Speaking up in meetings is crucial if you want to be promoted at work. People will see you as being smart, energetic, and sharp. Your inner confidence will help you express yourself, and the respect others will have for you will add to your confidence even further.
Picture this: Everyone around the conference room table is discussing a new idea that they’re excited about. You think of a new way to implement the idea, and you feel a flush in your face and the rise of adrenalin. You sit forward on your seat and get your body to speak…and then you don’t. Before you know it, the time has passed for you to have your say. They’re on to the next topic.
And picture this: You’re listening intently to what is being said. The dominant people in the group are speaking, as usual. Then you have a great idea, something really valuable to say, but you can’t say anything. You’re too afraid that the idea is going to be rejected. You decide to say nothing. Then another person suggests the exact same idea, and lo and behold, everyone agrees with it and gives positive comments to the person who spoke up. You think, “That could have been me!”
What stopped you?
You have a unique contribution to make, a new perspective or concern that needs to be voiced, but your confidence is not strong enough for you to speak. When you have something you feel is important to contribute at a meeting, it’s time you learned how to formulate your thoughts, take a deep breath, and jump in!
There are many things you can do both before the meeting, during the meeting, and even outside of the meeting.
First, study what others are doing that seems to work. Listen to how they present their thoughts as well as the tone and volume levels of their voice. Then practice at home by yourself incorporating the best of what you observe into your own way of speaking.
Practice speaking up in informal conversations both inside and outside of work. Share your point of view. Breathe deeply and project your voice by speaking from the diaphragm. This gives your words more power and makes your voice stronger.
Realize that you’re in the meeting for some reason. Someone thought you had enough intelligence and knowledge to offer your thoughts or you wouldn’t have been invited.
Look at the agenda beforehand. If you see topics that are related to your job, your department, or your area of expertise, anticipate what updates you can give and questions your co-workers will ask. You might see an agenda item on something you want to discuss. Plan what you want to say and practice how to say it most effectively. You can also write out questions or comments that are pertinent to a topic.
During the meeting, as you see a topic come up that you want to comment on, jot down your main points so you don’t forget them and number them in a logical order.
When you speak, get to the point by saying your thoughts in a concise fashion. Give your thoughts and reasons in short sentences, then stop and let others respond. If you have a longer point to make, especially when you feel someone is going to interrupt, say, “I have three observations to make about this situation. First…” and then keep talking through the three points. This is an excellent technique so everyone knows you’re not finished when you take a breath. You can also show your co-workers the three points by counting them on your fingers.
If it’s appropriate, agree with something that was said before. “I agree with Charlotte about moving the date to October” and then go on with your thoughts. Use positive language instead of negative language. State what you think would be best and why, not what is wrong with their ideas.
If you feel any of your co-workers is going to have misgivings about what you’re saying, you can voice them before they get a chance. First present the positive side briefly, then bring up negative points, and then state the positive benefits again, pointing out how to deal with the negatives or how to eliminate them.
And, of course, keep your body language strong throughout the meeting. Sit up and forward and lean in a little. Keep your hands on the table, and make eye contact with everyone around the table. And smile.
Make a list of three things you want to do better at your next meeting that you want to improve over the last meeting you attended. Next to each item, write the steps you will take to do these. Then at your next meeting, follow your notes and put them into practice.