Oi you! Are you listening? Probably not the best way to start a blog, but do you find it hard to make you voice heard in meetings or with colleagues? It is not about being noticed it is about the contribution we make, so it is extremely important you have the tools in your toolbox to assist?
Maybe it is the seating arrangements, or the size of the room. Could it be that it is in a closed forum, or worse an open one? Is it because you feel that others are more domineering and will ‘shoot you down’? Or is your line manager in the room and you are painfully aware that they will be judging you?
Although it can feel like you are the only one struggling with these issues during meetings, you will not be alone. How many time have you been to a large meeting/conference and wished you asked that burning question, but did not? This is natural and probably 90% of the others in the room were feeling the same. This is self-doubt, “what will people think of me”……”it’s probably a stupid question and everyone will judge me” and I am sure other things will also be going through your head. But then you kick yourself for not speaking up. How can others do it without a concern? I’ll let you into a secret, they too had these feeling, but they have learnt how to deal with them and just as they have overcome their self-consciousness and can speak up, so will you.
So let’s consider the smaller meeting, which for some can be more intimidating. How can we get our voice heard?
In a small meeting you maybe sat around a board table and there could be some who sit is specific places due to hierarchy or roles they have to play. However, if you have a choice where to sit you will feel more confident if you are comfortable, so consider the following:
- Find a place where you won’t be too hot or cold.
- Ensure that you cannot be distracted i.e. down face a window or door.
- Sit by someone who you know and feel comfortable to be by.
- Ensure you can make eye contact with everyone.
- Make sure you have everything with you that you need. There is nothing worse than being sat in a meeting and suddenly thinking you have forgotten to bring something.
- Be engaging.
Have Confidence in your subject matter
You are in the meeting because you have something to offer. Either it is because of membership of the team, your or skills related to the topic being discussed. Or perhaps it's a good developmental opportunity for you. But remember that you are there because you are wanted and valued, so feel confident.
Remember that your body language speaks volumes. Make eye contact with the other attendees, it helps not to focus on one individual. Having a good posture at the table makes a positive impression. It suggests that you are alert, engaged and respectful. Show interest………..even if you aren’t interested or knowledgeable on what is being discussed.
When to speak
If you are new to the environment and still finding your feet, it is probably best that you learn the etiquette of the meetings first and also to understand everyone’s input. As time goes by you will have more confidence and knowledge to have input into the whole discussion, but whilst you are finding your feet it is probably best to still to what you know best.
If there is an agenda and you can, get yourself it, so that you will have a guaranteed opportunity to talk. If this is not possible, let everyone know in advance that you have something you want to share. Much easier via email and should provoke interest that earns you attention in the meeting.
If you have managed to influence the agenda try to further influence by speaking early in the meeting, you can have your say and feel more relaxed, receptive and positive during the rest of it. If you hold back, you'll likely become more nervous, so take the lead and be assertive! Once you have covered your point it will help you relax and have valued input.
What to say
Start and end your contribution with conviction. Avoid starting with an apologetic "I'm sorry, but…" This will immediately weaken your position. Start proudly and strongly ?
with, "I'd like to say…" or "Can I just add…?" Once you have said what you want to s ay, simply finish speaking. People will appreciate your efficient delivery.
Avoid saying, "I disagree." People hear this and immediately feel confronted and annoyed, and they'll probably stop listening to you. It's far better to say one of the following:
- "I wonder if we might also consider…"
- "I see it differently because…"
- "I agree to some extent, but I have some doubts about…"
However, to start with you may find it too nerve-racking to have your own agenda item. It this is the case the best way of getting involved and getting your voice heard is to begin by asking questions about what other attendees are saying. This shows that you are attentive, engaged and interested. If you tend to go blank with fear in meetings, come armed with a few questions written down in advance. But be careful that you don't ask so many questions that you interrupt or delay the meeting.
Are you introverted?
If you are an introvert, don’t feel you are on the back foot, take advantage of the fact that you'll likely be reflective, strategic, thoughtful, a good listener, and observant. You can draw on these attributes in two ways: in the lead-up to the meeting, research the subject under discussion and plan what you want to say or ask; once in the meeting, summarise what is being said and offer a considered opinion.
In summary, unfortunately, your colleagues cannot read minds. Therefore, no matter how many great ideas you have in your head, they are useless to you and to your team until you express them. Additionally, getting yourself noticed in the workplace is vital to your success. When you "hold your own" in a meeting, you demonstrate confidence and proactivity, and this can mark you out as a future leader.
Not getting the chance to speak, or not feeling that you are being heard when you do, can be deeply demoralising. If you do not deal with them, those feelings of frustration, demotivation and powerlessness can spill over into the rest of your working life.
So take a deep breath and speak up……….get your voice heard!
By Russell Dalton - January 2018