Meetings. Some people hate them. Some people love them. (Some people love them too much).
Bad meetings that don’t offer tangible benefits deserve our wrath. They sap productivity. Grrr.
But good meetings that are short, focused and result in things getting done deserve a thumbs-up.
The trouble is, a lot of people dread meetings (even the good ones) because they lack the confidence to participate.
Ever found yourself shrinking into your seat, hoping nobody calls on you to offer an opinion?
Or sitting there with a great point to make, but not quite brave enough to make it?
Don’t worry. You are not alone. And there are things you can do about it.
The ability to contribute in a productive and assured way won’t do your prospects any harm (heck – some people have built careers on sounding impressive in meetings, and not much else).
Try these 10 tips.
Before you go into a meeting, do your homework.
If you know you’re going to be expected to provide an opinion, get some ideas in the bank.
Doodle a few notes if you like – things you can raise if the conversation turns the right way.
This probably doesn’t need saying, but just in case…
Got an important meeting on Tuesday? Don’t turn up in your laddered tights or crumpled shirt.
If you look credible, you’ll feel more confident.
If you look disinterested or withdrawn (slumping in your chair, gazing out of the window etc), you’re more likely to be excluded from the discussion – and less confident about pitching-in.
Look alert and interested in what everyone is saying.
Make eye-contact and keep your hands above the table (hands can be very expressive and help you look engaged).
So you finally feel confident enough to speak out, and what happens? A colleague rips your idea to shreds.
Don’t worry. And don’t go back into your shell.
Listen carefully and – if you can see merit in what they’re saying – say so. If you can’t, say so and explain why.
The key is to get the tone of voice right. If you can respond in a rational, measured way that makes you look open to feedback, people will respect that.
We’ve all been there. Meetings dominated by ego-maniacs who just want to look better than everyone else.
Yep. These people see meetings as competitions.
But it’s quality, not quantity that counts. Don’t be afraid to soak up the discussion and let your thoughts germinate before speaking up.
It’s better to make a small but meaningful contribution, than a big useless one.
If you agree with someone, back them up. Even if you just say “you’re right” or “that’s a great idea…tell us more.”
It’s important to fuel good ideas in a meeting.
And there’s a chance that person might need a little bit of buy-in to give them confidence to press the point and elaborate.
You don’t need to have all the answers (a lot of the time, you don’t need to have any of them). Ask questions.
In a productive meeting, questions are just as important as answers.
Some meetings are scarier than others. If the stakes are high or you’re expecting confrontation, it’s natural to feel nervous.
But if you can manage those nerves, you’ll feel more confident.
Don’t talk too quickly. Don’t be afraid to pause or slow the tempo of your speech.
Control your breathing. Keep it calm and steady.
If your hands are shaking, try tensing your thigh muscles – it helps (apparently)!
OK. Bit of a cop-out, but if you really don’t want to speak during the meeting, you might still be able to get your thoughts across.
If it feels appropriate, reach out to the right people afterwards – grab a quick word in person, give them a call or drop them an email.
Start by saying “I’ve been thinking about our discussion and its sparked some further thoughts that might be helpful.” Something like that.
There is no 10. It just didn’t feel right offering a list of 9.
But like most things, confidence in meetings comes with experience. Just don't get over-confident.
Remember. Quality. Not quantity!