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5 Ways to Speak Up at Meetings

As you know too well, meetings are a fact of life in the high tech workplace.

But you, as a foreign-born professional, may find these team, task force, and numerous other meetings stressful.

However, says Jennifer Kahnweiler, "Meetings are places where people make judgments. You’re doing a disservice to people if you’re not giving them info about you and what your results are.

Kahnweiler, Ph.D., is the author of Quiet Influence: The Introvert’s Guide to Making a Difference.

Here we share with you five ways to overcome the difficulties you may have about speaking up, expressing ideas clearly, and confronting differences of opinion. Several strategies are based on Kahnweiler's book.

The following strategies will help you to participate more effectively in meetings, which, in turn, will enhance your reputation as a key contributor in your workplace:

  1. Rehearse What You Will Say

  2. Arrive Early

  3. Speak Early

  4. Maintain Your Position

  5. Get Help

We conclude with benefits of speaking up and information about our speaking classes.

Women professionals can sign up for our speaking classes offered November and December through in the San Francisco Bay Area. Details are at the end of this blog.

#1. Rehearse What You Will Say

Rehearsing is key to preparing for meetings. Begin by reviewing the agenda, so you can jot down relevant ideas, comments, or questions in advance.

This preparation will compensate for the fact that you may not be at your best when thinking on your feet during the actual meeting.

Now practice saying aloud different ways to express your thoughts. You want to sound natural, not like you are reciting from memory.

To build up your confidence, practice before a mirror or imagine in your head what you will say.

Planning and rehearsing are especially critical, if you do not speak English fluently or if you have a heavy accent. Coming across as confident will give you credibility in the eyes of your co-workers.

#2. Arrive Early

Don’t add to your stress by rushing into a meeting at the last minute.

Instead, arrive early so you will feel relaxed and settled. This will also give you time to make small talk with your co-workers.

As we’ve discussed previously, making small talk helps you to gain valuable information about your workplace and to build positive relationships with your co-workers.

#3. Speak Up Early

If you have something important to say, do it early in the meeting—within the first five to ten minutes. Or encourage yourself to be the second or third speaker.

If you wait longer, you are more likely to feel more anxious. You may then talk yourself out of speaking up.

#4. Maintain Your Position

Maintain your position when challenged. You can simply repeat what you have just said.

In the highly interactive and assertive high tech workplace, it’s important for you to stand firm. Do not back down in the face of critical comments or questions about your work or your recommendations.

One effective tactic in dealing with negative comments is to give yourself time to think before responding.

Do this by countering with your own question. For example, if your calculations are challenged during a heated discussion, don’t answer immediately.

Instead, ask, “What numbers are you referring to exactly?” This gives you more time to formulate a response to the challenge.

If you are unsure of a response, simply say that you will get back to the questioner later.

If a co-worker interrupts you when you are making an important point, you can handle the interruption nonverbally, while you continue to speak.

Nod your head in their direction to acknowledge them. Or raise your hand about shoulder height with fingers pointing to the ceiling. Again, keep talking.

After nodding or raising your hand, you can also say, “I have a few more points to share on this. Then I can answer your question.”

Refocus after an interruption by repeating your key point. Then use a transition word or phrase, like “furthermore” or “I would like to emphasize...”

to smoothly continue.

#5. Get Help

If you want an opportunity to practice speaking with peers, join Toastmasters. There are chapters that meet onsite at companies and also at public venues.

In November and December, for women professionals, we are offering three classes through in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Search for "Speak From Your Strengths" with Susan Almazol on the website.

Our three classes are limited to 6 participants each. You will have

plenty of time to practice and receive feedback.

Our classes will focus on (1) quickly organizing random thoughts into authoritative statements using a simple formula, (2) creating a distinctive style from your strengths, and (3) projecting confidence with proven gestures.

Email Susan if you have any questions or wish to enroll:

Benefits of Speaking Up

Speaking up at meetings may be a challenge at first. But remember that remaining silent may negatively impact your career.

You become invisible. Since people don’t really know you, they may not think to ask for your input or recommend you for projects.

Equally important, your organization does not receive the benefit of your expertise. Consequently, the full value of your contributions may not be recognized.

Again, unless you speak up, this may mean you are passed over for important career opportunities.

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