Have you ever left a meeting really wishing you had said what was on your mind, or you did say something that you thought was a valid point but it got overlooked?
Many women find this to be the case. It’s hard enough for women to get a seat at the table of high-level meetings. So if you feel uncomfortable speaking up during those often mostly-male meetings, it could hamper your career, says communication coach Lisa B. Marshall.
4 ways to help women speak up at meetings
She has a proven track record helping executive women get their voices heard and offers four proven ways to be noticed, heard and remembered:
Make it your goal to speak up during the first 10 minutes. It can be something as simple as agreeing with someone else’s point or asking a question. The point is to get over the first hurdle very quickly. If you wait, you’ll lose confidence and it will become harder to get your voice heard later. ”Once you begin participating, you will start to get positive feedback … This will build your confidence,” says Marshall, “and you’ll begin to feel more comfortable sharing your own ideas.”
- Master the pre-meeting. Reach out to a trusted colleague who’ll also be at the meeting. Ask him or her to back up something you plan on saying or to come prepared with a follow-up question, which you have prepared an answer for. Knowing someone has your back will give you the confidence you need as you walk into the room.
- Watch your posture. Be careful not to inadvertently slump in your seat, which projects a lack of confidence. Sit up straight, lean forward and speak from your diaphragm. If you’re standing, keep your body open – don’t cross your arms over your chest. Remember to make eye contact while you’re talking. This confident display will help you fake it ‘til you make it.
- Use power gestures. The best gestures, used by great leaders, support your words and get your point across. Using speech-associated gestures ‒ like putting palms together, finger counting or steepling (building a steeple with your fingers by putting the tips together) ‒ complement your words and enhance the meaning of them.
As you make it known that you have something to say, you won’t have to work as hard to get the attention of the room each time. Your colleagues will turn to you because of your unique perspective on any given topic.