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Giving a presentation is already stressful. Here’s how tech can make it worse

Meetings and presentations have always been stressful, but failing tech can seriously affect business productivity and mental health, according to new research into meeting room stress.

Workplace stress can have huge costs. A 2014 report from the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work estimated that work-related depression cost Europe 617 billion euros ($707 billion) annually due to health care costs, lost productivity and people missing work.

In order to find out more about the link between presentations and stress, tech company Barco commissioned an online survey of 1,000 office workers from the U.K., France, Germany and the U.S. and found that 93 percent had experienced some form of meeting room stress related to technology not working properly.

"It actually comes down to people reporting 'we are losing money for our business.' I've missed out on promotions myself, so there seems to a huge hidden cost associated with failing technology in the meeting room," Lieven Bertier, head of product management at ClickShare, a Barco division, told CNBC during a phone interview.


Dr David Lewis, neuropsychologist and chairman of Mindlab International
Mindlab
Dr David Lewis, neuropsychologist and chairman of Mindlab International

Following the survey, Bertier and his team engaged with independent research company Mindlab International to look into the neurological and physical effects of stress.

Mindlab set up meetings for 28 volunteers, all experienced presenters, to see what happened when things went wrong. For instance, in some of the meetings cables would not fit from a computer into a screen or there were not any batteries in a device. They used heart monitors and other sensors to see how the volunteers reacted to these problems.

"We saw heart rates at one point up to 179 beats and these were people who were sitting down, not sprinting or running a marathon," said Dr David Lewis, chairman of Mindlab International, told CNBC over the phone.

"Indeed, one person found the whole experience when everything went wrong so distressing that he actually left the study."

Dr Lewis said that the more complicated the challenge, the more stressed people became.

"They took much longer to make the presentation [and] to prepare the presentation," he said.

Dr Lewis did point out that experiencing some stress is natural and is called eustress or good stress.

"It's the kind of stress you need when you are standing up and speaking or doing anything where you are being challenged, but that's good because it enhances your performance," he explained.

He also explained that as things in the presentation started to go wrong, the volunteers lost this good stress and experienced reduced performance.

But how can people avoid this kind of stress in the first place? Apart from making sure your equipment and technology is working before a presentation, Dr Lewis suggested having a Plan B.

"Speakers need to have a plan of action so you are not caught out, because stress arises in situations where we want to perform well," he explained.

Dr Lewis also shared some tips on how to deal with stress when it strikes.

"People's breathing can very rapidly go up when they are feeling under stress," he said. "Before you stand up to speak just focus on your breathing and take a few deep, slow breathes because that will calm you down."

He also suggested a technique called hand-warming. He explained that stress causes blood to drain away from the surface of the skin, so returning the flow of blood will calm you down. Ways to do this include telling your hand to get warmer, imagining them in front of a fire or holding them near your cheeks.

"If you are just outside your zone of peak performance, then [that technique] is likely to bring you back into the zone," he said.

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