It pays to speak up and contribute in meetings. But if you’re someone who finds it tough to speak up when others don’t leave you a natural opening – or worse, interrupt you – how can you get your voice heard?
Even introverts and the soft-spoken can get heard in meetings if you have the right strategy. Here’s how.
- Don’t stop talking if you’re interrupted. Ever notice that the person who gets to finish speaking when two people start talking at once is usually just the person who keeps talking? Most of the time, the other person will quickly cede you the floor.
- Explicitly ask for the floor. If people keep talking over you, try saying something like “I’d like to get a word in here” or “Let me interject.” People will usually immediately let you talk, since otherwise they’d look rude.
- Don’t be afraid to ask to go back to a topic. If you’re having trouble getting a word in edgewise, one option is to jot down your notes so that you don’t forget what you wanted to say. Then, when there’s a pause – even if the conversation has moved on – you can jump in and say, “Can we go back to ___ for a minute? I had a thought about…” Do this a few times, and you may even train other meeting attendees that they need to slow down to let people speak before rushing onward.
- Speak up early in the conversation. It often gets harder to find an entry into the conversation as the meeting goes on. Plus, once you’ve involved yourself in the discussion, people will often more naturally include you in the conversation as it progresses. Plus, if you tend to be shy, speaking up early on can build your confidence and make it easier to jump in again later, in part because you won’t be feeling like it’s someone else’s conversation in which you’re not playing a part.
- Sit toward the center of the table. It will be much harder to leave you out of the conversation if you’re physically right in the middle of it.
- Don’t use language that undermines your own message. Language like “I might be wrong but…” or “This might just be me, but…” will downplay what you’re saying. Start with the assumption that your contributions have value, and choose language that reflects that.
- In the long-term, work to build a reputation for making useful contributions during meetings. If you establish a pattern of doing this over time, eventually you should be able to command the attention of other participants more easily.