Being able to speak confidently in meetings is a key to your career success. When you are able to communicate your ideas to others in these situations, you multiply your influence and open up new opportunities for promotions and leadership.
You will get more recognition and respect from the people who attend meetings with you if you use the strategies presented in this article. This information is taken from the free guide and video series, Talk More Confidently: sign up for those free resources if you want to learn even more about becoming a confident communicator.
To Talk Confidently, Prepare Thoroughly
Before you attend meetings, find out what they will be about, what questions will be asked, and what issues will be discussed. Do as much research as you can beforehand to prepare for the meeting. Find specific date, stories, and example to back up what you say.
Anticipate what other people might say and think through what the best responses will be. If time permits, do some research on the meeting participants themselves. Try to determine what their concerns will be and prepare as much as you can, in advance, to speak to those things.
Doing these types of things to prepare for meetings is one of the best ways to speak more confidently when you’re in front of people.
Speak Less, but Say More
Have you ever been in meetings where one person tries to comment on anything that is said? Many times, when that person speaks, he or she is simply trying to draw attention to their self without saying anything meaningful. Don’t be that person.
When you speak sparingly, then people pay more attention and remember what you have to say. That is, if you do what we discussed previously and prepare thoroughly. Speak less but say more which means, only take those opportunities to speak when you have something really meaningful to say. Don’t try to comment on everything.
As you reserve your speaking for those more valuable opportunities, it builds your confidence and your credibility. You develop a lot more influence than those people who talk too much and get ignored.
Great Questions Impress More than Great Statements
Yes, we all want people at work or in a meeting to be impressed with us. If people are impressed with us and what we say, it strengthens our reputations and presents better career opportunities. But when we try too much to say something impressive, we can come across as being arrogant, which limits our career opportunities. There is a way to communicate great points without coming across as arrogant: you ask really effective questions!
Asking effective questions can communicate your perceptiveness to other people in the meeting without coming across as a know-it-all. You develop a reputation as someone who can adeptly identify and resolve problems when you ask great questions. It takes a lot of pressure off of you, you can feel more comfortable and confident, as you focus on asking perceptive questions instead of making profound statements in your business meetings.
In fact, as part of your preparation for a meeting, it may be much more effective to write out the good questions you want answered than it is to think through what you’re going to say beforehand.
Don’t Use Big Words or Confusing Terms
There are people who try to talk too much in meetings, and there are also people who try too hard to use big words and acronyms or even try inflating their language to sound more professional and business-like. Be very aware of who is attending your meetings and be careful to not use words they may not be familiar with.
Certain jobs and industries use several acronyms that are meaningful to people in those industries, but other people may have no idea what those terms really mean. It doesn’t impress people if you use a lot of this type of language. If you need to use an acronym, be sure to say the entire thing out first, then you can refer to it from then on using its acronym.
For example, some people in business might say, “S.O.P” which stands for Standard Operating Procedure. If you’re in a meeting where everyone may not know your job or department’s acronyms, say “Our Standard Operating Procedure, or S.O.P.” That way people will understand what you’re talking about and knowing they understand you will help you feel more confident.
Also be sure that you avoid using corporate-speak, also called businessese, which is using words and phrases that are meant to sound professional, but are just unnecessary and confusing.
Communicate Your Points with Stories and Examples
Another thing you can do to speak more confidently in meetings is to use stories and personal examples to communicate your point. People are more interested in what you say when you can relate to something more visual and concrete, that just ideas and abstractions. In addition, it’s easier to speak more confidently and with more enthusiasm when you are telling about something that happened to you.
As part of the pre-meeting preparation we talked about first, consider what it is you want to communicate to the other people in the meeting, and try to create or discover a story that represents that idea.
We go into more detail about telling stories in the Talk More Confidently guide and videos, so be sure to sign up for that if you have not signed up already.
Make Eye Contact with Everyone
It’s easy to focus on your friends or close coworkers when you’re speaking in a meeting, but you need to make sure to have eye contact with as many people as possible. Try to look at each person for just a second or two while your speaking. Some people may not look you in the eyes, but that’s OK, just move to the next person.
Making eye contact with as many people as possible will cause them to be more engaged, to pay more attention to what you say. And believe it or not, even though many people are afraid of having other people look at them when they’re speaking in front of a group, I’ve found that looking at people one at a time actually makes me feel a lot less nervous.
Instead of focusing on one big, intimidating group of people while you talk, you see one person at a time and it feels more like a personal conversation you are having.
Respect and Recognize the Merit in Others’ Ideas and Suggestions
One thing that may undermine your confidence while speaking in a meeting is the thought that others will be critical of you and your ideas. You can’t control what others will say about you, and you need to dismiss things that are deliberately hurtful or critical. But you can try to preempt such criticism by being complimentary of other people, especially during meetings.
Always try to find the merit in what others have to say and point that out. If they say something you don’t agree with or don’t understand, it’s perhaps best to ask questions (non-judgmentally) that help them consider things they may not understand or have overlooked.
The whole idea in developing this habit while you speak in meetings is to activate reciprocation and get others to treat you the same way. Not everyone will be as courteous to you as you are to them, but if just a few of them do, then it will do a lot to build your confidence communicating your ideas to the rest of the group.
Don’t Say Anything if The Meeting Has Gone Over Time
As the time approaches for the scheduled meeting to be over, it’s best not to keep speaking. Save your other ideas to include in a follow-up email or to be discussed in another meeting.
If the time is getting close to end the meeting, people start looking at their watches, they pack their bags, or they may just get up and leave.
The person speaking has a hard time keeping people’s attention and sometimes even make the participants mad if it looks like the meeting is going to go over the allotted time. You’ll not feel confident speaking in these circumstances, so it’s best just to not say any more.
Sign Up for the Free Guide and Videos: Talk More Confidently
These tips we’ve discussed are specific to meetings, and the free guide and video series Talk More Confidently has more information to help you speak better in meetings and other situations. You can sign up for these resources here.
Summary: Speaking Confidently in Your Next Meeting
You can learn to speak more confidently in your meetings, and greatly increase your career opportunities by following these simple strategies:
- Think through what you can say (and ask) before you attend the meeting; be prepared for what you want to say.
- Remember to not talk excessively, reserve your speaking for those opportunities where you have something very meaningful to say.
- Prioritize asking perceptive questions rather than saying something profound.
- Avoid using long words or technical jargon and acronyms that other people may not understand. If you have to use them, be sure to define them quickly.
- Communicate your ideas and important points better by using stories or personal examples.
- When you speak in meetings, make eye contact with each personal individually, as much as possible.
- Point out the good aspects of others’ statements and ideas so at least some of them will do the same for you.
- DO NOT keep speaking or raise your hand to talk if the meeting is close to being done, and especially if it has gone over time.
- Sign up to get the free guide and video series: Talk More Confidently to learn even more strategies for speaking confidently during meetings and other situations.