Speak Up in Meetings

Making your voice heard is one way to gain respect and exposure in your school or workplace. Yet, you may feel like you have nothing new to say or contribute. Start by adding to the discussion by asking questions and furthering points that other people say. Set a goal to speak up and even prepare what you want to say ahead of time. Also, keep in mind that the way you speak up in a meeting will depend on the type of meeting, such as if it is a free discussion where anyone can jump in or if you need to raise your hand and wait your turn. As always, take care of yourself and calm your nerves to help you feel ready.


Making Your Words Count

  1. Plan out a few talking points before the meeting. Having some ideas about what you want to say already planned out can help you to feel more confident when you speak up in a meeting. Try jotting down a few ideas for questions you can ask or ideas you can bring up in the meeting. Use these notes to guide you when you are ready to speak up.
  2. Be the first speaker. If you want to speak up yet somehow talk your way out of it, try being the first to say something. Speaking first means you have less time to censor yourself or doubt yourself. Make a point to jump in first and create discussion instead of delaying your comments.[1]
    • Say, “I'd like to start the discussion off by offering my ideas.”
  3. Speak confidently. You don't need to shout or talk over people to say something confidently. Make your words meaningful. Even if you don't feel confident, show confidence in what you're saying and how you're saying it. Speak clearly and try to avoid fillers like “uh” or “um.”[2]
    • Don't minimize your words or ideas by saying, “I don't know, but…” or, “This might be stupid, but…” Even if you feel tentative, don't show it.[3]
  4. Use your expertise. Think about what you can specifically relate or contribute to in the meeting. Perhaps you are younger than the others present but can comment on young adult markets or perspectives. Think about what unique perspective you bring, then share it.[4]
    • You might have a different family background, ethnic identity, or education than those around you. Use these to your benefit to add a new perspective.
  5. Make a succinct point. There's no need to ramble on to make sure that you're heard or that people understand you. Focus on speaking clearly and with fewer words. Make your comment memorable, not time-consuming. Take some time to formulate your thoughts and ideas, then say it in a clear and effective way.[5]
    • For example, skip filler words like “I think…” or, “I have an idea…” and get straight to the point.

Adding to the Conversation

  1. Affirm good ideas. You don't have to add anything mind-blowing or groundbreaking when you want to speak up at a meeting. You can agree with someone or tell them that you like their idea. Everyone likes to feel understood and complimented, so your comment may go far with them.[6]
    • For example, say, “I really like what Heidi said” or, “I think that's a great idea and we should start working on it, Rea.”
  2. Ask questions. Speak up by seeking clarification for things that are unclear. You can ask someone to expand on their idea or take it in a different direction. Questions can also help to further develop the understanding of the topic. Asking questions gets you engaged and involved.[7]
    • Say, “Can you clarify that?” or, “What do you mean by that?”
  3. Further a point. You don't have to come up with creative ideas on your own to contribute to a meeting. Speaking up is as easy as saying, “Everyone seems to agree on this, let's move forward.” If you want to add something to what another person has said, say, “To build on what Sheri said, I'd like to add…”[8]
    • You can even say, “Were you going to say something, Kai?”

Staying Engaged in Discussions

  1. Take notes during the meeting. Taking notes during a meeting can help you to come up with ideas for how to chime in and it may also help you to feel more confident. Taking notes will also show that you are engaged even if you are not speaking. You will also find it easier to remember what was said during the meeting.
  2. Set a goal. If you want to speak up but never seem to get a word in, set a goal to speak. For example, try to speak up at least once at each meeting, or make a comment once each week. Wait for a pause and then jump in. It may feel weird at first, but give yourself time to adjust. Soon, you'll feel more comfortable making your voice heard.[9]
  3. Pay attention to your body language. If you're looking down and not making eye contact, turning away, fumbling with your notes, or appear nervous, people may not take you seriously. Use your hands to gesture, instead of keeping them in your pockets or crossed in front of you. If you're standing, point your feet straight ahead and lean slightly forward with your feet hip-width apart. This shows that you're confident and engaged.
    • Even if you don't feel confident, your body can fake it and command attention in the room.
  4. Raise your hand. Raising your hand is the easiest way to join a conversation no matter what the format is. If you struggle to know when to speak up, raise your hand. This indicates to others that you'd like to speak and want to go next. Especially if someone is currently speaking and you want to add or comment on it, briefly raise your hand to indicate you'd like to go next or add something to the discussion.[10]
    • Raise your hand and make eye contact with someone to make sure you've been seen.
  5. Offer to take the next steps. If someone brings up a point that needs further research or action, speak up and offer to follow-up on it. If a topic needs to be furthered for the next meeting, be the one to take it on. This can give you some time to prepare and also nudges you to participate in the next meeting.[11]
    • Offer to do some follow-up work and present it in the next meeting. This way, you can be prepared and have a slideshow or handouts.

