the main reasons work meetings make you feel anxious in the first place. 

Reason #1: Social anxiety

People struggling with social anxiety are more likely to experience anxiety symptoms during work meetings.
If social situations make you feel overly uncomfortable and you find yourself worrying before, during, and after social situations, chances are work meetings will produce the same reactions. 

You’ll often catch yourself being more focused on (and worried about) how others perceive you than on the actual conversation going on in the meeting.    

Meeting anxiety is, after all, a form of social anxiety. 

However, while most people struggling with social anxiety may experience some anxiety symptoms during meetings, people that feel anxious during work meetings don’t necessarily suffer from social anxiety.

Reason #2: Fear of public speaking

If you experience intense fear and anxiety when you need to speak in work meetings, it may be related to fear of public speaking — glossophobia

People that fear public speaking often feel comfortable in one-on-one meetings and social situations in general. However, they will experience intense discomfort when they need to speak in front of a group in a more formal setting.

One-on-one meetings in Pumble
One-on-one meetings in Pumble

In their book Rewire Your Anxious Brain: How to Use the Neuroscience of Fear to End Anxiety, Panic, and Worry, Catherine M. Pittman and Elizabeth M. Karle explain the origin of this fear. Namely, fear of public speaking originates in prehistoric times when people associated being watched as a sign of an approaching predator attack. 

Reason #3: Lack of preparation 

Not having enough time to prepare for a meeting can cause your anxiety to spike. 

Working remotely often requires juggling multiple roles and responsibilities, which can affect how much time we have to prepare for a meeting.  

Ever found yourself out of breath running to your computer to make it to a meeting after you had to let the dog out or make a cup of coffee? This probably left you feeling uncomfortable and nervous during the meeting. 

Back-to-back meetings also leave no time to properly prepare and can cause stress and meeting anxiety. 

The same goes for getting last-minute invites to a meeting with no prior notice.

Lack of preparation can make you feel out of control of the situation and cause tremendous discomfort and anxiety.  

Reason #4: Unclear expectations

Meeting anxiety can also stem from insufficient information about the purpose of the meeting. 

Not having a clear meeting agenda with defined objectives and meeting roles can cause your mind to spiral about all potential scenarios and things that can go wrong.     

Reason #5: Poor communication skills

If you feel your communication skills may not be up to par, you can experience increased worry and anxiety about speaking in meetings. 

You may fear you’ll fail to get your message across effectively and cause miscommunication or judgment from people in the meeting. 

Reason #6: Imposter syndrome

If you feel inadequate and doubt your knowledge and intellectual ability while feeling strong pressure to perform — you might be experiencing imposter syndrome. 

Imposter syndrome is another common cause of meeting anxiety. 

People experiencing imposter syndrome often feel like a fraud in a professional setting. Naturally, meetings, where they need to present an opinion in a discussion, will often exacerbate these negative feelings and limiting self-beliefs.

Reason #7: Poor self-image

If you struggle to maintain a positive self-image and healthy self-esteem, you might find video conferencing extremely uncomfortable. 

People that struggle with poor self-image are often too self-critical about how they look and sound. On-camera meetings require spending plenty of time looking at your reflection on the screen, which can cause anxious feelings and behavior. 

Reason #8: Previous negative experience

If some of your past meetings went exceptionally bad, you might associate/project these negative emotions to all meetings, which can result in the development of meeting anxiety.   

Maybe you had a negative experience with difficult conversations you didn’t know how to handle. And now you feel a sense of dread each time you get a meeting invite, fearing something similar may happen. 

Or, you might have experienced technology malfunctions, and now you fear your conference platform will disconnect in the middle of the meeting. 

How to overcome meeting anxiety?

Overcoming meeting anxiety is possible — however, it takes practice. 

Here are some valuable tips and strategies to apply to better manage your anxiety in work meetings. 

Tip #1: Focus on what you can control 

Anxiety is often connected to feeling out of control of the situation. 

This is why it’s particularly pronounced when you don’t feel ready for a meeting or fear technology will fail you in the middle of your presentation. 

To ease your mind before the meeting, come up with a plan to address the conditions you have control over. 

  • Start by blocking off some time before the meeting to prepare. If you anticipate a particularly busy day, try to prepare the day before.
  • Go over the meeting agenda and think of potential questions or issues that may come up. Don’t hesitate to reach out to the meeting host or facilitator and ask for more information about the purpose of the meeting and potential discussion points. 
  • Do some research to feel more confident and comfortable discussing related topics.
  • Get your background and yourself camera-ready. To minimize distractions and the urge to obsess about how you appear or if your home office is video-perfect, do your best to look presentable. 

Working on conditions you have power over puts your mind at ease and calms your anxiety by introducing a sense of control over the situation.

However, be mindful not to get into the trap of over-preparation, as it can reinforce anticipatory anxiety. Planning for every small detail and potential scenario can have the opposite effect and leave you feeling hypervigilant. 

Tip #2: Reframe self-limiting beliefs 

In most cases, we can trace the anxious episode back to the start. 

