Do you ever struggle to contribute during meetings? Do you wonder how to talk more?
When I first started at my current job several years ago, I had the hardest time chiming in during meetings. While my colleagues were exchanging and evaluating ideas, I sat quietly. I was engaged, and I was listening, but I seldom spoke up for one of two reasons: I either couldn’t think of anything to say during the meeting, or I didn’t know how to jump into a faced-paced conversation.
As a result, I left many meetings wondering what people thought of me and wishing I’d said more. The frustrating thing was that as soon as I’d return to my workspace a flood of ideas and insights related to what was discussed would rush into my mind.
It can be hard to be the introvert in a meeting. You know you have valuable ideas and insights, but the environment makes sharing difficult. Fortunately, there are few hacks that’ll significantly improve your meeting experiences.
1. Prepare in Advance.
One of the best ways you can improve your meeting experiences is to prepare in advance. It doesn’t have to take a long time either. Five to ten minutes will usually suffice.
Start by getting the meeting agenda. If your supervisor hasn’t given you one, ask for one. Explain that it’ll help you contribute better ideas.
Then, look at the planned topics, and prioritize them from most important to least important. Determine which of the most important topics you could stand to research, gather the information you need on it, and put your thoughts down on paper.
Writing out your thoughts is key. Doing so will help you determine what you want to say and enable you to communicate it clearly. Remember too that your notes are for your eyes only. Don’t worry about writing a polished piece. Bullet points are enough.
2. Assert Yourself.
If you want to find out how to talk more during meetings, watch people who do talk a lot. Whereas introverts feel less comfortable in meetings, extroverts are at home in them. They prefer to bounce their ideas off of other people, and they don’t mind interrupting a colleague to make a point. Furthermore, they don’t stress about having their thoughts together. They just start talking and build from there.
While I don’t suggest you ramble or talk just to talk, I do recommend you take a page out of an extrovert’s book and try sharing ideas before they’re perfect. We introverts tend to want to share only thorough, articulate solutions and insights, so, more often than not, we end up saying nothing at all. Try to break free of this tendency from time to time, and share an idea before it’s fully formed. Let the group help you work it out.
Better yet, wait until you have an idea that is well-formed – one that you’ve prepped using the agenda – and jump into the conversation. Go ahead, and talk overtop of someone else if you need to, especially if this is what other people are doing.
Some people don’t mind being interrupted or cut off. They don’t take it personally. If you listen to what they have to say most of the time and you treat them with respect, you’ll be in an even better position to push your way into a conversation on occasion.
3. Email Your Thoughts.
A difference between introverts and extroverts is that introverts think to talk while extroverts talk to think. Don’t be surprised, then, when you have trouble sharing during a meeting. That environment is not conducive to thinking. If you’re listening – really listening – you’ll won’t have enough space to think and get your ideas together, and few introverts contribute well on the fly.
Even if you’ve prepared in advance, you’ll likely still need to do additional thinking after the meeting. New ideas, questions, problems, and insights will arise when you get together with your colleagues, and you’ll need time to mull them over. When you get back to your desk and you start to reflect, that’s when all of the great ideas will hit you.
Make the most of them. If you want to know how to talk more during meetings, try doing it in writing. Once you’ve had enough time to think, compose a brief email in the quiet of your workspace, and send it to the meeting participants. Writing will not only afford you space to think, it’ll also enable you to share your thoughts more articulately than you probably could have in conversation.
4. Remember: Quantity Doesn’t Equal Quality.
Whether you share during a meeting or send an email after it’s through, remember that you don’t have to say a lot to contribute meaningfully. One great idea expressed in a single sentence can trump a thousand words.One great idea expressed in a single sentence can trump a thousand words. Click To Tweet
Lean into your introverted strength of listening. Take in all your colleagues are saying. Analyze, evaluate, and synthesize. Then, surprise your colleagues with a clever solution or insight.
In Quiet Influence, Jennifer Kahnweiler tells the story of an introvert leader who sat through meetings without saying a word. To anyone who didn’t know the him, he appeared disengaged and detached. His team, however, knew what was really going on; he was tracking the whole time. At the end of meetings, he’d pull together everything that was said, highlight the key points, and make insightful observations. His team always benefited immensely from his thoughts.
When it comes to meetings, you don’t need to know how to talk more. You just need to lean into your introverted strengths and contribute in a way that works for you, while recognizing different isn’t wrong.