It can be hard to feel confident sitting at the meeting table. And, unfortunately, research shows it’s even tougher for women, who often underestimate their opinions.
Whether you are a recent graduate, have years of professional experience, or are a natural introvert, let’s put a stop to this lack of confidence and find ways to gain the courage to speak up and be bold. Here are 10 ways to find your voice in meetings, make sure you speak up, and sound strong doing it.
1. Speak first.
Before the meeting, take the time to prepare your thoughts. When the time comes to discuss the topic, be the first to speak. Doing so gives you the opportunity to create the discussion instead of delaying your insights, or hearing someone else offer the same ideas you had.
2. Speak confidently.
Yes, even if you are shy. Find the courage to participate, even if your contribution is small. Besides, if you’ve prepared in advance, you’ll be ready to articulate yourself concisely.
3. Practice your delivery.
Part of making yourself heard is speaking smoothly. We’ve all been guilty of relying on space-fillers like “kinda,” “um,” and “you know?” Qualifiers like these detract from the professional image we seek to convey. It might sound silly, but try to practice what you'll say out loud before attending your next meeting.
4. Agree with good ideas.
Even if you don’t have anything new to add, affirm others’ ideas. Doing so shows you’ve been paying attention, and your colleague will appreciate the kudos and support.
5. Ask questions.
This is one of the easiest ways to speak up in a meeting. Show you are engaged and involved by asking questions that will spur the discussion or clarify an idea.
6. Take notes.
This is especially important in longer meetings or meetings that are introducing a new concept. Jot down notes and be prepared to readdress them when the discussion opens.
7. Raise your hand.
Yes, it’s old school, but if you find you can never get a word in edgewise, reverting to this simple method should get the facilitator’s attention.
8. State it clearly.
To further emphasize your point, consider starting your thoughts with phrases such as “I strongly suggest” or “I recommend.”
9. Believe in yourself.
Your opinions and ideas or no less valid than anyone else at the table. Be fearless in owning your beliefs and don’t allow self-doubt to cloud your convictions.
10. Don’t censor yourself.
Find the courage to voice your real opinion. You'll be seen as the valuable professional with expert opinions that you are.
In a fast-changing work environment, businesses need everyone’s best thinking to achieve the best outcomes. Take ownership of your opinions and find the courage to assert your ideas. You’ll be glad you did — and it won’t go unnoticed by your supervisor and coworkers.
Tiffany Couch is the CEO and founder of Acuity Forensics, a forensic accounting and fraud investigation firm that helps unravel complex financial crimes.