Meetings come in all different types and sizes. They can be long or short, with internal or external parties, and for a variety of purposes. Meetings can be in person, on the phone or conference call, or via video. You might have a recurring team meeting, a group brainstorm, a status update, a client meeting, or hundreds of other possibilities. The bottom line is that no matter the meeting, it’s people getting together to communicate as a group. This poses an innate challenge for people who are introverted or are more inclined to be more reserved.
Introverts, by definition, tend to not talk as much and speak up less than those who are extroverted. In an environment like meetings, communication can be fast with discussion, comments, and ideas pouring out quickly. While not all meetings are like this, many are, especially when it comes to planning and discussing strategy. Extroverts tend to excel in this environment — that doesn’t necessarily make them better workers, but it is something to acknowledge in order to succeed yourself (if you’re an introvert).
If you’re a person who already struggles to speak up, it can feel almost impossible to get in a word during a meeting. However, if you’re going to be successful in your career, chances are you’re going to have meetings and you’re going to have to contribute during them. After all, no one can hear your thoughts and ideas if you don’t express them. And if you have great ideas (which you likely do) and want others to execute your plans, you’ll have to speak during meetings.
So how do I do it?
Being an introvert is not a bad thing at all. But it does mean you’re likely going to have to try a little harder to get your voice heard in a meeting. Here are some tips and tricks to speaking in a meeting as an introvert.
1. Plan and prepare
One of the first and most important things you can do as an introvert is to plan and prepare before a meeting. Hopefully you’ll know beforehand what the meeting is about and what parties will be there. If you do, you should have an idea of what will be discussed and some of the talking points. If you’re nervous about speaking up, being prepared with what you want to contribute can go a long way. Introverts tend to observe, absorb, and digest a topic before speaking on it. In a fast-paced meeting, spending the time to do this process before will be a huge boon. There are different ways to do this.
One is to write out what you want to say. This is certainly a useful method if you struggle with articulating or are prone to forgetfulness when the attention is on you. This certainly isn’t something to do for every talking point you have, as you don’t want to come across as robotic or just reading off a paper. But for a key point that you’d like to address or comment on, have your thoughts in order, written down, and ready to go. When the topic comes up in the meeting, you’ll be ready for it.
A second way is a bit of an evolution of the first tip. As an introvert, jot down notes in an outline for each agenda item for the meeting. Having short notes on each agenda item will allow you to contribute whenever you can. That way, you’ll be prepped for each topic to either raise a point or answer a question.
Regardless of the way you do it, preparation is key to be successful in a meeting.
2. Set goals and build on them
This will help those who are just starting out in the business world or a new company the most. If you’re an introvert and in a new setting and unfamiliar with the culture of the meetings you need to attend, setting attainable goals is a good place to start. A goal could be as simple as “I’m going to talk once in this meeting,” or “I’m going to ask at least one question.”
Start small with goals that are easy to complete. Once you’ve achieved those, you can build on them and create bigger goals such as starting the discussion on a talking point or respectfully challenging a colleague’s viewpoint.
3. Speak early to stay engaged
One goal that you could set is to be the first (or one of the first) people to make a comment or ask a question. Like setting and achieving goals, it can often help introverted individuals to get some ground under them to gain confidence. If you set out to be one of the first voices to talk, you’ll be able to ease into the meeting and be seen as someone who wants to contribute to the discussion.
With this, it’s important to stay engaged in the meeting. That doesn’t mean you have to talk constantly or contribute on every agenda item, but if you spoke early, be sure to follow along during the meeting so that you’ll be ready to speak again later.
4. Ask the questions you’re thinking
Because introverts tend to observe and take their time analyzing, they often have many questions rolling around in their head. “Did what that person just say make sense?” “Does that point logically follow?” “What if we tried X instead of Y?”
Those are all examples of potential questions that you might be thinking about. Here’s the great thing: chances are that someone else is thinking it too but just hasn’t asked. It’s unlikely that you’re the only one who wants those answers. So, go ahead and ask. While the cliche of “no stupid questions” isn’t entirely true, it’s doubtful that the questions you have will not add value to the meeting.
Asking those questions will not only engage you in the conversation, it will also make you stand out as a thoughtful and smart member of the team.
5. Practice makes perfect
Like most things in life, the more you do it, the better you’ll be at it. This holds true for being an active participant in meetings. While you might be more inclined to not speak during a meeting as an introvert, you’ll find it gets easier the more you do it. In a lot of ways, this skill is like exercising. It might be a little painful and awkward at first, but the more you ‘workout’ that skill, the stronger you’ll get.
Speaking in meetings can be difficult for those who are introverted and would rather absorb the information and analyze for later than immediately jump in the conversation. Being introverted or extroverted is not inherently good or bad; each comes with a unique skill set and areas of strengths and weaknesses. Unfortunately for introverts, one of those weaknesses is often during meetings, a necessity for most careers. Above are just a few ways to turn that weakness into a strength and succeed in meetings as an introvert.
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