Can I just say? How to be heard at meetings
Have you ever sat in a meeting, really wanting to contribute in some way but been unable to get a word in? Have you ever left a meeting running the ‘could have, would have, should haves’ of everything you didn’t say through your mind? I think we’ve all been there. There are lots of different reasons why you may not be able to speak up but often it’s because you just don’t know how to get your point across. If that’s you, read on for my 9 tips for getting your voice heard in meetings.
1. Think about why you’re at the meeting. Who invited you and why do they want you there? If you’re not sure, ask. Your boss might want you to just observe and learn, in which case you probably won’t be expected to say much. However she might want you there to raise your profile and get more experience or because you’re the company expert on one of the agenda items. Each of these possibilities will require different behaviour from you.
2. Prepare well. Check the agenda, find out what the main discussion topics will be. Read the briefing papers and be ready to contribute to those items relating to your area of expertise or experience. Jot down some bullet points and questions for each agenda item so you don’t forget what you wanted to raise during the meeting.
3. It can be tempting to be useful and offer take the minutes or write things up on the whiteboard, especially if you’re a woman or the youngest person in the room. Unless that’s what you’re there to do (see #1) avoid the temptation if you can. A head-hunter once told me that acting as scribe can count against you at an assessment centre unless you also fully take part in the day’s activities. Most scribes don’t. After all, if you’re focussing on getting the notes, minutes or actions right it doesn’t leave a lot of time for contributing to the meeting.
4. Get in early and say something relevant and interesting as soon as you can, even if it’s asking a question. It will take the pressure off you and you’ll settle in to the rhythm of the meeting more quickly.
5. When you do have the floor speak calmly, clearly and get to the point as quickly as you can.
6. If someone interrupts you unreasonably, pause and ask if you can just finish the point you were making.
7. Never start a sentence with an apology, even if it’s a figure of speech. ‘Sorry, can I just say….?’ may put you on the back foot. Why preface your point at all?
8. Raise your hand slightly, or lift your pen a little to signal to the chair that you would like to speak.
9. If they’re moving on before you’ve had your say raise your hand or lean forward and ask the chair if you can make a final point before that agenda item is closed. If you choose do this make sure that your intervention is good and valuable and that you’re not going over old ground or raising issues that have already been addressed.
These are the things that have worked for me and my clients but I would love to hear your tips – please share them below.
Taking part in meetings can be tricky, as can running them (there’ll be a blog soon on chairing meetings). They can be stressful, especially if you’re new in your role or not very confident. If you find meeting etiquette and participation difficult why not have a free coaching session on us? Just click on the link below If that’s you: