Speaking up in meetings is crucial if you want to be promoted at work. People will see you as being smart, energetic, and sharp. Your inner confidence will help you express yourself, and the respect others will have for you will add to your confidence even further.

The Problem

Picture this: Everyone around the conference room table is discussing a new idea that they’re excited about. You think of a new way to implement the idea, and you feel a flush in your face and the rise of adrenalin. You sit forward on your seat and get your body to speak…and then you don’t. Before you know it, the time has passed for you to have your say. They’re on to the next topic.

And picture this: You’re listening intently to what is being said. The dominant people in the group are speaking, as usual. Then you have a great idea, something really valuable to say, but you can’t say anything. You’re too afraid that the idea is going to be rejected. You decide to say nothing. Then another person suggests the exact same idea, and lo and behold, everyone agrees with it and gives positive comments to the person who spoke up. You think, “That could have been me!”

What stopped you?

You have a unique contribution to make, a new perspective or concern that needs to be voiced, but your confidence is not strong enough for you to speak. When you have something you feel is important to contribute at a meeting, it’s time you learned how to formulate your thoughts, take a deep breath, and jump in!

The Solutions

There are many things you can do both before the meeting, during the meeting, and even outside of the meeting.

First, study what others are doing that seems to work. Listen to how they present their thoughts as well as the tone and volume levels of their voice. Then practice at home by yourself incorporating the best of what you observe into your own way of speaking.

Practice speaking up in informal conversations both inside and outside of work. Share your point of view. Breathe deeply and project your voice by speaking from the diaphragm. This gives your words more power and makes your voice stronger.

Realize that you’re in the meeting for some reason. Someone thought you had enough intelligence and knowledge to offer your thoughts or you wouldn’t have been invited.

Look at the agenda beforehand. If you see topics that are related to your job, your department, or your area of expertise, anticipate what updates you can give and questions your co-workers will ask. You might see an agenda item on something you want to discuss. Plan what you want to say and practice how to say it most effectively. You can also write out questions or comments that are pertinent to a topic.

During the meeting, as you see a topic come up that you want to comment on, jot down your main points so you don’t forget them and number them in a logical order.

When you speak, get to the point by saying your thoughts in a concise fashion. Give your thoughts and reasons in short sentences, then stop and let others respond. If you have a longer point to make, especially when you feel someone is going to interrupt, say, “I have three observations to make about this situation. First…” and then keep talking through the three points. This is an excellent technique so everyone knows you’re not finished when you take a breath. You can also show your co-workers the three points by counting them on your fingers.

If it’s appropriate, agree with something that was said before. “I agree with Charlotte about moving the date to October” and then go on with your thoughts. Use positive language instead of negative language. State what you think would be best and why, not what is wrong with their ideas.

If you feel any of your co-workers is going to have misgivings about what you’re saying, you can voice them before they get a chance. First present the positive side briefly, then bring up negative points, and then state the positive benefits again, pointing out how to deal with the negatives or how to eliminate them.

And, of course, keep your body language strong throughout the meeting. Sit up and forward and lean in a little. Keep your hands on the table, and make eye contact with everyone around the table. And smile.

Author's Bio: 

Vivian Harte is the co-author of Self-Esteem for Dummies in the Dummies series. She has helped over 12,000 people learn and use assertiveness skills during the last 14 years. She teaches online classes on assertiveness, self-confidence, and teamwork. She has a Bachelors degree in Sociology and a Masters degree in Public Administration. She taught college classes for many years in Tucson, Arizona. She has two grown children who are both successful. She lives in Tucson with her husband, three dogs and two cats.
She offers three online courses and 1-on-1 coaching, and you can find out more about these at her website, self-esteem-for-me.com. Are you having difficulty in your workplace? If so, check out Vivian's online course to learn how to increase your self-confidence at work and do a better job: How to Be Successful at Work.