Would you feel comfortable with in-person meetings again?
Contributor: Viv Groskop, Host of podcast ‘How to Own the Room' - on behalf of VBQ Speakers |
The UK is taking steps to ease back into pre-Covid life and for many this includes venturing back into the office after working from home for almost 15 months.
Up until last year, only being able to meet via video call may have seemed like an alien concept, but it’s now the norm. With many having become accustomed to living without speaking face-to-face, the thought of sitting in a stuffy meeting room and having small-talk with colleagues requires a big mental adjustment.
500 people surveyed* who worked in UK offices before Covid-19 and are planning to go back. Of those surveyed, 39% feel nervous about being in an office environment around other people once more. And 40% are nervous about having to attend in-person meetings again.
In order to help those feeling apprehensive about returning to work, Viv Groskop – host of chart-topping public speaking podcast ‘How to Own the Room’ – says she has seen “an avalanche of angst about returning to face-to-face life”.
“We’ve all just about got used to using digital platforms and ‘owning the Zoom’ and now we’re supposed to ease back into… what? No-one seems to quite know what this new ‘hybrid working’ is going to look like.”
Her best advice is to make this return to the office “an official, no-holds-barred, open dialogue” and to “use trial periods with plenty of opportunity to give feedback – expect it to be bumpy and messy.”
“Be flexible about how meetings happen and be guided by what people feel comfortable with, not by what you think everyone ‘should’ be doing. It’s not going to be ‘normal’ (whatever that is) so why pretend?”
A particularly daunting prospect for many is the return to delivering in-person presentations. 40% of those surveyed said they are feeling uneasy about presenting to people in a professional environment again. This included leading meetings, presentations, client pitches, internal pitches and speaking at conferences.
Esther Stanhope, impact guru, speaker and author of award winning book ‘Goodbye Glossophobia’ – Banish Your Fear of Public Speaking, knows all about facing fear. She says anxiety is to be expected, especially after such a long time in a virtual environment. We feel fear when we’re venturing into the unknown.
“With public speaking, our brains go into fight, flight or flee mode and we get flustered and start sweating or stuttering – and the past year of remote working will have exacerbated this feeling for many: It’s ok. It’s normal.”
“My big tip is to stand tall, head held high, breathe out (through the mouth slowly) and then in through the nose as this reduces cortisol (the stress hormone). If you feel fear – it will evaporate after a few seconds, if not after a few seconds after a few minutes.”
*survey VBQ Speakers