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How to overcome nervousness in meetings & presentations

Welcome back to The Art of Business English. Today we are going to share with you some techniques to help you overcome your fear and nervousness when you have to meet or present in English. Many people hate presenting or attending meetings in their native language, let alone in a foreign language. So, what can we do to improve our confidence and make that next meeting or presentation a big success.

Today you are going look at 5 key skill areas. These easy to follow tips will have you mastering your meetings and presentations in English, in no time.

Let’s start by looking at, preparation.


All good meetings and presentations require preparation. If you are not the type of person who usually organises your meetings or presentations well, then you should follow these steps. Attending meetings and presenting is much harder in English than in your native language so preparation is essential.

Firstly, we should understand the topic well and prepare our notes. We need to internalise the information we want to give and not memorise word for word. If you have ever seen someone present who has memorised their presentation, then you know what I mean. It sounds robotic and not natural.

If we are attending a meeting, then we need to make sure we have the objectives or desired outcomes of the meeting clear in our mind. Once we have the meeting topic and outcomes clear, we can then do some research on idioms, expressions or vocabulary we would like to use in the meeting. Remember, preparing a list of expressions to use before a meeting is a fast way to improve your English skills. It will also make us feel more confident when we use our pre-prepared phrases.

In both cases, meeting and presenting, do some research on our audience. Who are they, what are they expecting, what do they already know and what do we want them to take away from their time with us. These questions will help you to better appreciate what information you need to prepare.

Thus, with these steps we should be able to form the base of a good, effective and successful meeting or presentation.

The next thing we need to look at is question brainstorming.

Question brainstorm

What is question brainstorming you might ask? Well, many people dedicate a lot of time to preparing their presentation or meeting. They understand the topic inside out. They have everything memorised. However, they fail to anticipate what type of questions they will get asked.

To overcome this problem, we need to do a question brainstorming session before the meeting or presentation.

So how can we do this? Well, as with most things, it is easier than you think. Firstly, you need to divide your meeting or presentation into its parts. Review each part and try and identify the areas where you are adding information or negotiating different aspects of a contract, for example. What we need to do is try and identify the areas where questions or confusion may be generated. Once we have done this, we can start to brainstorm the questions that we think we will be asked.

The beauty of question brainstorming is that we are able to anticipate problems, confusion or misunderstanding and provide some pre-prepared answers. If you question brainstorm, you then have a chance to prepare answers to these questions, meaning that when you meet or present you will already have the confidence to deal with these problems as you have already anticipated them coming.

So, what do we do if we don’t understand the question someone asks us? Well, in this case, we need to ask a clarifying question.

Confidence in Business Meetings

Do you get embarrassed when you need to attend a meeting in English? Maybe you feel frustrated when you can't express yourself clearly. Do you want to be invisible in a meeting, hoping that you won't need to answer any questions?

If you would like to learn how to confidently participate in meetings that lead to successful outcomes and more business for you and your company, then I've got the answer.

Clarifying questions

If you are new to clarifying questions, then you should take a look at our free ebook, where we discuss these in more detail. However, clarifying questions are a powerful tool to help you feel more confident, while getting the answers you need.

When someone asks us something that we don’t understand, instead of saying, sorry, could you repeat that. Or, sorry, I don’t understand. We can ask them a clarifying question, which makes the other person responsible for clarifying their previous statement. Some examples of clarifying questions are:

  • Sorry, did you say 15 or 50?
  • Sorry, when you said 3 days, did you mean from the time it leaves your factory or from the time the order is received?
  • Could you clarify your last point?
  • I’m not sure I follow you, could we go over your last point again?

As you can see, these statements sound much more confident than just saying, sorry, I don’t understand.

Once we have considered the questions, and prepared for our meeting or presentation, then we can move on to the next stage. Recording ourselves.

Recording yourself

Many people hate being in front of the camera. It’s true. Even if you are at home alone, put yourself in front of a camera and record yourself explaining something. You will instantly start to mumble and turn red and feel embarrassed. This is normal, it takes time to get used to the process.

So, what is the best thing about being at home alone? Even though you feel like a complete idiot, no one is there to see you or judge you. As such, you can take retake after retake without dying of embarrassment. So, let’s look at the strategy.

Firstly, if you are working on a presentation, then record yourself delivering it. Then go back and review it. For example, I notice then when I deliver something, I continually repeat, OK. If that annoys you, then at least after seeing yourself you are aware of the things you don’t like. Then you can actively try and correct them.

Secondly, we suddenly become aware of our body language and we can really see with our own eyes if we are transmitting confidence and authority, or shyness and self-doubt. With this image in mind we can then go about trying to improve our external appearance and through practice we can gain more internal confidence as well as project more external confidence.

So to sum up, it is easy to record yourself, it is not something that we do often, but a powerful tool to help us gain more insight into what we project o others.

So, that leads me to my last point.

Body awareness and breathing skills

As a result of seeing ourselves on camera, we are suddenly aware of what we externalise to our audience. Here we become aware of our body language. So, let’s look at my advice for how to improve your confidence and overcome nervousness with regards to your body language, as well as some tips on breathing.

In the first place, we need to look at the way we move our hands to articulate our story. We must be conscious of our eye movement. Remember, if you can’t look your audience in the eye, then you will transmit a lack of trust and confidence. If you look down, then it is impossible to connect with you audience.

Secondly, by recording ourselves we may realise that we engage in nervous hand rubbing or have some strange body movement that we were not aware of. This is the positive aspect of recording ourselves presenting or delivering a story. Try and avoid all nervous hand gestures, such as rubbing your hands together, picking at your nails, touching your face or covering your mouth. Running your hands through your hair, putting your hands in your pockets or touching yourself unconsciously. Your hands must be an extension of your story and you must use them to help articulate what you are trying to say.

Finally, we can also use simple breathing techniques before a meeting or presentation to calm us down. Remember, yoga and meditation exercises are focused around breathing to help you relax and focus on one thing. What I am not saying is that you being to do yoga stretching exercises at your desk, but you can just simply close your eyes and take a moment to regulate your breathing. Another powerful tool, is what I call a mini-visualisation session. Just take five minutes to close your eyes, regulate your breathing and start to visualise yourself in the meeting or delivering the presentation. By doing so, you can actually use this positive thought to anticipate the meeting or presentation and prepare yourself mentally for what you are going to say and how you are going to look. This will give you confidence as you go into the meeting or presentation as you have already visualised yourself doing it.

Final thoughts.

So, there you have it, 5 top tips to help you overcome nervousness in your next meeting or presentation. Remember, preparation is the foundation to a great meeting or presentation. Secondly, part of that preparation is thinking about what questions are coming. Thirdly, we need to confidently clarify with our own questions when we are not sure. Fourthly, recording yourself is an easy way to feel more confident as well as gain insight into your external appearance. Finally, our body language and breathing control can make us feel even more confident.

I am sure you will agree that these 5 tips are easy to follow and will make a huge difference to your level of nervousness and under-confidence in your next meeting. Without a doubt, if you implement these strategies you will feel much more confident and ready to excel in your next business meeting or presentation in English.

As always, if you have any questions or if you would like some advice, please feel free to leave us a comment or contact us on our Facebook page. If you liked this article, then don’t hesitate to share it with your friends.

Until next time, take care and keep improving your business English.

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Andrew is the CEO and founder of the Art of Business English. Besides teaching and coaching native Spanish speakers in Business English, he is also passionate about mountain biking, sailing and healthy living. When He is not working, Andrew loves to spend time with his family and friends.

Andrew Ambrosius

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