An Introvert’s Guide to Being Seen and Heard (and Taken Seriously) in Meetings
Everyone’s been stuck in meetings that are dominated by one or two people. They’re comfortable and confident and say anything that comes to mind. Meanwhile, you, the introvert, take great notes, analyze remarks the others make, and come up with some great ideas for solving the issues being discussed. The only problem is that those ideas remain stuck in your head because you aren’t contributing to the conversation. Don’t you want to be heard?
While you’ll never be mistaken for the office extrovert, and being a loudmouth isn’t in your nature, it’s critical that you speak up. After all, you’re in that meeting for a reason. Your experience, historical knowledge and fresh perspective are useless if you don’t get involved and contribute. However, for whatever reason, sometimes it’s hard to be heard.
If the fact that you’re an introvert … or just shy … has held you back at times, here are eight ways to break through your meeting jitters and get heard:
- Review the agenda and prepare to address something. Before the meeting, scan the agenda and choose a topic that is important to you and think about your viewpoint. Giving this some thought before the meeting will help you feel prepared. Write down your points so you remember them.
- Stop censoring yourself. Share your thoughts and ideas without over-editing them. At least once per meeting, practice by saying something that pops into your mind, so you get comfortable joining in. Don’t hesitate.
- Ask questions. Use your knowledge and experience to ask for clarification on someone else’s ideas or comments. Often, they’ll appreciate the fact you’re interested in knowing more about their views.
- Practice by making one or two inconsequential comments. Sometimes just agreeing or supporting someone else’s comments with your own observations is a good way to speak up. These remarks can add to the flow of the meeting: “I agree with what Bob said because I had this same experience.”
- Be succinct. Make your point clearly by keeping it brief. If you have a complicated point, let people know up front: “There are 3 reasons I don’t think this will work. First ….” This tactic will help keep people from interrupting you.
- Decide how often you want to speak. Whether it’s once or three times, setting this goal will motivate you to participate. Maybe include something you’ve planned in advance, a question, and one idea that just pops into your head.
- Don’t defer to someone else or assume their ideas carry more weight. This is a tricky area because you may have someone in the room whose opinions obviously carry more weight, such as the owner or CEO of the company. However, even in that situation, your opinion is still valid if you disagree with something that has come up in the conversation. In most other situations, if you’re intimidated by someone in the room (like the company extrovert), it’s easy to defer by saying something like, “I think this, but Mr. Jones has much more experience in this area, so maybe we should ask him.” We’ll repeat what we said previously just so it sinks int0 your brain … your perspective is just as valid as anyone else’s! Your thoughts are important when helping to flush out the best decisions.
- Speak up first. When you express your viewpoint first, you’re less likely to start doubting yourself. If you wait, it’s often hard to break into the discussion.