Imagine this: You’re a new hire sitting in on a meeting, and in the middle of it, you realise that you have something to voice out in front of everyone. But as you think to speak up, the self-doubt creeps in – you suddenly worry that your opinion might be laughed at, or that you might slip up on your words.
Ultimately, you decide to stay quiet, the meeting concludes, and you return to your desk feeling discouraged and disappointed in yourself. If this is a common occurrence for you, you’re far from alone. In fact, it turns out that 50% of employees choose not to speak up either.
The fear of speaking up
A lot of people struggle not only with speaking up in meetings, but also with how to do so efficiently. The reason for this ‘meeting anxiety’ depends on the person, such as:
- Being afraid to speak up
- Having a lack of confidence in their words
- Feeling too inexperienced in their role to contribute
- Unsure of when’s the best time to speak up
- Feeling like their idea isn’t original or unique enough to mention
Yet, it’s essential for you as a growing professional to speak up, especially if you’re looking to develop your career. When you hold back, you’re stopping yourself from showing your full potential, and will hurt your visibility within the company.
Making it count
Still, it’s not always easy to speak up, so here are a few ways to make it a little easier for yourself.
1. Practise your words
If you know what the meeting’s agenda is beforehand, prepare your thoughts ahead of time. Knowing what you want to say can be a big confidence booster, especially if you’re worried about blanking out during the actual meeting.
Your notes don’t need to be full-on paragraphs, either. Instead, make use of bullet points, and jot down any important keywords that could help you in a pinch. Be sure to keep these notes on-hand throughout the meeting!
2. Start small
If you want to get better at speaking up, it’s necessary to get yourself out there by partaking in meetings again and again. That being said, there’s no need to throw yourself into the deep end, especially if you’re only just starting out! For example, you’d probably feel a lot less pressure sitting in a small employee meeting than a company-wide meeting.
3. Take inspiration from the good speakers
Look to those you see as confident and articulate communicators in meetings. Pay attention to how they put their contributions across, how others respond to them and what you find effective about the way they speak. Afterwards, try to emulate those qualities and incorporate them into your own manner of speech.
4. Stay engaged and keep listening
Admittedly, it’s easy to zone out during meetings at times. However, being an active listener is a crucial part of speaking up in meetings. Paying attention can not only make you a better contributor when you do speak up, but this also shows your respect and consideration for the other parties.
5. Push through self-doubt
A common fear is that what you’re about to say isn’t correct. After all, you don’t want to come across as ill-informed in front of your colleagues, or that your ideas are half-baked and don’t make sense.
However, you don’t have to wait to have the perfect idea before speaking up. If you have something that’s relevant to the meeting, trust your instincts and speak up. After all, you were hired for your talents and perspective – you’re in that meeting for a reason.
It can be an uncomfortable experience, and even if you fumble at times, it shouldn’t stop you from putting in consistent practice. It’s not about transforming into a strong-speaking extrovert to be a great speaker – rather, the most important thing is to let your opinions be heard clearly and acknowledged by others.