Ever come out of a meeting wishing you had spoken up?
Nervousness causes many people to hold back in meetings. When the group is composed of individuals at varying levels, it can sometimes feel intimidating to speak up. Additionally, if your meeting comments have ever been ignored or shot down in the past, this can add to your nervousness and hesitancy to talk.
But, regardless of who’s in the meeting, remember that you’ve been included for a reason. Maybe it’s because you have information or unique experience that needs to be considered. Maybe it’s to help you understand a client’s needs. Regardless, your perspective is important to the discussion. Follow along and speak up if you don’t understand or can contribute.
How to make yourself heard in a meeting:
- Prepare. Using the meeting agenda, consider the topics and your contribution before the meeting. Make notes on topics you can contribute to. Speaking up with specific examples or numbers gives your opinions or ideas more weight. Also consider your unique perspective—what contributions can you make that others might not know or have experience with, suggests Andy Molinsky for Inc.com.
- Speak up early. Nervousness can build as you delay talking in a group. Get in front of it by making it a point to comment early in the meeting. Agreeing with what’s being said is one easy way to contribute. “Aaron’s idea makes a lot of sense especially in light of the last round of customer reviews.”
- Ask questions. Meetings are often filled with people who appear to understand what’s being said. But that’s not always the case. Pay close attention to the person speaking and ask for clarification. If you know you’ll be nervous, consider the topics and plan a few questions in advance. When asking questions, be careful not to interrupt. If you’re new to the organization, you might not be following the entire discussion, but a question now and then will help build your understanding so that you can contribute more in the future. “I’m not sure I understand how our warehouse workers would be involved in this.”
- Speak up on behalf of someone else. Speaking up for others is sometimes easier than leading with your own opinion or disagreement. When eager participants sometimes cut others off in meetings, show your interest in what was interrupted. “Cathy, what were you going to say?” or “I think Susan had a comment on that as well ….”
- Add on to what others are saying. Add your comments and knowledge to someone else’s. “I think Alicia might be onto something here. The emails we send near the holidays do seem to be opened more.” When you add on in this way, be cautious about taking credit.
- Commit by getting your ideas on the agenda if appropriate. If you’ve got ideas and information on the topic to be discussed, let the meeting facilitator know in advance. If your contributions are smaller, consider instead chatting with another trusted meeting participant beforehand regarding your opinion, suggests Molinsky.
- Speak confidently. Don’t apologize if you disagree or have a different idea. Groupthink can squelch ideas and keep meeting participants from coming up with the best solutions. Your unique perspective is worth considering. So, don’t begin by saying, “I’m sorry, but I don’t agree.” Try instead, “I have some doubts about the timing on this project. What if we tried x instead? This would eliminate ….” (Read more about groupthink here.) Also it’s best not to begin your comments with “I disagree” even if you do. Express your disagreement in a way that doesn’t alienate the person talking. Their opinion is also valid. Your comments and perspective might just change their mind (unless they’re annoyed with you before you start).