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How to speak up in meetings with confidence

No matter your industry, you probably must attend at least a few meetings regularly. Meetings can help teams come together and discuss projects, upcoming needs, goals, and other essential topics. But whether you've started with a new company or have trouble speaking up due to feeling shy, you might find it hard to share your thoughts in this type of setting. Consider these tips to help you feel more confident when talking in your next work meeting.

Why it's hard to speak up in meetings

You might feel nervous about speaking up during a meeting at work for several reasons:

  • You're an introvert who tends to focus on your thoughts and has a hard time speaking in front of others.
  • You work in an environment where it's hard to get a word in edgewise because your co-workers outperform others' contributions to a meeting.
  • You feel worried about saying something others disagree with or see as foolish.

Working in a virtual atmosphere can also bring new challenges. It's harder to read social and physical cues on a video call, making it more challenging to know when to speak up. These reasons can all make speaking up in meetings feel overwhelming. If you've felt worried about talking during a work meeting, the tips below can help you feel more confident.

Importance of talking in meetings

Before we dive into the tips for speaking up in meetings, it's helpful to understand why it's vital to do so. The purpose of a meeting at work is for team members to share their thoughts and ideas, provide status updates, and discuss plans. If you've received an invitation to a meeting, the person in charge sees your attendance as valuable. The individual is interested in your perspective and experience but won't get much from you if you're unwilling to speak up in a meeting.

If you've received an invitation to a meeting, the person in charge sees your attendance as valuable.

Sharing your thoughts in a meeting is one of the most effective ways to build relationships with other attendees. Providing insights and updates can also help you demonstrate your knowledge and skills in a supportive atmosphere designed for collaboration. Even if you think an idea you have is incomplete or incoherent, sharing it could get someone else's wheels turning, helping the team come up with a solution together. It's helpful to recognize that staying silent isn't in your best interest if you're part of a meeting.

Tips to help you learn how to speak up in meetings

Now that you know why it's necessary to speak up in meetings at work (and why you might be feeling nervous about doing so), you can use these tips to feel more confident when you talk.

Come with an agenda

Before you step foot in a meeting, you should know the topics discussed and how you can help. If you're heading into a casual brainstorming meeting, jot down your ideas to share. If the meeting is to present something important to a significant stakeholder, create a more detailed agenda of what you'll be presenting and discussing with everyone there. Being prepared can alleviate some of your worries because you won't have to come up with ideas on the fly.

Keep your hands busy

People with nervous energy in meetings might benefit from keeping their hands busy. Bring a pen and notebook to take notes, along with a bottle of water. Noting what you're discussing in the meeting can help you after you check off every item on the agenda, as you'll know what action items are on your to-do list. You can also sip your water if your mouth feels dry or you need something to do to alleviate your nerves.

Interject to ask a question

Whether you're listening to a presentation or engaging in an open discussion, asking questions is always worthwhile. Bringing up a question about the topic is also a good starting point for finding your voice in the meeting. By asking thoughtful questions, you can also demonstrate to the others in the meeting that you're engaged in the discussion. You might want to prepare some questions to ask in advance so that you are not left wondering what to say.

Practice active listening

It's easy to zone out at a meeting, especially if it's a virtual meeting with no cameras. But remaining engaged in the topic by listening to what's said can make you a better contributor. You'll also have more to say in a meeting when you know what's being discussed and can make relevant points or ask follow-up questions.

Work on your speaking skills

Even the most experienced professionals feel nervous about presenting in front of their peers or other significant stakeholders. They might practice their presentation in front of a mirror, a trusted friend, or a family member to get more comfortable. You can do the same before you start speaking in a meeting. Review the planned agenda and highlight items you could discuss before the meeting begins. Practice your strategies, speaking in a loud and clear voice while looking around the room, to improve your confidence.

Set professional goals related to speaking up

Setting goals related to speaking up in meetings is worthwhile, and your supervisor will likely support your efforts to contribute more when collaborating with the team. Setting goals can also help you hold yourself accountable, especially since you'll probably be in at least a few meetings with the manager or supervisor who will score you on your progress. If you haven't found a position where you can set the goals that matter to you, use CareerBuilder to create a profile so that employers can find you and offer you jobs that align with your goals.

Back up a team member

If you're uncomfortable putting your ideas out in the open, you can always ease yourself into speaking in a meeting by vocally supporting another team member's contribution. In a brainstorming session, listen to what others say and respond to the group when someone shares an idea that makes sense to you.

Know when to jump in 

Speaking up in virtual meetings is especially tough for people who work remotely because you might end up talking over someone else. You don't always know when another participant is unmuting the microphone to speak or when the presenter will resume talking after a short break. You probably have about half of a second to jump in to speak during a virtual meeting, so take that opportunity quickly rather than waiting for the perfect moment.

Make your contribution less personal

If you feel uncomfortable sharing your ideas with personal language such as “I think” or “I feel,” try making what you have to say a little less personal. You could start by saying, “Has anyone considered ...?” or “Did anyone mention ...?” Then lead into your contribution to the meeting. This tip can assist those who want to get comfortable speaking up in meetings and using this language can help you feel less vulnerable.

Implementing these tips can make a big difference in your ability to feel confident in your ideas and share more in team meetings. By finding your voice, you can build stronger relationships and show that you're engaged and interested in the team's success.


Explore more tips to help you gain confidence at work so that you can excel in your career:

Do you worry about your job search? Discover techniques to help you learn how to avoid being nervous for a job interview

If you struggle to advance professionally in your job, don't let fear of failure hold back your career

Do you prefer to log into virtual meetings and work at a home office? Determine whether your personality type is ideal for working from home.