How to Speak Up at Meetings and Share Your Ideas

Many of you have mentioned to me that one of your biggest stumbling blocks happens during meetings in the workplace. You are afraid to speak up for fear of speaking in public, fear of rejection, fear saying the wrong thing, or because of what may happen if you disagree with your boss… And I think that’s totally understandable!

While the fear behind the reasons that prevent us from speaking up when we are at work is a commonality for many of us, it is also a topic that I dive into deeper on Episode 073 of my podcast. It is important to think of our fear of speaking out during meetings as a challenge that we can overcome… rather than a roadblock or a part of our makeup that is permanent or that we cannot change.

In order to reach your goals and move forward in your career, you have to speak your mind! Sharing ideas and establishing rapport with coworkers and your boss is critical to advancement in the workplace… and I am happy to help you get on the right track with a few tips and tricks on How To Speak Up and Share Your Ideas so that fear no longer has the power to hold you back when it’s your time to shine.

Let’s get started!

 

  1. DO YOUR HOMEWORK AHEAD OF THE MEETING —

If you know you have a meeting to attend ahead of time, block off some time during your day to do a bit of homework before the meeting. This could be as simple as asking for the meeting agenda ahead of time… or if you’re comfortable, requesting a pre-meeting so you can familiarize yourself with who else will be in attendance, why you may have been invited to sit in, and what you will be discussing.

Once you have a little insight into the meeting, I suggest writing a list of your thoughts down in advance. You can even write out a few sentences that you can say during the meeting if you are feeling a little uneasy about coming up with thoughts on the fly.

Remember, the more prepared that you are, the more comfortable you will feel, and the easier it will be for you to participate!

 

  1. GIVE YOURSELF A SPECIFIC GOAL —

As you all know, I am all about setting goals, and one of my favorite tricks for speaking up during meetings involves creating a specific goal for possible talking points. You could, for example, make it a goal to say just one thing during the meeting. Once you’ve met this goal, you just might find that it’s even easier to say a second or a third thing! Getting out the pre-talking jitters by setting a small, easily attainable goal can be a total game-changer.

If you feel stuck on what you might say, I suggest asking a simple question, playing back what you’ve heard for more clarification, or offering a comment on what’s being said…

Any comment or idea that you can offer while the meeting is going on shows your boss that you are engaged and are invested in your work!

 

  1. SPEAK WITH CONFIDENCE (even if you don’t feel it) —

Confidence can be tricky if we are shrouded in self-doubt, especially during meetings.

To speak confidently, I suggest avoiding phrases that minimize your ideas or that make you seem tentative such as, “I don’t know much about this but…” or “This might be a stupid question, but…”  — You may still feel a little uneasy about what you have to say on the inside, but you will appear more confident if you avoid projecting that uneasiness to the rest of the room.

Focus, speak clearly and with intention and you will exude the confidence you wish to communicate!

If for any reason you think of a great idea but find that the conversation has already moved on, say, “I’d like to move back to an earlier point…” and share your idea. Or, if you don’t feel comfortable with that, make a note of your idea and share it over an email after the meeting.

 

  1. REMEMBER, YOU ARE THERE FOR A REASON!

Meetings happen all of the time, but that does not necessarily mean that you are invited to every single one! When you find yourself at a meeting, remember that you were invited because your manager or boss felt that you would have something valuable to contribute or that the meeting is directly related to you or your job. Take a chance that your comments, concerns or ideas will be considered vital to the meeting, and let them know your thoughts about the topic at hand!

This is especially true if you find yourself in a meeting with a variety of junior and senior employees. Sometimes, our natural tendency is to defer time to those that have been working for longer than we have and to just listen to what they have to say rather than to offer our up own thoughts. But this too has implications that may come across negatively to higher-ups: Worst case scenario? Your lack of participation could paint you as someone who doesn’t care or have any ideas of your own…

It’s up to you to set these misconceptions straight by using your voice and making sure that you are heard!

 

  1. OBSERVE THOSE WHO ARE SPEAKING UP —

We all encounter those individuals at work who seem to have no trouble speaking up during meetings, and who always seem to know just what to say at exactly the right time… Pay attention to those people!

Instead of spending your time worrying about what you will say, take a moment to observe what others around you are saying and how they say it. Just like a template you might use for any other task at work, you can use the way that others speak as guidance for voicing your thoughts and ideas.

My favorite trick here? For every question that someone else asks, come up with an answer in your head and then compare it to what others are saying. Once your answers start to match up with what’s being said already, you will feel more confident to speak up and know that your thoughts are on the right track.

If you are still not quite as comfortable sharing your ideas, I suggest that you start by asking simple questions like, “What are the next steps?” and “What do you think?” …Any question you might ask that is related to the conversation will put you at ease and help you to feel confident sharing your ideas later!

 

  1. GET FEEDBACK BEFORE (and after!) THE MEETING —

Mention to your supervisor that you’re working on speaking up and participating more during meetings, and ask for specific suggestions from them… You might be surprised by how much they take notice and are eager to help!

Ask for a few suggestions for what you can work on prior to when the meeting begins, and follow up by asking them how they felt the meeting went afterwards.

Any constructive criticism you can get will help you to recognize any areas that you might need to improve upon so that you can succeed and move forward in the future!

Has self-doubt and fear of speaking up been holding you back at work? Be sure to listen to Episode 073: Stop Overthinking & Take Action for some insight into what may be causing you to overthink and hesitate during moments when you should act instead. Have any of your own tips and tricks on finding your voice and speaking up during meetings? I want to hear them! Share in the comments below!

 

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Tonya Dalton
Tonya Dalton