The dos and don’ts of speaking in meetings

When it comes to meetings, whether online or face-to-face, some of us need advice on how to speak more often – and some of us need advice on when to tone it down a bit.

The best meetings have plenty of concise, pithy observations, with everyone contributing and everyone listening. If you have too many thoughtful, silent introverts or chatty extroverts it can all become unproductive.

Speaking up in meetings is a crucial way to raise your profile in your company and get recognition for your work – if you do it right. So, here are some ideas on how to improve your contributions in meetings, whichever side of the personality divide you fall on.


Prepare your key points

If you’re an introvert, you probably like to feel prepared, so deciding what to say in advance can work in your favour. It can also help you to make a contribution early in the meeting, so people will turn and direct their comments to you, ensuring you don’t head back to the sidelines.

“Preparing your thoughts ahead of time can also help give you a push to be one of the first people to speak up, which is probably not your normal style. In general, it’s best to advance your ideas early,” says Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.


Remember someone might be waiting for you to speak up

Part of feeling shy about speaking up is imagining that no one wants to hear what you have to say. So, it’s worth remembering that other people may be feeling exactly the same way, having the same thoughts and waiting desperately for someone to put them into words.

“Out there in the vast universe there is probably another human being, just like you, who is hoping someone might say or do the very thing that you want to say or do. The world will never move forward if we are all politely waiting for someone else to articulate our thoughts,” says education expert Laura McInerney.


Don’t show off

We’ve all been there, nodding off in the meeting as someone stretches out a point that could have been made in moments into a lengthy speech. Your contributions will be more memorable if they are more concise: one expert recommends trying to fit them into a tweet for maximum impact.

“Is your message potent and concise enough to fit into 140 characters or less? If not, you may be rambling on. Trim and enhance,” says Joey Price, founder of career consulting firm Push Consultant Group.


Don’t do all the work for others

Particularly if you’re in a leadership role, it’s important that you don’t dominate the discussion. In internal meetings, you need to hear everyone else’s perspective. And in meetings with clients, you need to give your team a chance to shine.

“Giving others an opportunity to speak in a meeting is one of the most powerful ways we can build their leadership skills, raise their visibility — both internally and externally — and give the client a more comprehensive sense of support from your whole team,” says Allison Shapira, founder of Global Public Speaking.