I used to dread going to meetings because I felt like I had nothing to say – or at least I would mumble my words badly making whatever I say ridiculous.
I have been wanting to do a video on how to speak up in meetings for some time now because I know that this is a pain point for a lot of you out there! Now, I’m excited to be talking about this with you today.
Would you prefer to read rather than watch? Not to worry! You can read the blog post below.
Alright so let’s dive into this in chunks!
So we will talk about what to do before the meeting, during the meeting and after the meeting.
If you have been following me for some time then you know I’m a big believer in preparation. I guess because preparation really got me through some of the hardest things – I’m such an advocate. But, I’m serious, be prepared. IF you see that you have a meeting on the calendar for Thursday morning and it’s Monday morning, ask for an agenda so you can see what the topic points are going to be. That way you can prepare yourself mentally for what that hour is going to be focused on. Also, it helps you to think about what you can add. Rather than going into the meeting and having to force yourself to speak up in the moment on a topic that you haven’t thought through. Again, look through the agenda ahead of time and pick a topic or two where you can add something that might be able to add something of value.
A lot of people I talk to believe that in order to participate and speak up that they always have to be insightful. The truth is sometimes the value you bring is asking a question and getting the people around the board table to look at something differently. I used to work with someone who believed in provocative statements. Which I think to some people might have been a shocker but I thought it was incredibly helpful because it allowed for a launch pad of different thinking. So, when you’re preparing, think of the different ways that you can add value based on the topics or talking points in your read ahead.
The way that you dress certainly affects the way that you show up, the way you feel and the way that you are perceived. Plus, as humans we draw conclusions based on what we see.
So pick out and put aside what you are going to wear. Listen, even if you know them and work with them on a daily basis, showing up looking properly triggers something positive to the person on the receiving end.
If you take yourself seriously, others will take you seriously. Self respect leads to being listened to.
Know yourself and participate based on that. So if you are the nervous type and might chicken out the longer the meeting goes on, choose to speak up earlier in the meeting so that you are not so anxious and can listen for the rest of the time.
Next thing I want to talk about is interruptions. Fortunately, I have never worked somewhere where people were interrupting me while I was speaking. In fact when I spoke it felt like people were intently listening. Either because I was making sense, or I wasn’t I’m not sure. But the point is I’ve never had to deal with this. But I know many of you – particularly my female leaders have had this problem.
Here’s what I’ll say – take back the conversation. Don’t let whomever take over. Let them know you were not finished and continue.
Now, I know I might be talking to some people pleasers so you might not want to do this out of fear of sounding harsh or mean. But I have something to tell you on this – you don’t sound mean! You are just very sensitive to how others are perceiving things, the truth is you were speaking and should be able to finish what you are saying.
Another tip – don’t apologize or downplay what you are about to say. I was guilty of this for SURE. I was very much aware that in meetings like this that not only was I one of the youngest in the room but I was also new to the role.
Considering the years of experience that everyone had in the room was more than my age made me feel like I had to preface what I had to say before saying it. I didn’t! First of all, I was in the room for a reason and secondly, starting my sentences like that actually did more harm than good. It’s called negative bias. When you start a sentence with a negative statement you are casting doubt on the words you are about to speak. You’re basically putting it in their head that what you have to say isn’t as important or whatever. Don’t do that.
Using gestures adds body and clarity to what you are saying. We are much better understood when we communicate non-verbally. And I mean that’s the point right? You want to be clearly understood in this meeting? So take advantage of the different communication tools you have in your arsenal.
When you take notes it keeps you focused on the topic which will make you better able to participate. It is so easy to get distracted – by the phone, the computer etc, but if you’re present and you take notes to keep you present then you will be surprised how your brain will pick out points for you or things that you can comment on because you are actively participating through note taking.
Ok so for after the meeting my one and only thing I want to say is don’t over analyze everything that happened. Whether you spoke up or not, or didn’t speak up as much as you wanted to – don’t beat yourself up about it – just try again the next time. Beating yourself up and going over every perceived wrong that you think you did is not helpful for you. At the end of the day, these meetings have a purpose – focus on that purpose rather than yourself.
July 22, 2021