It’s not always easy to get your voice heard at meetings. Participating in meetings is an art and it’s not just about getting your voice in room. “It’s also about getting witness and value, and having an impact,” says Tracey Adams, PhD, owner of ThriveOn, which offers emotional intelligence seminars for women. To make an impact during a meeting, you need to have a point of view about an agenda item and express your opinion clearly, she says.
Follow these five steps to get your voice heard during your next meeting.
Master the pre-meeting
Before the meeting, find something on agenda that you are passionate about and prepare a statement that expresses a strong opinion or idea that goes beyond agreeing with the status quo. “Women tend to speak in meetings when they agree with something that is already on the floor,” Adams says. “Work on putting a new idea out there first.”
Arrive before the meeting starts and make small talk as colleagues come in, she says. This allows you to get comfortable with your voice in the room without any high stakes. “You are more apt to speak up during a meeting if you’ve already spoken to people,” she says.
Use power language
Get to the point and be clear about what you want. For instance, Adams says, there is a big difference between saying “I want this project to be successful so here’s what we should do” versus “Let’s take another look at this.” Banish qualifying words such as “maybe” and “what if.”
Prepare to speak
Speaking up at meetings is a skill and there is no shame in practicing ahead of time, Adams says. Find a group outside of work where you can practice speaking or create your own group with friends and colleagues.
Become an organizational scientist
Don’t get discouraged if your idea is dismissed. “You may get completely shut down,” she says. “Men get shut down, too, but they just brush it off.” It’s important to step back from the room and see what politics might be going on, she says. If you assess the room from an organizational scientist’s point of view, you will be more emotionally neutral if the group doesn’t embrace your idea, she says. Remember, the decision to jettison your idea has nothing to do with you.
Make an impact
Consider sharing your idea with a trusted colleague or two before the meeting and ask them if you should share your idea with the larger group, Adams says. This allows you to find an advocate for your idea before you even bring it up at the meeting. If they agree with your idea, Adams says, they will likely support your idea during the meeting.