Sometimes there is a lack of watercooler chats and team lunches to ease your way into a casual conversation before really diving into the serious stuff in meetings. If you’re shy, you just started with a new company, or you still aren’t quite comfortable navigating the remote work world, it can be stressful to know when and how you should speak up in meetings.
We’re sharing insights on why it’s important to speak up in meetings, and 9 effective strategies on how to speak up more confidently during in-person and remote meetings.
- Why is speaking up in meetings important?
- 9 strategies to help you speak up in meetings
- Factors that could be holding you back
Why is speaking up in meetings important?
Since the beginning of time, meetings have been a place of gathering for sharing perspectives, collaborating on new ideas, and providing feedback. Even in ancient history, meetings were used to determine where to hunt next, or what changes the village should invest in.
The purpose of a meeting is for a group of individuals to gather and share thoughts, make decisions, or give updates.
By that same thought, if you’re in the meeting, you are considered valuable to the thought process. Your unique perspective and experience can help generate a new product feature, optimize a process, or even just help inform other members of the team. Placing your ideas on the table proves to yourself and your team that you’re capable of the job and in the right place.
Prepare in advance
Have your talking points in the meeting agenda so you’re prepared to share your thoughts confidently with your team by using a tool like Fellow.
9 effective strategies to help you speak up in meetings
- Prepare in advance
- Stop censoring yourself
- Ask questions
- Use a meeting agenda
- Believe in your answers
- Listen to what is being said
- Practice, practice, practice
- Commit quickly to speaking
- Ease into it
1 Prepare in advance
Context is key for your mental preparation. Are you walking into a casual meeting with your team to brainstorm a new idea? Or is a key stakeholder presenting that really important thing?
If you’re an anxious person, having a glass of water and your meeting notes open during the meeting will help ease your nervous energy. Preparing for your meetings in advance will help you stay focused on the discussion, and you’ll feel confident in your answers if questions arise. Showing up to a meeting prepared can also save you time by keeping the discussion on track, especially if you tend to be a nervous rambler.
2 Stop censoring yourself
You know the old saying, “you’re your own worst critic.”
For anyone feeling uncomfortable, it can feel like you’re on the outside of the meeting, and that your contributions won’t really be that impactful.
It’s important to remember that you’ve been invited to the meeting for a reason. Someone knows the value that you bring to the project and wants to hear your thoughts. If you’re ever unsure of what your purpose is of the meeting, ask the host or a close co-worker who is also attending. Knowing how you’re expected to contribute in the meeting is a great way to see the value that you bring to a project.
3 Ask questions
An easy starting place for speaking up in meetings is asking questions. Most meetings usually open up a question period to the wider audience. You can prepare questions in advance or ask them based on the discussion in the meeting. Using a meeting agenda tool like Fellow is helpful for writing bits of information or questions so that you don’t forget them when it comes time to ask.
Not only does asking questions show your team that you’re involved in and thoughtful about the project, but it also encourages you to be engaged throughout the meeting. As an engaged attendee, you’ll find it easier to become active in the conversations amongst your team members.
4 Use a meeting agenda
When preparing for a meeting, you can use a meeting agenda tool to help you set goals, identify the purpose for the meeting, and establish a “path” of discussion.
Meeting agendas can be built with different templates to suit the context and goals of your meeting. Agendas can also be a great reference tool for reflecting on questions during the meeting, and can be used as a source of truth when reflecting on the discussion.
5 Believe in your answers
Imposter syndrome is feeling inadequate or unqualified for a job you currently hold. While imposter syndrome can affect anyone, Forbes discovered that 75% of female executives experience imposter syndrome at some point in their careers.
To overcome imposter syndrome, you need to remember the value that you bring to the table. Being included in the discussion surrounding a new topic means that your manager or the event organizer trusts in your abilities to understand and contribute to the topic. Delivering your contributions with confidence helps the meeting attendees trust you and see you as someone they could turn to for future insights.
6 Listen to what is being said
The best meeting contributors are also the best listeners.
Part of knowing how to speak up in a meeting is learning how to engage with the rest of the discussion. Nodding along, listening carefully, and speaking up at relevant times are key ways to show that you are actively participating.
Listening intently may open segways to learning more about the topic at hand, on which you may have relevant insights. Remember that quality, thoughtful responses are always better than a jumble of random thoughts that don’t align with the meeting’s mission.
7 Practice, practice, practice
It’s normal even for CEOs of Forbes 500 companies to feel nervous when presenting new ideas.
Practicing a routine of strategies over time can help mitigate anxiety or fears that come alongside speaking up in meetings. Hold yourself accountable for your improvement, too. Let a manager know your goals for active meeting engagement and see what they can do to help or keep you on track. When you’re comfortable, ask for even more visibility in your next meeting and practice speaking with larger audiences.
8 Commit quickly to speaking
Meetings can sometimes move fast. To ensure you speak up at a relevant time, commit to speaking in the moment. Have confidence that you have a solid, pertinent contribution and deliver it clearly to the group. Deciding to speak in the moment limits the time that you give yourself to overthink or question your contribution.
If enough conversation passes that your contribution is no longer relevant to the current discussion, make note of your contribution for later. It can still be beneficial to reach out to a team member after the meeting for a short follow-up discussion.
9 Ease into it
A good way to start speaking up in meetings is by backing up the idea of another employee. For example, in a brainstorming session, you can show support or elaborate upon the idea provided by another team member. This contribution shows your manager that you are interested in being involved with the project.
Down the line, you can contribute your own ideas earlier in the meeting as you feel comfortable.
Factors that could be holding you back
Lack of physical or social cues
Especially when working remotely, you may struggle with finding the perfect time to speak, especially when cameras are off during meetings and you’re left unsure if the other members are engaged and ready to speak.
One option is to use the ‘hand raising’ tool that many video conferencing tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams offer. It’s a quick, non-verbal way to show your interest in the conversation without risk of interrupting another person.
You’re a new employee settling in
Remote work or not, building your professional relationships at a new job can be tough.
Connecting with your manager or another meeting attendee ahead of time can help you understand the goals and context of the meeting. Is this a regular weekly meeting with certain expectations? Is the topic of the meeting new to the rest of the team as well?
Asking questions to your team ahead of time is both a great way to prepare for the meeting itself and build your relationship with your team.
Limited time to brainstorm your contribution
With the right preparation and engagement, you can avoid the panic of speaking up during your contributions. Using a meeting agenda allows you to familiarize yourself with the flow of the meeting and its topics ahead of time, and you can also use the agenda to jot down clarifying questions or do some preparatory research before the meeting begins. Taking notes may give you short bursts of brainstorming time mid-meeting and may help inspire new questions or ideas that you can contribute to the group.
Speaking up in meetings looks different for everyone. Don’t be let down if the extroverted team veteran is way more outgoing and talkative in the meeting. Instead, focus on your own abilities and the value you bring to the project, and frequently check in with your manager to keep you on track with your goals. Soon enough, you’ll be confident, engaged, and ready to share!