Meetings are not just meetings. Meetings are an opportunity to form bonds with your colleagues and even position yourself as a leader, regardless of your job title.
While most of us probably spend way too much time attending agenda-less meetings that distract us from getting the work done, speaking up during a meeting has its advantages. When you speak up during a meeting, it shows you’re capable of sharing ideas and opinions, and having difficult conversations with people when necessary.
Whether you’re planning to have conversations with team members or current or potential clients, here are a few ways to communicate with confidence and get your point across:
- Prepare to contribute to the conversation. If you struggle with a fear of looking stupid or saying the wrong things, this is a friendly reminder; you were hired to bring your experience. This includes sharing your unique point of view during the discussion. It doesn’t matter if your perspective is not well received by people in the room; your goal is to contribute.
- If you’re worried about what the higher up in the room might say, good leaders expect you to ask questions and share ideas to create understanding or show them that you’re engaged in the conversation. Even if you’re an introvert who prefers listening, you can still honor your moment to think and process things, and then prepare to speak up.
- Do your homework. By researching the attendees, you’ll gain more confidence if you’re aware of who’s who in the meeting.
- Ask the meeting organizer for an agenda ahead of time. Sometimes, if you identify topics or issues before the meeting you can solve a problem early on or at least come to the table with options for the discussion. This also saves time and avoids a hassle and headache for everyone.
- Identify any fears or assumptions. For instance, if you’re concerned about sounding too harsh, run your ideas by someone you trust to get some feedback on how your words may be perceived.
- Speak with confidence. Whether you like it or not, people are going to form their own opinion of you, so you might as well take control of your narrative.
- From the words you choose to the tone of your delivery, how you communicate gives people a better sense of who you are, and what you stand for. Avoid phrases that make you sound less confident. For instance phrases such as, “Maybe this is irrelevant” or “I may be way off base” weaken your message and make you sound unsure of yourself.
- Embrace your unique voice by sharing your story. Just because there may be people in the room with higher levels of influence, don’t assume their experiences, perspectives or ideas are more valuable than yours. To make your voice heard, share your story. Your story includes your experiences solving problems as well as your alternate perspectives about common processes or trends in your field. Here are a few ways to start your conversation:
- In my experience…..
- This issue we’re having sounds similar to the time when I …..
- Offer up an analogy to illustrate a comparison to something people are familiar with. Consider starting with “You know how when.”
- Disagree respectfully. Don’t let a disagreement put a dent in a relationship or take away from the purpose of the meeting. Even if you disagree with what’s being said, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.”
- Instead of saying you’re wrong, you can say, “That’s not my experience.” You can also use curiosity to encourage meaningful conversation, rather than arguing about different ideas:
- What if we looked at the issue this way…
- Walk me through how you see things.
- I’m trying to understand (X), can you help me understand how…
- I’m curious about how…
- Advocate for yourself especially if someone interrupts you or cuts you off while you’re speaking. First, say their name to get their attention and then you could say:
- “Lisa, let me finish. Thank you.”
- “Judy, I’m looking forward to your point of view but let me finish my thoughts and then we’ll continue to discuss your ideas. Okay? Thank you.”