Find the Confidence to Speak up in a Meeting

Speakup_Jan2012_webThe famous author Mark Twain once said, “It’s better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.” For many, it’s this mentality that keeps talented workers from expressing their ideas and experiences during meetings at work. No matter what your reason for staying quiet in a meeting, it’s important for you to have your voice heard. 

Not only is your employer losing a valuable insight or idea, but you are also slowing your career path and putting your eligibility for leadership in question. Even if you don’t have experience working in meetings, here are some ways to find the inner courage to speak up at meetings and make your presence known.

Rhyme and Reason

There may not be an “I” in the word “team,” but each individual in the meeting is there for a reason. You have been invited to a meeting because of some talent, skill, or knowledge you possess. Before you start thinking of excuses in your head of why you shouldn’t speak up, remember that you are supposed to be there, and the chairperson wouldn’t have included you if your abilities weren’t necessary. If you aren’t sure, ask your manager or the meeting organizer why you are being involved. This will help you get a better understanding so you can develop a strategy before attending. 

Prepare to be an Expert

Unless your meeting is impromptu or short-notice, you’ll have time to prepare. You’ll be much more likely to participate if you have a strong understanding of the material being discussed or the topic at hand. Take 10 minutes out of your day to research what is being discussed, write down any ideas or solutions you come up with, and any information that supports your points. If you’re unsure about the material you came up with, present the information to your manager to see if you are on the right track. Even if what you have doesn’t address the point of the meeting, your manager will be impressed by your initiative and drive.

This Little Light of Mine

If you hide yourself in the farthest, darkest place in the meeting room, you’ll be more likely to stay quiet. If possible, sit in the front of the meeting area where you’ll get the most people looking in your direction. If meeting at a table or circular room, try sitting next to the chairperson or organizer for the group. The more you’re in front of the action, the more likely you’ll be involved with the action. If you don’t think that will be enough, tell a manager or meeting leader to keep you in mind and ask you questions throughout the meeting to better your chances of having your opinions heard.

Don’t Abandon Ship

You’re prepped, you’re in the spotlight, and now you have to remember one important tip: stand your ground. Don’t back down at the first sign of challenge. Many individuals who usually dominate meetings have an “iron sharpens iron” mentality, and they could challenge your idea to make it better. It’s not a personal attack on you. If you have your research ready, you should be able to explain your point clearly and easily. Someone could bring up a point that you didn’t expect, but don’t get nervous. Explore those counterpoints and ask questions. Even though you might have to go back to the drawing board, your peers and managers will note the initiative you took, positioning you for leadership roles as you gain more experience and keep bringing ideas to the table.

Meetings don’t have to be scary if you don’t let them intimidate you. Use your best judgment and if you honestly feel like you can’t contribute or it’s a waste of time, it’s ok to consider walking away. But if you want to make a good impression and have your hard work and ideas help your employer move forward, you can now position yourself to let your voice be heard. What have you done to prepare yourself to speak up during an important meeting?

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