To speak up in a meeting is considered public speaking, and according to Psychology Today, there are many reasons some people are afraid to do it:
- Thoughts and beliefs about yourself
- The situation (lack of experience, audience etc.)
- Skills or lack thereof
However, speaking up in meetings is important for personal and professional reasons. When you share ideas or questions, you take part in the conversation, provide value, and show that you’re trying to be an active participant in the workplace. All of this can lead to being seen by upper management, which can be critical for moving ahead in your career.
If speaking up in meetings feels impossible for you, use these five ideas to gain the confidence to share your voice once and for all.
1. Be prepared to speak
If you know there’s a scheduled meeting, take a moment to jot down what you want to share or what thoughts you have on the topic. Planning ahead and knowing what you want to talk about are easy ways to build confidence before the meeting starts. Instead of feeling rushed to come up with an idea, you have it prepared and ready to share.
You can also use these meeting-style responses to jump into the conversation without bringing in a completely new idea:
- Ask a question
- Repeat what’s been said in your own words
- Comment on what you’ve heard
Use the same note-taking tactic while you’re in the meeting. Write down ideas as you have them, formulate your thought, and then wait for a break in conversation to share it.
2. Set goals for each meeting
Before each meeting, set a goal for how many times you plan to speak. When doing so, start small. For example, your first goal might be to respond to someone’s idea with an encouraging statement, such as “That’s a great idea!” A second goal might be to ask for further explanation on a topic you’re confused about or think should be discussed further.
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Achieving goals like this will generate more confidence and courage for speaking up. As with anything, a little practice goes a long way, and these are chances to do exactly that.
3. Ask questions instead of sharing ideas
If you’re nervous to share ideas in meetings, or argue back on a point you don’t agree with, simply focus on asking questions. According to Forbes, by asking questions, you can increase your visibility to others in the meeting while learning more about the topic—a win-win.
Remember that your questions can be simple and straight to the point, you don’t have to be creative to make an impact. Here are a view a examples:
- How did you come up with that?
- What do we do next?
- Can I get your opinion on…?
By asking questions, you become more engaged in the meeting, and take an active role. This can lead to a more productive meeting and give you the courage you need to speak up more often. The more positive reinforcement you get, the better you’ll feel.
4. Don’t wait until the end
According to Executive Coach Joel Garfinkle, the longer you wait to speak up, the more time you have to create self-doubt and become withdrawn. This makes it harder to join in the conversation. Instead, speak up in the beginning of a meeting to reduce the chances of having your topic or idea shared by someone else or becoming too withdrawn to speak up.
Leading the discussion in this way keeps you engaged and can also draw the attention of your superiors and fellow employers. Just one comment or question can make all the difference in your visibility as an employee who’s engaged.
5. Pay attention to body language
Back in 2012, Harvard Business School professor Amy Cuddy gave a TED Talk about power-posing or changing your body language to boost confidence. For example, one power pose is The Wonder Woman: get into a wide stance, with hands on your hips, chin tilted up, and chest puffed out. Find a private space to get into this position before heading into a meeting to start generating the confidence you need to speak up.
If power poses feel uncomfortable right away, use the following to maintain confident body language in your meetings:
- Sit up straight or have good posture while standing
- Keep arms uncrossed
- Use simple hand gestures
- Don’t lean too far back when seated at a table
This body language can change the way you’re viewed in the meeting and how you feel about yourself.
Speak up in meetings once and for all
Speaking up can help you advance your career and drive you to be more confident, not only at work, but in other areas of your life as well.
Use these tips to find the confidence you need to share your ideas, or simply ask questions, allowing you to be an active participant in every meeting.