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How To Have Your Voice Heard In A Meeting

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The average employee spends about 1/3 of their workweek at meetings. Participating in a meeting is an art -  with practice, you can become a confident, valuable contributor.  We’ve outlined some tips for shining at meetings, so you can increase your visibility and enhance your career prospects. Here are a variety of ways to be heard and respected.

PREPARE

So you have a big meeting on your schedule and you’ve read the meeting agenda.  Start by finding an item you feel confident and knowledgeable about. Your work is to develop your ideas into an insightful statement. This will give you the confidence you need from the get-go.  If you need notes, don’t hesitate to use them.  They will only act as reminders and show the effort you put into your preparation. Consider sharing your ideas with one or two trusted colleagues before the meeting in order to get feedback and give yourself the chance to practice ahead of time.

ARRIVE EARLY & SPEAK EARLY

Whenever possible, arrive before the meeting starts and make small talk with colleagues.  This will make you more comfortable and therefore more likely to speak up during the meeting. If you’re running late and arrive after the meeting has started you’ll be drawing the wrong kind of attention to yourself.By speaking early in the meeting, you’ll immediately boost your confidence and feel more relaxed and positive. Waiting too long to speak will have the opposite effect - you may become more nervous and someone else may put forward your ideas.

SPEAK UP FOR OTHERS

A great way to start building your confidence is by looking out for fellow meeting attendees.  If someone says something you agree with, say so.  Not only are you giving credit to your co-worker for their ideas, you can take this opportunity to add your own thoughts on the subject.  And don’t be afraid to ask questions!

USE POWER LANGUAGE

Dr. Tracy Adams, owner of ThriveOn, offers emotional intelligence seminars for women in the workplace. Adams suggests several phrases to help you to clearly state your opinion.

  • “I strongly suggest” instead of “How about”

  • “This is absolutely right” instead of “I tend to agree”

  • “My strong advice is” instead of “I think maybe”

  • “Here’s my plan” instead of “Maybe we can”

  • “I recommend” instead of “What if”

SOME DO’S AND DON’TS

DO

  • Keep it short – Don’t go on and on, your efficient delivery will be appreciated. And being as succinct as possible also lowers the likelihood of being interrupted.

  • Remember to breathe! Abdominal breathing will make you more relaxed and confident and therefore more likely to be heard.

  • Speak slowly. Don’t rush, speak more slowly than you normally would.

  • Make eye contact - as you’re speaking, rest your focus on one person at a time for a few seconds.

  • Remember to smile, this will help you to connect and present a friendly demeanor.

DON’T

  • Don’t apologize – State your contribution with conviction and avoid saying “I’m sorry, but…” This weakens your position.

  • Avoid saying “I disagree”. People don’t want to feel confronted.  They will not be open to your ideas. Instead say “I wonder if we might also consider”, “I see it differently because” or “I agree to some extent but I have some doubts about…”

  • Don’t self-edit or censor yourself. Have conviction in your thoughts and ideas.

  • Don’t wait for a “eureka” moment to speak!

To be effective, meetings need to be worthwhile events, not opportunities for a small subset of attendees to take center stage.  You can learn how to make the most of meetings and by so doing you will breathe new life into your workday. Having your opinions heard can be an incredibly satisfying and empowering experience!