Ever attended a work meeting and felt like a spectator at a tennis match? Everyone else’s opinions are flying this way and that; meanwhile, you’re stuck on the sidelines, unable to get a word in edge-wise.
Don’t feel bad. According to a 2017 survey by Quantum Workplace and Fierce Conversations, about half of all employees don’t regularly speak their minds at work. This deprives the company of your experience and insights. You also want to contribute in meetings to get yourself noticed. So how do you get your voice heard?
- Speak up. You can’t be heard unless you speak. If you lack confidence about sharing your thoughts at work, you shouldn’t: You were invited to the meeting for a reason. Your opinion matters to the topic at hand. Embrace your own value and speak up.
- Prepare beforehand what you want to say and how you want to say it. Rehearse it with your significant other, a friend, or a colleague. Practice will make you more comfortable speaking up, keep you from rambling, and may reveal other points you want to express in the actual meeting.
- Be the first to speak. This guarantees you will be heard, especially in a meeting with highly opinionated, verbose participants.
- Speak up for others. If you can become comfortable praising a coworker’s idea that you agree with, you will lose your hesitancy about speaking up for your ideas.
- Ask questions. Questions help you gather more information, eliminate assumptions, and clarify what’s being discussed. Asking questions shows that you are actively engaged in the discussion.
- Always speak strongly and positively. Never say “I disagree” or call an idea “wrong” because such negative language could alienate the other person and make them less likely to listen to you. Instead, keep it positive: “In my experience …” or “I see it differently because…”
- Offer a solution. You’re a problem-solver! Why wouldn’t your colleagues want to listen to you?
If you are working remotely and having your meetings online, these tips also apply:
- Make sure your tech works. If you can, log into the app beforehand and test your mic, camera angle, and Internet connectivity. You might be making the most important point in the meeting, but if your image freezes and the other participants can’t hear you …
- Maintain eye contact. Working at home can offer many distractions. During a meeting, if your gaze wanders off-camera, other participants will be distracted too, wondering what you’re looking at. Keep eye contact. Some apps will allow you to “blur” your background to make sure your colleagues are looking at you, not your surroundings.
Here’s something important to keep in mind: Almost everyone is nervous speaking up in meetings the first time. We were. Then we realized our input was valued and everyone wanted us to speak up. The same is true of you. So take a deep breath and speak up! Everyone will be glad you did.