Power Of Silence: Silence demonstrates that you are confident in your value, that you know who you are, and it gives you power in times of negotiation.Tonya Rineer
While this can be true at meetings, we also all know that being silent all the time will not promote your career. If you want influence on decisions, get promoted, a salary raise, or just raising your profile in the organisation, you need to speak up at meetings and contribute with something intelligent.
As an introvert this can be quite challenging. Introverts do often not like to speak publicly without preparation and can feel insecure by speaking freely.
Below are 5 steps to boost your confidence to speak up at meetings.
Step 1: Understand the purpose of the meeting
Preparing a good meeting takes time and is often neglected as the organiser thinks it will be obvious or develop as the meeting flows.
This is a capital mistake, but not the subject of this post. We deal with the consequences of such meetings.
Say, you’ve been invited for a 2 hours meeting with the subject Long-term focus. You might think it is about getting the newly established team, you are part of, to understand the focus of the project recently started. For you, it seems to be an information meeting.
The organiser might have a different expectation. Maybe she planned to hear what you, all the attendees, think it takes to keep long-term focus on the project in order to succeed. She thinks, it is more like a brainstorm meeting.
The 7 other attendees might all think differently. You see the problem.
Of course, the agenda might be more specified than that. But if anything seems unclear or could be interpreted in various ways, chances are, that attendees have different perceptions of the purpose of the meeting.
It is surprising that most organisers often didn’t consider what the expected outcome of the meeting is. Say, if it was an information meeting, then the expected outcome would be attendees would be informed about goals and objectives. On the other hand, if it was a brainstorm, then the expected outcome would be ideas to solve a problem.
Write the organiser for clarification. You can ask the following. What is the purpose of the meeting? And what is expected to be the outcome of the meeting?
Step 2: Understand your role at the meeting
You have probably tried to walk away from a meeting confused about why you were invited. How could you end up in a meeting like that, where you didn’t understand your contribution?
Did the organiser consider whether your competencies were necessary? Or did they just invite you just in case your insight would be relevant? Could it even be that the organiser didn’t have any clue?
The shameful truth is, that it could all be the case.
You will more than often experience that some attendees did not have any clear role at a meeting. They are merely a backup or a invited because discussions might need this expert.
If it is not clear what your role is at the meeting. Say, you might have a presentation at the meeting, then it could be obvious. But more often, invitees have no specific role on the agenda and even if they have, it might be unclear what is expected from you by the organiser.
Obviously, it is hard to prepare for a meeting where you don’t know what is expected from you. Hence, write to the organiser. What is my contribution expected to be?
If the organiser doesn’t have a good answer. Say, she replies Oh, maybe we need you in the discussions.
Decline the meeting. Your time is more valuable than that. If any questions arise, they can ask you afterwards. More than often your role is not clear and you may not be a compulsory participant.
Step 3: Prepare for the meeting
It is almost certain. Almost without any exception. When I get praised by my participation and contribution at a meeting, I did some magic before the meeting.
You might ask. Is preparation magic?
Yes, the better you prepare for meeting, the better results you get. It sounds obvious, right? But so few people prepare properly for the meeting. The key issue is often as identified in step 1 and step 2.
It requires that you understand the purpose of the meeting and the expectations of your role at the meeting. Without that understanding, you preparation is your best guess. If you guess wrong, which will most likely happen, your preparation time is wasted.
Preparation requires that you write all down in your notes for the meeting. Do not go to a meeting without your written preparation. Why? Because when discussions begin and you engage, then you can easily forget your prepared thoughts. Write them down.
As an introvert and trying to contribute confidently at meeting can be challenging. The last thing you need is to forget your preparation to the meeting.
Step 4: Write notes during the meeting
I used to ignore this. Also, at that time I would have small interest in most of the meeting agenda. I would basically loose interest in the discussions and not follow them.
Then, suddenly, I would hear something of my interest. But because I didn’t get the full context I would not engage in the discussion. I would be afraid of saying something, which might already been said or discussed. What would people think of me if I brought up something already debated.
Then I started writing notes at meetings. I started to write short points down in bullets, and also adding full sentences if important.
This gave some benefits.
Most importantly, this gives you focus through out the meeting. Secondly, it helps you keep track on all discussions. Such that, when something of your interest comes up, you have a clear picture in your head about previous discussions from your notes.
You don’t have to go through your notes, most likely, it is all clear in your head.
Expert tip Write full quotes of important point other attendees make during the meeting. This will have huge impact if you later in the meeting can recite what they said and add to that.
Taking notes and reviewing them afterwards will give you insights into what works well and what doesn’t. It is an investment into learning the art of meeting.
Step 5: After the meeting
This point is where the introvert can excel.
Most introverts have more to contribute with than they express during the meeting. The reasons might be of different character, time ran out, discussions were dominated by some articulated extrovert, extra supporting arguments to your idea, or similar.
The good news is that most organisers are very receptive after a meeting and more openminded to your thoughts. Further, after your preparation and notes during the meeting, you have a full view of the situation and can give a good view high level perspective of the meeting.
Get the habit to talk to the organiser of the meeting afterwards.
The above steps starts by removing uncertainties, prepare, be strategic at meetings, and make follow up with the organiser.
- First, what is the purpose and expected outcome of the meeting. This clarifies what the organiser expects from the meeting.
- Second, what is expected from you as an attendee.
- Third, knowing what is expected gives you insight to prepare efficiently. This is where introverts are strong and can outperform their extrovert counterparts at the meeting.
- Fourth, taking notes at the meeting will keep an overview of the meeting.
- Fifth, get influence after the meeting. At this point organisers are more concentrated and receptive for input and feedback.