“I want to be more vocal at meetings. I’ve have some really great ideas but never know quite when or how to say them. And, sometimes I’m not following the discussion and don’t know how to ask so I won’t be seen as “dumb”. Please give me some tips so I feel comfortable speaking up.”
Speaking up in meetings — whether to put forth an idea, correct someone else or ask for clarification — can be extremely intimidating. Having a few useful phrases at hand can go a long way towards giving you the confidence you need to be able to interject your thoughts and opinions effectively in group situations and meetings.
When You’ve Got an Idea
Often people don’t speak up because they’re afraid of going on the record as wrong, uninformed, or as the proponent of a dumb idea. A great way to sidestep this inherent fear is to depersonalize your idea, putting a question to the group. When you think you just might have a good idea but aren’t overly confident, go ahead and lob in an off-handed caveat such as:
- Have we thought about… getting Steve involved in the PR campaign directly?
- Another option we may want consider… is pushing back the timeline until early October.
- Is it worth revisiting…last week’s minutes from the meeting to review the product specifications agreed upon?
When You’re Confused
What’s worse than sitting in on a meeting and having no idea what’s going on? You may have stumbled in late, tuned out at exactly the wrong moment, or simply never known much about the topic at hand — and found yourself falling further and further in the dark as the meeting progressed. No matter, the longer you wait to ask for clarification, the harder it is to reinsert yourself into the conversation. Here are some good phrases to use the next time you find yourself lost in a meeting:
- Forgive me if I’m behind the 8-ball here, but I’m a little confused about…which marketing program you’re suggesting we table.
- I’m not entirely sure I’m following you, could you please recap what you just mentioned regarding… the August delivery?
- I’m still not up to speed on why…we’re not using rail instead of truck.
Smart Moves Tip:
At the end of the day, you’ll do better for yourself if you speak up in meetings and make your case — whether to push a new idea, correct a misconception or simply keep yourself up to date and current on what’s really going on. You owe it to yourself and your team to contribute to your fullest potential — it’s far less intimidating then you may think. To enhance your communication skills also see: Are you All Ears and Are You Building Bridges or Walls?
What’s been your experience in speaking up at meetings? What additional suggestions can you give to feel more comfortable and competent?
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