Overcoming the Fear of Speaking During Meetings

Fear of Speaking

You’re sitting in a meeting, and someone makes a point that you strongly disagree with. You want to speak up, but they’re still talking, and then someone else jumps in. The further along the conversation gets, the more your nerves creep in. Your moment has passed, and now you feel like you can’t say what you wanted to say, because the group has moved on. And even if you got the chance, your voice would shake.

Does this sound familiar?

We as a society have a tendency to fixate on public speaking anxiety related to giving a speech or a presentation, but finding the nerve to speak up during a meeting can be just as daunting. Whether you worry that your ideas won’t be received well, you feel stifled by a roomful of strong personalities, or you worry about how to assert yourself without being rude or unprofessional, here are some tips to help you find your voice and speak your peace in your next big meeting:

Find a mantra that helps boost your confidence.

It may sound silly, but a comforting mantra can go a long way towards settling nerves and helping you find your confidence. Ten minutes before your next meeting, stand in a strong pose, take a few deep breaths, and repeat to yourself, “Your ideas are valuable. Your thoughts deserve to be heard.” Or whatever self-written mantra you find most helpful.

Write notes.If someone makes a point that you want to comment on, but it isn’t a good time for you to raise your comment, write it down. Having your question written will help you keep it clear in your head and give you a bit of a crutch when the time comes for you to raise your hand and speak up.

Be firm, but polite.Every meeting is a bit different, so know the room. But in many cases, if you speak up at the same time as someone else, or if someone else begins to speak over you, a simple, “Excuse me, John, but if I could just make one point…” can be very effective. Unless the other person is incredibly rude, they should cede the floor to you and give you your chance to speak. Just be sure that if you talk at the same time as someone else, you take a moment to acknowledge them before carrying on. Then by all means, carry on.

Remind yourself that you have responsibility.You not speaking up has consequences. Maybe the consequences are for your team, or maybe they’re for customers who you know will be negatively impacted by a poor decision. Whatever the case may be, you’re rarely just speaking for yourself in a work environment, so think about the people who are counting on you to speak up and let that be a source of encouragement for you.Remind yourself that it gets easier with time.

This advice is no fun to hear, but it’s true – the more you speak up in meetings, the easier it will become to speak up in meetings.

Work with an executive speech coach.If these tips don’t cut it for you, it may be time to turn to the assistance of a Chicago speech coach. An executive speech coach can help you speak more clearly, more impactfully, and more confidently. Give our office a call to learn more.