Studies show that organizational leaders spend 40-75% of their days in meetings. If you’re one of the many spending more than half their day in meetings, it’s important to speak up and get your voice heard. Remember, people want to hear from you. If you want to learn how you can speak up in meetings to increase your visibility, read below for tips on leveraging your talents to truly be confident in the place you’ve earned at the table.
1. Share your expertise
Why were you invited to this meeting? Your attendance was requested! Remember all the experience and knowledge you have, and trust that you can leverage how well-respected you already are. Don’t hold back from speaking up and sharing what you know. Assume that you are empowered to share your opinions – people want to hear from you! The company benefits when you weigh in, so give yourself permission to be more outspoken in your areas of expertise.
2. Use your knowledge outside your area
Don’t just limit your input to your specific areas, either. You don’t have to jump in with ill-informed opinions or sweeping statements that could offend those more well-versed on a topic. Instead, use a mild-mannered and questioning approach to contribute. For example, try asking, “I’m curious why we wouldn’t do it like this?” or “Are there other tactics you’ve considered to move forward?” Ask as many questions as you need to get a better handle on the topic, and to gently and subtly offer your thoughts. When you start to be present this way, people will more actively seek you out to gain your insightful and unique perspective.
3. Shake off hesitation
You have earned your place in the organization, so don’t be guarded or hesitant with your opinions. Learn to speak more quickly, without delaying and stop censoring yourself. Show up with a strong executive presence -– using confident body language to project an air of authority and take up space. Be aware that how you dress, stand, sit or even walk in the room can be seen as either more present or more subdued. Make eye contact, take a seat at the table and don’t hesitate to get into the conversation. You belong here!
4. Push boundaries, challenge authority
Don’t be afraid to rock the boat a little. You’ve built up the reputation and the political capital to disagree with others without completely disrupting your interpersonal relationships. And, if done respectfully, you have plenty of leeway when it comes to challenging authority and/or long-held opinions. You can take a different stance or an opposing perspective regardless of your position, even if you get push back from higher-ups. Stay true to what you believe in and you will gain respect for (respectfully) holding your position -- you don’t need to acquiesce just because someone is senior to you.
5. Interact as an equal
This brings us to the final point -– join the conversation and feel equal to someone senior to you. It takes time and practice to get over feelings of intimidation when sitting at a table with senior leaders. But if you are showing up, you’ll have to get in the game, and that includes putting aside those feelings in favor of interacting as if the playing field is level -- which it is! There’s a reason you’ve been included, so own it and resist the urge to defer to others’ voices.
Speaking up is hard to do. Don’t wait for the right moment, or you’ll notice how much you are holding yourself back from sharing. Be confident and actively contribute in meetings. Your voice needs to be heard. This is how you show value and make a positive impression. Many people would prefer to gain reputation by letting their work speak for themselves, but getting ahead involves more -- you must show up and own your space in the organization.
Joel Garfinkle is an executive leadership coach who recently worked with a senior leader who was struggling to get his voice heard amongst his extroverted peers. Garfinkle coached him with the five ways to speak up at meetings. Within two months, leaders began to see his value and sought him out for his opinions. Garfinkle has written seven books, including "Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level." More than 10,000 people subscribe to his Fulfillment@Work newsletter. If you sign up, you’ll receive the free e-book 41 Proven Strategies to Get Promoted Now!