Running Effective Meetings

Many books have been written about how to prepare for meetings but few talk about emotions. It is important to prepare no matter what type of meeting you are going into but just as important as getting the material ready is the need to control your emotions.

When you enter meetings, whether you are running it or not, your emotions are going to be heightened. It may be you are excited, apprehensive or fearful. Your heart will be racing and adrenalin surging. Take a long, slow, deep breath. Hold your breath once you inhale to slow your heartbeat. Walk into the meeting standing tall which will give you confidence. Victims of crime are chosen because they walk hunched over, don’t be a victim. If you have a small part to play in the meeting stay alert regardless as complacency or boredom often lead to silly statements.

Have a glass of water handy and sip from it regularly. When we get nervous our mouth dries because our metabolic energy from our digestive system – the salivary glands are part of the digestive system – is sent to your muscles for energy. Just watch out for shaking hands when you go for that drink, spilling the glass or missing your mouth is embarrassing.

Another interesting point about taking a sip of water, it distracts your brain from defending yourself. When we are nervous our neurons rush to our aid by sending alerts to our physiological system. You can’t stop it and you wouldn’t want to because this hardwired response keeps us alert (and alive). But you can control this response. By taking a drink of water we have to think about the action then take the action. Doing this distracts some of our neurons to enable us to pick up the glass, enough to control our nerves.

You can also distract your brain in other ways. Pick something up and put it down again. Move an object on your desk, slide your chair in and out, any physical action that interrupts your thought of being nervous.

I am not a fan of stress balls by the way, those little rubber soft squishy (is that a word?) furry balls. If we squeeze them every time we get anxious or brain familiarises itself with that action. You may recall an experiment where Ivan Pavlov rang a bell prior to feeding dogs. Dogs salivate before eating. Pavlov would ring the bell, the dogs would know that food was soon to arrive and would salivate profusely. In time, the dogs would salivate at the sound of the bell despite no food being present. In a similar way, if you were to inadvertently pick up the stress ball and start squeezing it your brain will think that you are under stress and you will become anxious.

Lastly, if you are running a meeting please keep it short. We are all very busy and sitting in a meeting for hours is a waste of all of our valuable time. Have an agenda and strictly adhere to times.  Stay on track, ideas flow more freely when we have a time restriction.