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6 Tips to Speak Confidently in Meetings (Even When You’re A Bit Scared)

Based on an article written by Melody Wilding, LMSW

When I speak to a group, I am surprised that one of the most recurring questions people ask is: ‘How can I speak confidently in meetings?’

Next Week? How to get people to speak up in meetings.

It usually comes up in raising issues derailing a project or impacting the organization’s health and culture.

Most people are very anxious about raising issues that they may feel are contentious—the idea of speaking in front of peers and bosses and being paralyzing to some.

Whenever it comes time to contribute, some people freeze, overthink their response, or end up rambling.

Afterward, people beat themselves up, feel like an imposter be less confident.

Sound familiar?

If so, you’re far from alone.

Read about running great meetings.

Speaking Up in Meetings

It’s not uncommon to be a high achiever and, at the same time, highly sensitive. This describes many of us who thinks and feels everything more intensely.

Everyday workplace situations might be moderately stressful to the average person can cause some to shut down, especially when overwhelmed. Thanks to your ability to process information more thoroughly, you bring many assets and talents to the table.

But it also means you are more susceptible to stress and emotional reactivity, mainly when it involves judgment or evaluation from others (like in a meeting or on a conference call).

Meetings can be harsh environments because:

  • You want and feel you have to listen carefully to others’ ideas
  • You prefer to observe and absorb what’s happening before offering an opinion
  • You have a high sense of responsibility, so you show respect by deferring to the leaders at the table
  • You tend to be more reserved, which mean more outgoing coworkers may dominate the discussion
  • You are overwhelmed more quickly and may freeze under pressure
  • You can think deeply and see all sides of a situation, which can lead to overthinking
  • You are so empathetic that you worry about what other people think of you

 

6 Strategies to Speak Confidently in Meetings

Sitting frozen and fearful through yet another meeting is a terrible feeling. Take heart because it doesn’t need to be this way. It is entirely within your power to take control and ditch a habit of staying silent so you can get ahead.

Elevating your visibility at work is essential if you want your career to evolve and grow. You work hard and have great ideas to contribute—you should be making an impact and getting the recognition you deserve.

With a bit of practice from these tips, you’ll finally feel like the integral team member you’ve always been.

  1. Banish Pre-Meeting Jitters

Your hands are shaky. Your stomach is doing somersaults. You suddenly start second-guessing every thought you have. These are common pre-meeting anxieties. It’s normal to experience anticipatory stress when you feel your intelligence or contributions are being evaluated.

Instead of doubting your jitters as a sign that you’re inadequate or otherwise not up to the task at hand, befriend your stress response, reframing it as a sign you’re ready for action and prepared to bring your best.

Ease Into It

It may be tempting to arrive right before a meeting starts to appear prompt or avoid awkward small talk. But if you feel rushed or short on time, this will only exacerbate the existing stress you already feel during meetings.

Instead, build in a buffer and plan to settle in before things get underway. Allow yourself to ease into the physical meeting space. If it’s a virtual teleconference, get comfortable with the webinar controls, your mic, and webcam ahead of time. As colleagues arrive, focus on making conversation with one or two people at a time.

This can help ease anxiety and make speaking up for the duration of the session seamless.

Commit To Speaking Early

Have you ever come to a meeting with ideas and planned what you want to say, then left realizing you said nothing the entire time? You are not alone, but staying quiet is doing yourself a disservice. It typically gets more challenging to enter the conversation as the meeting progresses. The longer you wait, the more your anxiety will build.

Growth often comes from discomfort, so push yourself to speak up early. Ask a question or offer an opinion on a new business proposal. Try to say something in the first 10 to 15 minutes of the session–whether to welcome attendees, present your main argument, ask a question or offer an opinion on a new business proposal.

Use Your Strengths When Speaking Up

You don’t have to be the loudest in the room. Even the soft-spoken can still make an impact by backing up coworkers’ comments with a simple “Great idea! I can see that working we” l.”

You can also focus on asking powerful questions. You are likely very observant, which gives you an edge when it comes to posing the kind of thought-provoking questions that haven’t crossed your colleagues’ minds quite yet.

Be The One To Take Action 

Did something come up in the meeting that could use more research? Commit to taking on something for the next meeting. It shows you have initiative and that you’re interested and invested in your organization.

This is an excellent example of employing a pre-commitment device, a habit formation technique you can use to nudge yourself towards desired behaviours, be more motivated and likely to follow through.

Challenge Your Beliefs About Contributing

Many people’s leadership instincts may be held back by the ‘Imposter’s Syndrome’ where subconscious insecurities can seep into our behaviour to this day when speaking up.

Growing up, what were you told about standing out? Were you given the message by your parents, teachers, and community that you could be whatever you wanted, or did you internalize concepts like: “People won’t like you if you try to stand out”?

Read what an employee might tell you. If they could.

Remember

Don’t be held back by real or imagined negative feedback.

Somebody hired you because you are intelligent, competent and qualified to do your job.

If they thought that, the least you could do is respect their opinion and speak up.

You have got a lot to offer.

Now it’s time to let everyone know it.

 

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