Speaking up at work is sometimes easier said than done. While it’s easy to talk about things we know and understand well, it can be hard to articulate professional goals or, even more commonly, harder still to speak up in meetings with senior executives or clients.
But here’s the thing: if you have goals to advance professionally, no one will know if you don’t speak up.
To help you find your voice, we’ve compiled a few tips to help you express yourself confidently and impressively to influential audiences:
1. Make a Plan Prior to Important Meetings
Think about the issues or topics you want to bring up, and prioritize the list (in case you don’t get to everything). Preparing talking points helps you stay on task and also boosts your confidence (it might help you relax, too, but no promises).
2. Don’t Be Wishy-Washy
Show that you can be assertive when it comes to your ideas and successes. Stay away from filler words like ‘sortah,’ ‘kindah,’ ‘you know?’ and watch the modulation of your voice. Some people have a tendency to turn statements into questions when they’re nervous, and nothing says terrified like nervous giggle-speak.Think before you speak, and speak slowly to have a little more control over any nervous tics.
3. Speak Up Early On
In a meeting, try to make a comment within the first ten minutes. It helps make your presence known, and it gets increasingly harder to get in a conversation later on. Voicing an opinion early on also gives you less time to feel doubtful about your contributions.
4. Ask Questions
Not sure what to say, but know you NEED to say something (if we’ve reiterated that enough)? Ask a question. It shows you’re actively listening and engaged, and can be a kind of lay-up for the other person speaking to answer something about which they’re knowledgeable.
5. Remember that Body Language Speaks Volumes
Think about your perception of others in meetings. What do you think of someone who is slouched down in their chair? Resting comfortably with with elbows on the armrests? Curled up in a small corner of the chair? Leaning on their elbows on the table? Making eye contact with everyone as they speak around the table? Note the behaviors that truly exude confidence and assertiveness, and mimic those. Lose the rest.
The bottom line is this: to get what you want out of life, you have to tell people you want it before it slips away. How do you find opportunities to speak up?