By: TSP Blog | @TSProckstars
Meetings can be one of the most intimidating environments for introverts. When mixed with extroverts, they often find themselves sitting back and letting others speak. The key to a successful meeting is having all opinions heard, and when introverts make up nearly 50% of the U.S. population, meetings lose half the value and insight when introverts choose not to speak up. If you’re an introvert — this is for you! Here are seven ways to be heard in meetings.
Researchers have found that introverts think best in quiet and solitude. Use this to your advantage in preparing for meetings beforehand. Work through each point on the agenda, making notes and thinking carefully about your thoughts and opinions. Then, take these notes into the meeting with you to ease your worries. Because speaking spontaneously is more difficult for introverts, working through your thoughts and ideas beforehand will make speaking up in meetings easier.
Practicing what you say and the manner in which you say it will make you more comfortable and confident in your speaking abilities. If talking on the fly is a skill you’d like to build, an improvisation class is a great place to start. Getting out of your comfort zone in an improv class will increase confidence in your ability to think on your feet.
ARRIVE EARLY AND WARM UP
Public speaking can be intimidating for most people — especially introverts. To ease your nerves, arrive early and allow yourself some time to get comfortable with your peers and the meeting environment. Calm your nerves down by talking to colleagues as they arrive and keeping the conversation casual. The simple act of talking to others should calm you down and make speaking up less intimidating. If you’re wary of small talk about the weather or last weekend’s events, try discussing a work-related topic such as a specific point on the agenda. This will bring you assurance and comfort.
SPEAK UP EARLY
Speaking early in the meeting will prevent you from getting too nervous or waiting until it’s too late to say what you need to. Volunteer to open the meeting, perhaps by presenting something relevant to the group like a progress report or case study. But, don’t let speaking up early prevent you from paying attention to the rest of the meeting. Listen intently, take notes and give your opinion or share your knowledge if the opportunity arises.
Responding to other’s thoughts with questions is sometimes easier than voicing your own opinion. With that being said, questions should always be relevant and stimulating. Asking questions helps in moving the dialogue forward while also getting your voice heard. Some key things to ask include:
- Are we asking the right questions?
- Can we run these ideas by others?
- How does this address our mission?
- What could go wrong?
- What's the next step?
DON’T LET THE FEAR OF SPEAKING UP CONSUME YOUR THOUGHTS
If speaking in meetings isn’t natural for you, you may find yourself worrying or imagining all the ways things could go wrong. Thinking this way will increase your anxiety and hesitation to speak. When you begin to feel those anxious thoughts, acknowledge them and make a point to change them. Refocus negative thoughts to something positive like what value or unique perspective you can bring to the conversation and your energy will change.
FOLLOW UP AFTER THE MEETING
Myers-Briggs’ profile of introverts concludes that they need time to process things before responding. Use this to your advantage by following up with your colleagues after some deeper thought. Alternatively, if a colleague makes a thought-provoking point, stop by his or her office after the meeting to discuss the topic further.
Making an effort to improve your meeting participation will ensure meetings are a more comfortable experience. Rest assured that finding your voice in the company takes time, especially as an introvert. Each time you speak up, you’ll get more relaxed — don’t get discouraged if the first time feels awkward. With a little practice, you’ll be speaking up in meetings in no time!