Do you ever find yourself hesitating to speak up at meetings – especially ones where high-powered colleagues (or “higher ups”) are in attendance? Considering how much time you spend in meetings, maybe it’s time to get back on the dance floor. Here’s how.

  1. Choose a topic ahead of time. Pick out one item on the agenda that’s important to you and prepare in advance, so you’ll be ready to chime in when the subject arises. As you get more accustomed to talking, you can do this with several topics, but starting with just one will build your confidence. Also, review your notes from previous meetings to recall what gets talked about, what gets decided, and how you are affected. Context and focus will provide energy to your contributions.
  2. Be among the first to speak — ideally in the first 10 minutes — even if you’re just agreeing with someone, or adding a little more information to what someone else has said. Why? The sooner you contribute, the less time you have to generate self-doubt. When you hesitate, you will find it gets harder to break into the discussion.
  3. Ask questions. One of the easiest ways to get more comfortable with speaking is to ask others to elaborate on a point they’ve made that interests you. By probing a little more deeply into someone else’s comments, you’ll feel engaged and become an active participant.
  4. Don’t censor yourself. Commit beforehand to expressing at least one idea that pops into your head at each meeting without second-guessing yourself or pausing while you edit what you’ll say. Once this becomes a habit, your ability to jump into a conversation without preparing first will overcome any lingering fears of saying the wrong thing.
  5. Don’t give your power away. It’s common in meetings to defer to a boss, others higher up in the organization, or someone who intimidates you. However, you may be giving your power away in the process. Senior leaders notice when someone stands firm with his or her own ideas. Look for opportunities to showcase your strengths and competencies.

 

Fisher, A. (2013). Shy at work? 7 ways to speak up. Retrieved from http://fortune.com/2013/05/31/shy-at-work-7-ways-to-speak-up/

Garfinkel, J. A. (2011). Getting ahead: Three steps to take your career to the next level. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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