How often do you find yourself sitting in a meeting and you don’t know how to or don’t dare to speak up? You’re not the only one.

Maybe you’re scared of saying the wrong thing: “I rather not say anything in case I sound stupid.”

Or you have trouble thinking and making comments on the spot. You much prefer to think things through and then have a well prepared argument rather than throwing our half-baked ideas.

The good news is that you don’t have to get a new brain or become a new person to solve this. You simply have to adjust your process to allow you time to think and prepare yourself.

But how can you possibly prepare for everything that might come up in a meeting?

That’s not necessary either, remember you’re part of a team and others will contribute as well. You simply have to make a start that allows you to make one or two meaningful contributions during the meeting.

Here’s how you can prepare:

Spend five to ten minutes before the meeting brainstorming at least 3 answers to each of the following questions

  • What do I already know about this subject?
  • What do I still want to learn about it?
  • What impact does this have on my area/ other departments/ other projects?

That way you have a minimum of 9 talking points ready for the meeting.

An example:

Let’s say there’s a meeting scheduled about an upcoming product launch. You’ve been in the lead of developing this new cosmetic formula and have already tested it with some consumers. The meeting, you know, is with the colleagues from marketing and they want to discuss the next steps to bring this product to the market.

Think about what you already know:

  • the recipe of the product and how to produce it in small scale
  • the feedback of consumers
  • the shelf life and other stability parameters
  • how to do a quality assessment
  • which packaging material is suitable
  • ….

Then make a list of what you’d like to learn:

  • which countries do they want to launch in and in what order
  • have they made final decisions on brand, product promise etc. (so you can make final adjustments to scent and feel of the product)
  • when is the launch date 

Lastly, consider impacts this project might have:

  • the product is very similar to another product in your company’s product line and they might compete with each other
  • the high quality ingredients used in the formula don’t allow for a low pricing
  • there is another product launch coming up, so capacity to run trials for scaled production might be limited

Within this list you brainstormed you’ll have a number of high-quality talking points with which you can contribute to the meeting. 

Communicating clearly and with conviction (you don’t want to sound like you’re second guessing yourself) is important if you want to be seen as an expert and you want people to involve you early on. That’s why it’s such a huge part of what I teach my clients. Here’s what L. wrote in one of her weekly reflections:

“I’ve been much better in my preparation for meetings this week, making a few more detailed notes and also considering questions I might get asked.  I feel I’ve definitely made progress on the speaking up in meetings chart that we discussed in our last session.  There was even one meeting where I seemed to be the one asking all the questions which is a rarity!”

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