If you struggle with meeting anxiety, you can notice your thoughts usually start to spiral out of control a few minutes before the meeting. 

To ease the intensity, try to catch your negative self-talk before it gathers momentum. 

So, when you notice the limiting thoughts start getting louder, try the following approach: 

  • Pause to analyze these thoughts. 
  • Ask yourself if these beliefs are the default subconscious negative program running on repeat or if there’s any actual evidence to back them up.
  • Introduce a more accurate version of this thought. Reframe the negative with a counterthought or a belief, aka a positive affirmation.

A 2016 study The power of positive thinking: Pathological worry is reduced by thought replacement in Generalized Anxiety Disorder showed that positive pictures or words can be beneficial in decreasing anxiety and worry. 

Take a look at some examples of how the process of reframing negative self thoughts can look in the table below. 

Limiting thought:Supporting thought:
I’m not good enough to present in this meeting. I clearly have something valuable to contribute, or I wouldn’t have been invited to the meeting. 
I look/sound awkward.I’m authentic and unique, and that is OK
I’ll freeze when someone asks an unexpected question/offers negative feedback.  I can handle challenging situations/difficult conversations.
I’m always nervous in work meetings.I care about my work and I want to do my best to perform well. 
I don’t have enough information about the purpose of the meeting/discussion topics. I have enough time to prepare and research. 
I talk incoherently and I’ll cause confusion.I can practice my verbal skills and become a more effective communicator. 

When working to overcome meeting anxiety, it’s important to remember that negative self-beliefs won’t necessarily disappear immediately. 

However, by introducing alternative thoughts, you’ll gradually start to form a more objective view of yourself and new beliefs will start to form making your anxiety less paralyzing. 

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Tip #3: Take care of yourself during meetings

In some instances, you may feel your anxiety overpowering your ability to manage it.

It’s important to be mindful in these situations to be able to properly take care of yourself.

Remember that it’s ok to give yourself grace and resist the urge to push further when things get overwhelming. 

Instead, focus on doing what’s best to help yourself at that moment.

  • If your blood sugar drops, eat a snack or have a fruit beverage. 
  • Turn your camera off for a while, if you feel overwhelmed. 
  • Practice positive self-talk. Repeat supporting thoughts in your mind, or have them in writing in front of you.

 Practicing self-care during your work meetings can help keep your anxiety at bay.

Tip #4: Practice stress-management techniques

If you suffer from chronic meeting anxiety and stress, you might benefit from a regular stress-management technique. 

Once the stress response is already on the way, it’s more difficult to diffuse it immediately. But, if you practice calming techniques consistently, your mind will be more accustomed to being at ease. This will reduce the severity of your meeting anxiety symptoms. 

In addition, you’ll be able to calm down much faster when the anxious response takes place during a meeting.

Some examples of stress-management techniques include:

  • Deep breathing
  • Meditation
  • Yoga (exercise in general) 
  • Eating well
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Making time for hobbies 
  • Taking regular breaks 
  • Talking openly about your stress with friends and family or in therapy 

Practicing self-care is beneficial in reducing stress and anxiety in the long run. Start by introducing these techniques one by one, until you feel comfortable creating a routine that best works for you. 

Tip #5: Be mindful of where you put your focus and attention

If you struggle with meeting anxiety, you can often find yourself focusing entirely on the reaction of others instead of being in your own body and mind. You base your meeting performance on the reaction of others. And you do this entirely unconsciously. 

When you lose focus, you’re unable to access your ideas and think clearly. This creates an alarm in your brain that alerts your sympathetic nervous system into danger mode. The fight-flight-or-freeze response then takes over to prepare you to fight or flee. This is why your palms become sweaty, you start breathing faster, your muscles tighten, and your heart starts beating faster, among other physiological symptoms. 

To calm your anxious response in these situations, you need the help of the parasympathetic nervous system to refocus your attention. You can activate it in a number of ways:

  • Before a meeting — Splash some cold water on your face, breathe deeply for a few minutes, or call a friend or a loved one who can help you center and relax. 
  • During a meeting — Focus on your posture to return your attention inward. Lean back in your chair or place your hands on your desk or on your chair handle. Get a fidget spinner or a stress ball and use it during meetings.
  • After a meeting — Reframe your thoughts with cognitive reframing techniques. Challenge your negative or irrational thoughts and replace them with more realistic perceptions of the situation. A study on the impact of cognitive restructuring on post-event processing shows that strategies for managing negative thoughts after a social event have a positive effect on people with social anxiety disorder.        

All of these techniques can help calm your nervous system and refocus your attention on the topics and ideas discussed in a meeting. 

Tip #6: Practice public speaking

Treat any public setting as an opportunity to practice your communication skills. 

Book clubs, company get-togethers, conferences, or networking events are all great ways to nudge yourself out of your comfort zone and practice speaking in public. 

It may sound scary at first, but each new experience is a step in the right direction toward becoming a more confident speaker.

  • Take small steps to get started. Practice introducing yourself at social events, for example. 
  • Tell stories at group gatherings to improve your communication skills. 
  • Consider taking up acting classes or online communication courses to practice.  

