There are many things that can have an impact on a person’s career trajectory, not the least of which is how they handle themselves when speaking “off the cuff.” A team member’s participation in meetings shows their ability to think, listen, and share their ideas in a clear and concise manner.
But it’s not easy for everyone to speak up in meetings, particularly when there are higher level executives in attendance. But staying quiet often means that senior staff members never actually become aware of the positive impact a team member has within the organization.
If you also find it difficult to speak up in meetings, here are 7 ways you can begin to express your thoughts and opinions with others:
1. Choose What to Say in Advance
Usually the agenda for the meeting is announced beforehand. If you aren’t someone that is great thinking on the fly, then you can simply choose the agenda item that is important to you and prepare what it is you would like to say about it. Also, think about any potential questions people may have about your topic so you are ready to answer them.
2. Shut Off Your Inner Critic
A majority of people are scared to speak up in meetings because they are afraid their opinions will be met with criticism. But more often than not, we project our inner critic onto those around us.
The truth is, though that voice in your head may constantly say unkind things about you like, “They’ll think your ideas are stupid,” that voice is usually wrong, if not a tad bit paranoid. Do your best to silence your own inner critic. This voice is making you lose opportunities to share your opinions and be seen as a valuable member of the team.
3. Ask Questions
You don’t have to have answers to speak up in meetings, you can ask questions as well. This can be as simple as asking someone, “How did you arrive at that conclusion?” or “How long do you think it would take for the team to fully implement this idea?” Often, it just takes a bit of practice before you feel comfortable speaking in front of a group, and asking questions each week is a great way to get your feet wet.
4. It’s Okay to Disagree
Just because your views and opinions don’t align with someone else in the group, or even the majority of group members, does not mean your ideas don’t have merit. Often it is the people who are able to see things from a different perspective and think outside of the box that are the real problem solvers and become thought leaders within an organization. Never assume that someone else’s opinion holds more weight or value than yours. What you have to say may be exactly what the group needs to hear.
5. Be the First to Speak
It’s a bit like being the person who jumps into the ice-cold lake first. If you wait too long, you’ll psych yourself out of doing most things that scare you or bring some form of discomfort. Going first will help you not feel anxiety as the meeting continues. You also won’t have to worry about opposing others’ views because your view is presented first.
6. Choose a Number
Before each meeting, decide how many times you would like to speak. This number will most likely be linked to your title and position. A new hire who is down on the totem pole may do well with only speaking once, while a more experienced team member may need to speak up 2 – 3 times. Figure out that number so you can set a goal in your mind and watch and wait for those golden opportunities. And remember, questions count!
7. Remember That You Care
Granted, there are those meetings that seem a tad boring all around, but a majority of the meetings you attend may have a real purpose. Do not go into these meetings with a mindset that you have to perform or act certain way. That will just make you nervous.
Instead, remind yourself that you really do care about the organization and want to help it succeed. When the company succeeds, all team members succeed. So, go to each meeting genuinely wanting to help. This will allow you to release any anxiety and speak when you have ideas that you believe in.
Speaking up in meetings can feel intimidating for just about anyone. But keep in mind that it is one of the best ways to show your value to the group. If you practice these tips outlined here, you will be able to feel more and more comfortable with the idea of speaking up. This will help you increase your capital while enhancing your visibility with colleagues and senior executives.