7 top tips to get you speaking up in meetings

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Accredited: freeimages.com/Gideon Geldenhuys

Most of us sit in meetings each week; they are part of most work environments.

How do feel about the role you play in meetings? Do you often leave feeling frustrated that you didn’t really get to express what you wanted to? It is likely to vary by the meeting type of course but in our busy, ‘get our voice heard’ society, meetings are often not as effective as they could be. A blog on effective meetings is for another day. For now, consider whether your meeting ‘share of voice’ is what it should be. If you struggle to speak up, I would like to offer you some top tips.

We can all identify less than good meeting behaviours:

• Repeating something someone else has said (without it being as part of a summary), worse still taking credit for it!
• People interrupting one another (often due to enthusiasm and wanting to say what they think, rather than with malice).
• One most of us are guilty of – not really listening to others and failing to probe their views to increase our understanding. It’s easy to forget we have 2 ears and 1 mouth!
• The list goes on…

These are all behaviours that those feeling less confident, whether that be generally or due to a specific meeting type or topic, will decrease further their inclination to speak up.

So, if that is or can be you, here are some top tips for helping you to speak up in meetings – both practical and psychological:

1. If there’s a tricky topic which you need to give less than positive news on, if appropriate, talk to key people who will be in the meeting beforehand. This will take the pressure off and mean you aren’t subject to their immediate reaction in the meeting which could influence and encourage others in that direction. In short, some of the emotion will be taken away.
2. Particularly if going to a client meeting, agree with the rest of your team (assuming you aren’t leading) which topic areas you will both speak about and respond to questions on. This will help you prepare more effectively and make sure you have a role in the meeting and get to speak up. Doing so, will help the client’s perception of you and start to build more trust and rapport – if you attend and say very little they will question why you are there, unless you are very junior.
3. If the people in the meeting are new to you, try and find out something about them beforehand. Psychologically, just recognising them from a photo when you meet them will increase your confidence.
4. Think carefully about your seating position in the room. Try to avoid people only sitting along opposite sides of the table. Ideally there would be people on 3 sides to decrease the formality (unless great formality is required). This will facilitate conversation.
5. Make sure you feel as confident in yourself as possible. Pick a favourite work outfit for meetings that are important and that you are more concerned about.
6. Project your voice – when you do speak, do so with impact. Take a deep in breath to give your voice more power.
7. Take up your space in your chair; try to avoid keeping your hands in your lap and narrowing your body. This will positively affect how you look but also how you feel.

Joanna Gaudoin helps women and organisations achieve professional success by working with them on their image and impact. Prior to establishing Inside Out, Joanna Gaudoin spent 10 years in marketing and consultancy. She now works with women one-to-one, as well as running client events and workshops across all areas of image and impact including appearance, body language and voice as well as skills and confidence for different business scenarios such as meetings and presentations. To sign up for her free ‘Boost Your Personal Impact Guide’ and ‘Your Image for Success Update’, click here.

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