As you accumulate enough corrective experiences, your mind will start to realize that there’s no actual danger to be hypervigilant about. You’ll gradually become more comfortable speaking in meetings.

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Tip #7: Focus on the purpose of the meeting

When you focus solely on yourself and how you come across to others, it’s easy to start spiraling. 

One of the ways to stop feeling overly self-conscious is to try to refocus your attention on the purpose of the meeting. 

Remember that your purpose and mission in meetings are less about you per se and more about your contribution to conversations.

It may sound cheesy, but it actually works to shift your focus from yourself to how you can bring value and be of service. 

In the context of a work meeting, this can look like reminding yourself that you’re not there to be judged but to offer service, value, and your point of view. 

For example, your coworker expresses concern about an issue you know more about. If you struggle with fear of speaking in a meeting, your first impulse would be to keep quiet and probably DM them later with the info. However, instead of putting the focus on yourself and letting your meeting anxiety take over, you can remind yourself that it would be more beneficial for everyone if you share the info in the meeting.   

Tip #8: Highlight your strengths 

To manage your social anxiety in meetings, you can shift your focus toward your strengths. 

Sure, meeting anxiety can be limiting, and it can certainly hinder your efforts of becoming a confident and eloquent speaker. 

However, in most cases, meeting anxiety comes with the gift of being a great listener and having great attention to detail. 

If you tend to listen and observe more than you speak in meetings, you can gain more insight and clarity about the issues discussed. 

You can then give more meaningful input when it’s your turn to share feedback

Therefore, instead of dwelling on the negatives, use your ability to attentively listen as an advantage. 

Tip #9: Use visuals

As we mentioned earlier, meeting anxiety can cause an intense response. Especially if you need to present to a group — your mind can produce the same reaction as if you’re being watched and attacked by predators.

If you feel these intense feelings coming up as you prepare to present in an upcoming meeting, consider incorporating visual tools in your presentation.

Anything from slide presentations, images, videos, or screen sharing will do the trick of taking the spotlight off of you. Even if you can’t spend the entire presentation off screen, you’ll still be able to take a breather and recover cognitively.

Screen sharing in Pumble
Screen sharing in Pumble

Tip #10: Embrace the discomfort

Finally, to eventually overcome meeting anxiety, you’ll just have to sit with the discomfort for a little while. 

You gotta feel it to heal it,” as the saying goes. 

In most cases, our first impulse is to avoid the situations and people that trigger our anxiety. 

With meeting anxiety, this can look like avoiding attending meetings entirely. Or, if you have no choice, attending the meetings but engaging in different sorts of avoidance behaviors such as:

  • Avoiding speaking in meetings 
  • Overpreparing
  • Avoiding eye contact, looking away in the distance
  • Covering your mouth or lowering your voice when you talk

According to the professional literature on avoidance behavior in anxiety, avoidance actually reinforces the anxiety, in addition to restricting your life in many areas. 

Instead of overpreparing for any potential scenario that may come up during the meeting, start by going to the meeting with the mindset that you can trust yourself to handle anything that comes up. 

And, so what if others can notice you’re a bit nervous? Welcome the feeling of uneasiness and let it pass. 

As Susan David, a Harvard Medical School Psychologist, speaker, and author highlighted in her TED Talk

“You don’t get to have a meaningful career, or raise a family, or leave the world a better place without stress and discomfort. Discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life.” 


The examples and tips provided in this article are not substitutes for professional treatment. If you suffer from intense social anxiety, you might find these tips valuable only in combination with professional treatment prescribed by a licensed medical professional.

Wrapping up: Feel the fear and do it anyway

Meeting anxiety can be frustrating and draining. If you struggle to keep calm during important work meetings, you can understand how this challenge can affect your productivity and your overall engagement at work. 

Luckily, it is possible to manage and eventually overcome anxiety in meetings. It is an ongoing process that requires dedication and discipline in applying coping strategies. 

We have given you 10 tips for managing your meeting anxiety:

  • Focus on what you can control.
  • Reframe self-limiting beliefs.
  • Take care of yourself during meetings. 
  • Practice stress-management techniques.
  • Be mindful of where you put your focus and attention.
  • Practice public speaking.
  • Focus on the purpose of the meeting.
  • Highlight your strengths. 
  • Use visuals. 
  • Embrace the discomfort. 

Use these tips to design the perfect coping strategy that works for you. 

And don’t be discouraged if some meetings still don’t go as smoothly as you hoped. Remember that rewiring anxious beliefs takes time, but you have all it takes to do it. 

✉️ What about you? Have you experienced challenges with anxiety in meetings? What are your key takeaways? Do you have any additional tips on how to cope with meeting anxiety? Let us know at and we may include your answers in this or one of our future posts. And, if you liked this post and found it useful, share it with someone you think would benefit from it.

Author: AnaErkic

Ana Erkic is a team communication and collaboration writer. When she is not researching the most productive collaboration techniques, she can usually be found trying out the latest team chat and collaboration tools and apps.

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