There are various reasons why you may not speak up in meetings. It could be that you’ve only recently started, you’re in a junior position or just generally that you’re quite introverted. The interesting thing to note is that none of those reasons is a good enough excuse to not be heard in meetings, and a lack of involvement could be a hindrance to your progression within your company.
The fear or difficulty in being able to express ourselves in meetings could unfortunately, be our downfall, no matter how well you perform day-to-day duties or excel at projects; you need to be able to share your successes and communicate well with others. Being unable to speak up in meetings may give colleagues in your wider team the impression that you don’t have a lot to contribute or add to the conversation.
On average, you spend a third of your time in meetings; so you should be making the most the opportunity to say more! Although you may never be able to entirely conquer the fear of speaking up, the various methods below will at least help to get you started with contributing more to meetings.
Preparation is key in essentially everything we do in the workplace, and it’s crucial for speaking up in meetings. Often, much of the anxiety that is caused from meetings is that you’re having to listen and understand what others are talking about all whilst thinking about what you have to contribute to the session. Take action before every meeting to consider what you want people to know about. It could be something you’re working on or are knowledgeable about that you’d like to share or questions about the subject that you need answering. Noting these down will make you feel more confident and will show your colleagues that you care enough to put the effort in to prepare.
An easy way to gain more confidence in meetings without the need to prepare any kind of long ‘speech’ is to simply be inquisitive about what others talk about. Not only does answering questions keep you engaged in the meeting, but it also shows your colleagues that interested in what they have to say. Ask probing questions to learn more about the topic such as “how did you reach this conclusion?” or “where might you need help on this project?”.
When you’re actively trying to be more involved in the discussion at meetings, you might give yourself the impression that the more talking you do the better. But as with many others things, quality over quantity is important. Paying attention to actually adding something of value to the conversation as opposed to speaking up just for the sake of it can help you relax and not feel the pressure to ‘just make noise’. Take a notepad with you and jot down important points you want to make or questions you need to be answered to make sure what you’re saying is relevant and valuable.
It can be useful to have ideas, comments, and suggestions for improvement, but more important is being able to express why. Whilst this doesn’t necessarily mean you need thorough research to back up your ideas if somebody asks how you came to your suggestion, it gives the comment more weight if you are able to explain why. The process of thinking through your suggestions will make you more effective as a critical thinker and able to evaluate the ideas of others more effectively.
The longer you wait to speak in a meeting, the more anxious you’ll get about doing so and the more daunting it will be. The more you let others take over, the more you’ll doubt the value of your own contributions and be less likely to speak. An easy way to be more confident to speak up in meetings is to lead the discussion. The easiest way to do this is to be the first to speak up when given an opportunity to ask questions or contribute ideas. Even if you’re not entirely sold on your own ideas, just the process of speaking first will make you more confident.