9 ways to finding the confidence to speak up in meetings

Are you scared of letting your voice be heard in meetings? If the idea of public speaking fills you with anxiety, you are not alone. Follow our 9 tips to gain the confidence to speak up in meetings. 

Speaking Up in a Virtual Meeting

For many, it’s hard to speak up in meetings; it can be a terrifying experience. While it may come naturally to others, for some it can create anxiety and fear. Sometimes the most confident of people in the office can find themselves riddled with worry when faced with the prospect of speaking in front of a group of people.

Even the most introverted of people can take steps to overcome shyness in meetings. Frequent practice, exercises and mindfulness can help you increase your visibility, build better relationships and gain confidence. 

Why are we scared to speak up in meetings?

People who fear public speaking often concentrate heavily on the content of what they want to say. They overthink their ideas, the context of what they are saying and create scenarios on the outcome. 

This cycle of anxiety creates a one-sided process. It may eventually make you speak up, but communication is a two-way street. Often the rush of adrenaline and sheer relief once they have finished blocks the ability to listen to responses and feedback. 

Luckily, you can overcome this. 

Overcome fear of speaking in meetings: 5 easy steps

  1. Don’t wait for the right moment

Think of the meeting as a conversation. If you wait for a natural break or an opportunity to make your voice heard, it may never come. 

Try to reframe the meeting as a conversation. If you focus on engaging rather than speaking, it will help you think about the meeting dialogue as two-way communication. You have value to contribute to the conversation. 

However, often meetings are dominated by others – those who speak fast and hardly stop to breathe. Be assertive. If you’re struggling to be heard, raise your hand and make eye contact with the meeting leader. Keep it up until you are acknowledged. Your voice deserves to be heard. 

  1. Build relationships before the meeting

If the opportunity arises, have a quick chat with other attendees before the meeting. Ask them about their concerns, problems or interests? What are they hoping to achieve from the meeting? 

Making this approach will help you feel more confident in speaking up in the meeting. You will be able to shape what you have to say to make it relevant to their feelings, concerns and perceptions, they will enter the room knowing you have a valuable contribution. All of this will help you feel valued, appreciated and confident in making your voice heard. 

  1. Deliver facts before opinions

Take a fact-first approach to what you have to say (see our Getting the most out of meetings blog).

By opening your dialogue with quantifiable facts before stating your opinion or interpretation of them, your audience is more likely to seriously consider and listen to what you have to say. It will help you have confidence in your following opinion as you have demonstrated it is based on a fact. 

  1. Know when to STOP talking!

Those who fear public speaking often fall into this trap once they start talking. They’ve overcome their shyness for a moment to speak up, but their anxiety and rush of adrenaline means they are too focused on speaking and not reading the room. 

Try to be brief and orderly. Others in the meeting will want time to respond to what you have to say. 

Knowing when to hold back is just as important as knowing when to speak up. 

  1. Summarise, acknowledge and thank any responses

Speaking up in the first place is only half of the hurdle. Dealing with how others respond is equally as important. 

Listening is just as vital as speaking. When you have finished your initial dialogue, take a breath and reset. You need to be able to take on board any responses.

Begin your reply with a summary of what they have said to demonstrate your understanding, acknowledge the content and sentiment, and thank them for their response. This opens you up to sharing your further facts, opinions and concerns without it feeling confrontational or challenging. 

What if I have nothing to say in a meeting?

Don’t worry! Even though you have nothing specific to say in a meeting, it doesn’t mean you can’t contribute. While you may have nothing to say, you can support others to expand and develop their contribution by asking questions leading with ‘how?’, ‘when?’ or ‘where?’. This is still a valuable way to contribute to business meetings. 

For some examples of how these can be incorporated into meetings, I recommend you read this blog on Calibrated Questions™, a technique developed by former FBI investigator Chris Voss. 

Often, with so many people in a room – what you’d like to say has already been presented. There is no need to repeat. Simply let the group know that your thoughts have already been covered and thank them for their input. 

How to speak up in virtual meetings

Virtual meetings can be a minefield. While some people can feel more confident, others can find it harder to engage. Many people struggle to stay focussed in a virtual meeting and experience the dreaded ‘zoom-fatigue’.

  1. Remember to keep everybody involved

It’s easier to feel invisible in a virtual meeting. When speaking, keep a note of who is in the room and actively involve them in the conversation. Invite them to participate and offer responses.

  1. Keep eye contact 80% of the time

Try to keep looking into the camera and not at the screen. This will help create a connection despite the distance between you. Many people find they look at themselves and become conscious. Consider changing your settings so your own face isn’t staring back at you. 

  1. Use first names when asking for contributions

Prefix your statements with peoples’ names. It may sound really simple, but it is easy to ask a question in a meeting and for others to expect somebody else to answer. Make people feel involved and set out your expectations for response by beginning your statement with the name or names of those you expect to listen. 

  1. Be prepared!

Just because you are at your computer, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t come to the meeting prepared. In a face-to-face meeting, you would come prepared with all the documents you need. Virtual meetings are no different. Ensure you have everything you may need to hand. 

Improve your confidence in meetings

At The Speaking Clinic, we can help you. If you would like to gain confidence to speak up at meetings, feel free to book a no-obligation consultation with our expert trainers

Useful resources

To download our Top Ten Tips on Confident Speaking and A Comprehensive List of Questions to Communicate Efficiently guidance documents, visit our Resources Hub

Update history

This article was updated in June 2021