How to Get Your Voice Heard in Meetings
Meetings can be a particularly problematic, yet important, platform. They are the place where we’re most visible, and, can feel drowned out amongst a room of people all fighting to get attention.
It pays to contribute confidently in meetings. You don’t want to end up in a six-month performance review with a boss who complains that you “don’t speak up.”
A few ideas that may help to make you get heard:
Get Your Voice into the Room Quickly
You have to be a good strategist. Instead of leaving your contribution to chance — have a plan. Challenge yourself to put your ideas on the table in the first few minutes, the vibe of the meeting is set early, and by contributing then, you’re establishing yourself as an active participant.
Another strategy is to get on the agenda in a prominent role. If you don’t have a formal presentation, you can request to be put on with the meeting organizer.
Ask Pertinent Questions
Asking questions can be easier than sharing ideas, it helps clarify everyone’s thinking if, in the battle between competing ideas, you can propose a thought-provoking question. You may even want to write down a list of questions in advance. Even if you don’t ask them.
Interrupted… Interrupt Back
Be bold say: “Stop interrupting Me.”, “I just said that.” Or “No explanation needed.” Try the joking-not-joking approach. For instance, “Hang on; I’ve still got the floor.” Or even, “Do we really need to use parliamentary procedure here!” Just don’t stay silent.
Also, get in the habit of helping turn attention back to other people who get interrupted. If you do this consistently for everyone, when you do it for yourself you’ll come across as someone who pays attention, with an appetite for order, rather than as someone seeking self gratification. And, of course, some of the people you lend a hand to may do the same for you at some stage.
Taking a public speaking class isn’t a great idea, because speechmaking is pretty much a pre determined process, this won’t usually happen in the free for all of a meeting. If you have trouble speaking up (or if the trouble isn’t yours, but rather a personality problem held by co-workers), you’re going to want to practice.
Try joining a book group, show up and make your opinions about The Fifty Shades of Grey heard. If you get steamrollered and have a terrible time it’s better to happen at the Bishops Park Bookworms than at work. Pick other groups as well, and keep at it until you can hold your place in any room.
Most of the little speeches people make in meetings would be more powerful if they simply ended sooner. If you’ve made your point, simply stop talking, don’t follow it with a bunch of wasted verbiage, or people will then tend to think that half of what you always say is drivel. Cut the crap. Say what you mean. Then stop.
This may seem counter-intuitive, but by far the most effective way to get people’s attention is to give them yours. Whenever you feel like someone isn’t listening to you, try really listening to him or her first, and then see what happens. It doesn’t always work (some people are truly self-involved), but it usually does.
Create a Pact with a Friend
Ask them to nod and look interested when you speak (when they’re interested, of course). Let them to back you up publicly in meetings. Seriously, try it. It’s not fair, but if it works… who cares!
Practice Assertive Body Language
Sit at the table, point to someone, stand up, walk to the front of the room, and maybe place your hand on the table— whatever it takes. These “power poses” make you appear more authoritative, and they actually increase hormone levels in your brain giving your confidence a boost as well. Why not try “leaning in”, researchers have found that physically leaning in makes you less likely to be interrupted.
Own Your Voice
Speak authoritatively. Avoid the soft voice (authority is associated with the strong, firm voice, not with a softer, lighter tone). When you do talk, cut to the chase, focus on topics people find interesting, and paint a vivid picture, explain less, but use clear, compelling words and images. Whatever you do, never, never apologise before you speak.
If all else fails, you can always learn how to talk really, really… LOUDLY!