How to Speak up in Meetings When You’re an Introvert
If you find it easy to speak up in meetings, then congratulations. But for many of us, it’s a struggle.
Maybe you wrestle with this challenge like one of my readers who asked:
“I tend not to say much in meetings since I’m introverted and lean toward the quieter side. I think this holds me back from a growth perspective in my current middle management role. Any suggestions on how I can speak up more?”
To advance and succeed in your career, you need to be seen and heard, and meetings are a crucial time to show up and demonstrate your value.
So, here are 5 ways to make it easier for you to speak up in meetings.
As you read, I encourage you to look out for the ones that are going to be most useful for you, because what will help you the most depends on what makes it hard for you to speak up.
1. Reframe the “Why”
Reframing the purpose of why you’re speaking up is especially helpful if you dont like self-promotion. This was the case for me. I found that if I reframed speaking up in meetings so that it wasn't about “me” but rather about representing my team, my client, or a group that’s counting on me to speak on their behalf, it made it easier for me.
The more visible and respected you are the more you can help your team, your clients or your colleagues who are in other groups or working for you on a project. By speaking up and giving the project visibility, you can pull your team, clients or colleagues up along with you.
2. Prepare the “What”
Preparing what you’re going to say ahead of time is especially helpful if you find it hard to come up with smart comments when you're already in the meeting and feeling nervous.
There are two ways that you can contribute to meetings.
1. When you’re the “expert” in the meeting
The first way is to share, convey or update people on something that you’re an expert in. I recommend preparing three main bullet points ahead of the meeting. You’ll feel so much more confident when you rock up to the meeting and already know what you’re going to say.
2. When you’re not the expert
If you’re not the expert in the meeting, you can still contribute by asking a question. And asking questions can be more powerful than knowing answers.
For example, you can ask a question that shifts the whole direction of the conversation. Or you can ask a question that helps to link the presenter’s topic with what you and your group do so you can find a way of working together to create even more value for the organization.
You could also ask a question that gets the person to explain what they’re talking about further, and that might be useful for the presenter as well as everyone else in the room.
3. Think about “When”
There are three times in a meeting when you can speak up.
1. The Beginning
This is the perfect time to introduce a new concept or go over something you’ve already prepared.
2. The Middle
This is a wide space of time when you can contribute. You could add to or support somebody else’s point, ask a question, or add something you’re knowledgeable about that would enhance the dialogue.
3. The End
If you’re great at summarizing conversations and synthesizing themes, the end of the meeting is the perfect time to speak up. Doing so can make you sound strategic and like you have a lot of gravitas.
So, pick your spot.
Get help jumping in if needed
But if you find it really hard to jump in, one thing you can do is to enlist the help of the person who set up the meeting and ask for a slot on the agenda. That way, you know you’ve got a set topic that you’re going to present so you can prepare and feel confident.
Another way is to enlist a colleague to call on you or ask you a question during the meeting when it comes to a topic you know about.
When you ask for your colleague’s help, you could say something like, “Hey Beth, I’m a little bit nervous about jumping in and knowing when to jump in. Could you ask me to say something when we get to the part about X?”
Beth could cue you in during the meeting by saying something like, “That’s a great point, John. May and I were just talking about this in the hallway beforehand. May, why don’t you share what your thoughts were on that.” Then you have a natural opening to jump in.
4. Practice out loud
Practicing out loud is helpful and even essential if you get nervous. It’s much easier to sound authoritative, confident and at ease when you’ve rehearsed the points you want to make. And rehearsing in your head is never the same as speaking the words out loud. Just as actors practice their lines out loud, you can do the same to feel confident in your delivery.
Then when the opening comes up to speak up during the meeting, you can jump in with confidence because you’ve already heard yourself say it out loud and know what it’s going to sound like.
5. Start off strong
This means saying something within the first 60 seconds of entering the room to break the ice.
This strategy is helpful if your worries sound like, “What am I going to say? How am I going to say it? When is the opening for me to speak? What if I say the wrong thing?”
Back in the day, I would sit in meetings and worry, “It’s been 10 minutes. I haven’t said anything. The meeting is half over and I still haven’t said anything.” And by the time I got up the courage to say something, somebody else would’ve made my point and everyone would be acknowledging what a great point they’d made.
Then I’d beat myself up for missing my opportunity to speak up. It was a downward spiral. That’s why I always like to hear my voice in the room in the first 60 seconds.
What you say doesn’t need to be momentous
It could even be before the meeting has started while you’re waiting for people to arrive. As you’re pouring coffee for yourself or just chit chatting, sitting around the table, you could say, “Hey, Greg, great to see you. How is project X going? You were just starting it when I saw you last month.”
Hearing your voice in the room early breaks the ice. Why not give yourself the benefit of that head start?
Go ahead and speak up in your next meeting
The world benefits when you share what you know and what you’re curious about, so stop holding back!
As you approach your next opportunity, remember these 5 ways to make it easier to speak up in meetings… even if you’re an introvert:
- Reframe the why
- Prepare what you want to say
- Think about when you want to jump in (and get help if you need it)
- Practice out loud
- Hear your voice in the first 60 seconds
Which strategy will most help you speak up in meetings?
For more tips and simple ways to speak up in meetings, download the free cheatsheet of 37 Things to Say and Ask in Meetings to Sound Strategic.