5 Proven Methods to Move from Stress to Success in the Boardroom
It was early morning in Paris. I was standing in my hotel room in Place Vendome, my shaky hands planted firmly on my hips, breathing slowly and deeply, chanting positive thoughts on the inhale, breathing out negative thoughts with each exhale. I was running on fumes having just arrived on the red-eye from New York. I had just enough time to quickly brush my teeth, freshen my makeup, consume two double-shot cappuccinos, and change into a killer outfit. Everything on the outside was in order. I looked like I had it all under control. I was due to the office within the hour to deliver a presentation yet on the inside I was still a bundle of nerves. I searched for a quick solution… Earlier that month I learned of this technique called a “power pose” that required you to simply stand like Wonder Woman for two minutes and if you committed to the full two minutes, you could actually change your body chemistry, lifting out all of the nervous energy. I needed something for sure. I had been up all night on the plane, going over my lines in my head- all of the specific talking points I would say to go along with my beautiful slides. It would all be perfect. I would do a great job playing the role of the powerful, having-it-all-together executive. But the reality was that on the inside, I was exhausted, depleted, and an anxious, nervous-wreck. The self-doubt consumed me. I wanted to cry. Was I good enough? Smart enough? Would I ever become a Vice President? Or would I just fall apart in front of everyone…
This is how I used to prepare for presentations. I thought a quick-fix power pose could cure the burnout in my body, the lack of focus from consistent lack of sleep, the self-doubt from years of fear stories playing on repeat in my head.
Years have passed since that time, and I have found confidence, freedom from fear, and the ability to actually look forward to the partnership and collaboration that can occur when you bring your best self to your work. This is how I shifted my mindset and lifestyle and how I prepare for meetings today:
- Invest in Sleep
- Release Self Judgement
- Come to Serve Others
- Make it about the Mission- Not about You
- Be Your Authentic Self
Preparing for meetings with senior executives is often a source of stress rather than a source of joy. Why? What are we afraid of? Meetings are simply about people coming together for discussion, but we have psychologically turned them into places to judge and be judged.
We often create fear stories by allowing negative thoughts to replay in our minds as we prepare for big presentations. These stories usually come from one line on an otherwise-stellar review where our boss may have mentioned we needed to “work on our executive presence,” “be more concise” or “less wordy on slides.”
Somehow these thoughts stick with us, and become reoccurring thoughts and stories we tell ourselves. When we allow decade-old opinions of our one-time leader to occupy our thoughts, they eventually become our beliefs, and influence our experiences throughout our career.
But we can free ourselves from those negative thought patterns, and bring confidence and joy to the boardroom instead.
Follow my 5 Proven Methods to free yourself from fear and tackle that next presentation with confidence and grace.
Invest in Sleep
Committing to regular sleep habits is one of the best things you can do for your health, well-being and performance at the office. When you show up to an important meeting lacking appropriate sleep because you stayed up all night preparing, you actually create more anxiety in your body. Honoring your body by investing is this simple act of selfcare will tremendously affect your presentation skills. People who consistently sleep 7-9 hours each night are clear, focused, sharp, able to process information, connect with others, listen, and make better decisions.
Release Self Judgement
Letting go of negative thoughts, old fear stories, anxiety and worry will make room for positive and productive thinking. Morning meditations, positive affirmations and mantras, prayer, deep breathing, and even power poses free the tension, stress, and thought patterns that hold you back from the true focus of your mission in the meeting. Allow yourself to release negative thoughts and self-perceptions that no longer serve you, while you make room your message to be heard.
Come to Serve Others
Set an intention to be in the service of others with your work. Ask yourself how does the information I am sharing benefit the organization? Who will it serve and how? Simply defining the intention to serve others first in your work will give you the confidence that the content of your message is worthy of the audience. You are here to serve.
Make it about the Mission, not about you
Even the most-seasoned senior executives get nervous jitters before presentations. Their heartrate rises, which can lead to shaky hands and voices. Often this occurs because we think that we are in the spotlight, that everyone is watching us, judging us. When we move the focus away from us as individuals, and toward the power of our message, purpose, and mission in the meeting, we can lift those fears and nervous energy. Allow yourself to be fully present, and connect with others. This simple shift in mindset will free you from nervous energy and allow you to fully stand in your confidence.
Be Your Authentic Self
In senior-executive meetings, we often think we have to take on the role of performer, assuming an alter-ego of what we think the “perfect executive” looks like, behaves like, and how he/she interacts. This actually blocks us from the power of our message and our work. Filtering our message in a way that prevents us being our true selves erodes our confidence. Be true to who you are. Remember, meetings are about people coming together for discussion, which in the end, is about human connection. To connect with others is the biggest gift we are given in our work, and when we are true to who we are, we build trust, positive energy, and an environment of partnership and collaboration. Isn’t that the true purpose of our meetings?
As soon as you allow yourself to shift your mindset and follow these simple steps, you will free yourself from self-created stress and anxiety, and allow yourself to step into the flow of creativity and collaboration. Being fully present and authentically you will help you nail your next presentation.
So remember, if you want to lead a meeting with confidence and impact, shift your focus from a perfect delivery, to self-care, authenticity, presence and human connection. That is how you start a movement with your message and inspire others to take the next step to move the organization forward!