Learning to Speak at Meetings

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A lot of times when we think of speaking in public, we think of standing in front of lots of people, probably holding a microphone or standing behind a lectern and delivering a speech we prepared.

What no one ever told me was that speaking at meetings, the simple act of contributing my ideas, was also a form of public speaking. I felt the same anxiety to speak up, to share my perspective. I often would wonder “Do I need to share this”? “Don’t they already know about this?, What new thing am I going to say”? Would my contribution really matter?

To make matters worse, someone may eventually start saying something and then they mention something I was going to say and then I say “aha” there goes my amazing contribution.

Honestly sometimes, I feel my contribution is mundane and unless I have something“special” to say, I better say nothing. Other times, I would be intimidated by the other people on the table believing that they had more knowledge and experience and so there was surely nothing I was going to say that they have never heard before.

I remember when I was in the University, we were having a class and the lecturer asked for contributions. I added my contribution and one of the boys in class said, “you just had to talk because you wanted to say something”. He said it jokingly, but I processed it internally (lol, now I know better).

This followed me into adult life and I kept all my ideas to myself at meetings for all sorts of reasons.

  1. What if I say something wrong?
  2. What if I am just saying what has already been said
  3. What if someone wants to leave the meeting and my question is just prolonging the meeting?
  4. .What if I say something that doesn’t really make a lot of sense?

The list is endless but now I see that I was only contemplating the sinking of things. I was contemplating what could go wrong. So now I ask;

  1. What if my contribution helps the team make a better decision?
  2. What if I am showing my superiors team mates and bosses that I don’t really have anything valuable to add?
  3. What if I may say something similar but in a way that would help the team “see” things from a different perspective?
  4. What if there is a lady like me in the meeting who would feel encouraged and inspired to also speak up because my actions gave her the permission to do the same?

I started to see things differently, I started to see that not speaking up at meetings was not serving me or serving my team.

I thoroughly believe that if you truly don’t think your contribution is necessary, you don’t have to say something just because you want to be heard however, in learning to work that “contributing muscle” here are some tips that would help;

  1. Speak early – this will help you get out the point that is on your mind before someone else says it.
  2. Don’t over analyze – There is no perfect contribution, no perfect idea, just share.
  3. Take off your ego cloak – Yes sometimes pride is on full display. We don’t want to be wrong. We don’t want others to say we are wrong. Let me help you here, you will not always be right and that is very okay. Just think about it, being right all the time must be a tad boring, lol. So take off your ego cloak, let pride fall and be a good sport.
  4. Keep it short and simple – so while learning to build this muscle, keep your contributions short and simple. As you gain confidence and get more comfortable with contributing at meetings, yes you can experiment with longer and more robust contributions.

So the next time you are at a meeting with your colleagues (online or offline) prepare to let your voice be heard.

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