The Creative Introvert’s Guide to Surviving Meetings

My heart is racing. My hands are shaking. I’m sitting at my desk, staring at the clock on my phone. My stomach is doing flips and my hands are just a bit too sweaty. I’m reading and re-reading my notes, making sure I’m fully prepared for what’s to come.

You’d think I was about to embark on a life-changing quest or make a decision that’s about to change the world. Instead, I’m nervous because it’s 1:21 pm and I have a call with someone at 1:30 pm.

Being an introverted creative female entrepreneur is a lot of hard work. What’s easy for some people — jumping on a call, for instance — makes me want to curl up in a blanket and turn myself off from the world.

The thing is, that’s not what’s going to push me — and push you — to succeed at what you’re passionate about doing.

My mission is to help women-owned creative businesses find their brand voice, tell their story, and connect with the audience that matters. I can’t do that from my oh-so comfy bed! Just like you can’t make money if you don’t get out there.

If just the phrase “let’s jump on a call” makes your stomach drop and your knees shake, know that I’m right there with you. Fortunately, there are ways I’ve found that make it just a little bit easier for us introverted creative types.

Breathe

Anyone who knows me or who’s worked with me knows I struggle with an anxiety disorder. I don’t hide that fact because I think there’s a lot of ways that sharing helps us grow. It’s a part of my story — it’s a part of who I am and the individual experiences I bring to the table.

Because I’ve struggled with anxiety, I’ve learned that whenever my stress spikes up, forcing myself to just sit and breathe helps take my heart beat down a few notches.

About 10–15 minutes before any call or meeting, I try to allocate time to sit quietly and focus on my breath. Although I don’t meditate nearly as much as I should, I’ve found that doing so right before a meeting is always a sure-fire way to calm my nerves.

The next time you’re feeling nervous about a call or meeting with someone, give yourself time to complete this exercise.

If it’s a call or remote video-conference, sit at your desk, close your eyes, and inhale through your nose for 10 seconds. Then, slowly exhale through your mouth until your lungs are emptied out.

Repeat this process a few times and just focus on filling and emptying your lungs. If you can’t clear your mind completely — I often can’t — it helps to repeat positive affirmations in your head.

I know, they can be a little cheesy, but when that imposter syndrome monster comes to haunt you, it definitely helps to tell yourself: “I’m a professional. I know what I’m doing. I’m good at what I do.”

Distract Yourself

You’ve done all the prep work. You researched everything and wrote down any questions you may have. You’re ready for this meeting, so don’t let your mind convince yourself otherwise (trust me, it’s going to try).

Once you’ve done your breathing, take your mind off the call completely by distracting yourself. I like to check a few posts on social media, make a few comments, or read a short Medium article.

The key is not to do anything that’s going to be too thought- or time-consuming. Try not to answer detailed emails, write a new blog post, think of a new product idea, or anything else that could take up a lot of time and/or energy.

Instead, I find that doing something a bit mind-numbing helps to distract my thoughts while not taking away from my energy level.

Plus, none of these options require much commitment — Medium articles even tell you how long they’ll take to read. So, if it’s 1:27 pm, find a two or three-minute article to distract yourself with.

Give Yourself a Confidence Boost

Depending on the nature of your meeting, you might be feeling a little bit of imposter syndrome right about now. This is especially true if you decide to use social media as your distraction.

While it’s a good way to take your mind off things, it’s easy to become too focused on the “perfect” world that people tend to portray online.

Right before your meeting, find a private location, and make yourself as big as possible. I learned this from a TED talk I watched years ago. It sounds silly, but bear with me here — it actually works.

Stretch your arms high in the air for a few seconds and then bring them down outstretched from the sides. While you’re doing this, it helps to continue the breathing exercises we went over above.

As women, we have a tendency to make ourselves small. Pay attention to your body language throughout the day — you’ll be surprised at how often you’ll catch yourself making yourself smaller.

We cross our legs below the chair, fold in our arms and bring our shoulders close together, and wouldn’t dare to stand with our hands on our hips, taking up more room than necessary.

But perhaps there’s a reason why the classic superhero stance is to stand tall, legs spread apart, hands on our hips, and looking up? Play to your inner superhero — because you are one — and make yourself be seen and heard. You deserve it.

Outside of standing around your bathroom (or the office bathroom) like a superhero, another way to boost your confidence is to go back through the work you’ve done that you’re proud of. Get up and personal with the products you’ve created and remind yourself: I made this. I’m really good at what I do.

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So, there you have it. There’s a lot of steps here and by no means do you have to do them all to be successful. Pick and choose the ones that work best for you or that you’re comfortable with doing.

These are all practices I try to do — at least a few of — before every meeting or phone call I jump on. So, the next time we jump on a call together, you’ll know what I’ll be up to 15 minutes beforehand. ;)

Who’s This Chick?

I’m a Seattle-based content marketer and writer who loves exploring the topics of storytelling and community building. I help brands tell their stories and write some of my own. Outside of that, I’m an anxious introverted millennial looking to find my place in the world. :)

I was recently interviewed by Getting Work to Work where I discussed all things storytelling, the challenges with content marketing, and how I started a creative community here in Seattle. Check it out!

Learn more about me and see some of my work here: ashhmarketing.com

Find me on Twitter: @ashhmarketing