Dealing with Nervousness

  1. Prepare what you want to say. Have some topics or ideas ready to raise in your meeting. Jotting down some notes can help you know what you want to say. Bring a notebook with you so that you're prepared to say what you want to confidently. Prepare some examples and ready yourself for questions.[12]
    • For example, if the meeting is about increasing productivity, write down some ideas that can help encourage people to be less distracted.
  2. Acknowledge your pre-meeting stress. If you're feeling nervous, that's okay. Don't pretend like you're not. Instead, embrace these feelings to show that you're ready to bring your best. Remember that it's normal to feel nervous or stressed, but you can use these feelings to propel yourself to get excited.[13]
    • Say to yourself, “I'm a bit shaky, but I can bring this energy to my presentation.”
    • Practicing accepting unpleasant emotions will help them to diminish over time.
  3. Face your negative thoughts. Challenging your negative thoughts is important because they are contributing to your fears. You might question yourself or feel like whatever you say will be inferior to what other people say. If you have negative thoughts about your abilities, start to fight back against them. Take those “What if…” thoughts, self-criticisms, and fears of making mistakes and challenge them. What would you do if the worst outcome did happen? If you're feeling self-critical, ask yourself what evidence backs up your criticisms and if you can find positive thoughts to replace them instead.[14]
    • For example, if you're thinking, “I'm going to mess this up,” ask yourself, “When is a time I succeeded even when I was nervous? How can I do that again now?”
  4. Take some deep breaths. To relax your body, try breathing from your diaphragm and not your chest. Get into a comfortable position then put one hand on your belly. Take a breath in through your nose and notice your hand and stomach move as you inhale. Exhale through your mouth and notice your stomach emptying of air. Do this three to ten times until you start feeling very relaxed.[15]
    • Do some relaxation to calm your nerves. Try some meditation to reduce stress. Relaxing activities can be healthy outlets for your stress and are best practiced regularly.[16]
  5. Care for your body. If you have a big meeting and are feeling anxious, take good care of your body ahead of time. Get plenty of sleep the night before and wake up feeling rested. Eat healthy meals and limit your caffeine intake, as caffeine and other stimulants can increase feelings of anxiety. Take care of yourself to ensure that you’re comfortable on the big day.[17]
    • If you normally drink coffee each day, don't automatically cut it out that day, as this can lead to withdrawal symptoms. However, don't drink more caffeine than you normally would.


  1. http://garfinkleexecutivecoaching.com/articles/stand-out-and-get-noticed/10-ways-to-increase-visibility-in-meetings
  2. http://careerrocketeer.com/2013/09/introvert-leadership-a-life-lesson-in-speaking-up-in-meetings.html
  3. http://www.inc.com/andy-molinsky/7-tips-to-get-your-voice-heard-at-meetings.html
  4. http://www.inc.com/andy-molinsky/7-tips-to-get-your-voice-heard-at-meetings.html
  5. http://www.jackofalltraining.com/1096/how-to-communicate-clearly-and-concisely
  6. http://www.askamanager.org/2007/12/should-i-speak-up-more-in-meetings.html
  7. http://www.askamanager.org/2007/12/should-i-speak-up-more-in-meetings.html
  8. http://speakupforsuccess.com/public-speaking-tip-61-meetings/
  9. http://speakupforsuccess.com/public-speaking-tip-61-meetings/
  10. http://www.inc.com/andy-molinsky/7-tips-to-get-your-voice-heard-at-meetings.html
  11. https://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2017/01/28/5-ways-to-banish-anxiety-and-speak-up-in-meetings-at-work/
  12. https://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2017/01/28/5-ways-to-banish-anxiety-and-speak-up-in-meetings-at-work/
  13. https://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2017/01/28/5-ways-to-banish-anxiety-and-speak-up-in-meetings-at-work/
  14. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/anxiety/generalized-anxiety-disorder-gad.htm
  15. http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/stress-management-breathing-exercises-for-relaxation
  16. http://www.helpguide.org/articles/bipolar-disorder/bipolar-support-and-self-help.htm#stress
  17. [v161138_b01]. 26 February 2019.