Public Speaking 101
You are attending a meeting with your team and some of your senior managers.
As the meeting progresses, you have an idea that you would like to share.
Does your heart beat faster?
Your palms become sweaty?
Your throat dry?
Does your voice of self doubt shout about what everyone could say or think about your idea?
This type of public speaking anxiety is something that I suffered with for many years.
I would get anxious while sitting at my desk, knowing a meeting at which they expected me to speak was imminent.
Sometimes I would seek excuses not to go to meetings, such as a deadline or urgent client request that I knew could wait.
That’s how terrified I found speaking in meetings.
Yet, contributing to meeting discussions is essential for career success and progression.
I used to be so nervous, I’d sit silently in a weekly meeting. Later, I discovered some people never knew who I was or that I even attended every week.
I was not noticed, valued, or remembered.
In those meetings, I would notice how the people who regularly spoke up may not have had my knowledge or experience, but they did have the confidence.
These were the people who received the opportunities that furthered their career, whereas I stayed exactly where I was in mine.
Less experienced colleagues were promoted to become my manager, which was due to their confidence and contributions in meetings, especially when influential people were present.
When you speak in meetings, those attending notice you. They start to value your experience and knowledge. When new opportunities arise, you are the person who is in their mind.
What can you do to get this confidence?
After many years of observing many others and my own journey to confidence, I created the Meeting Confidence Method™ that has helped many clients across the globe with public speaking anxiety achieve career success.
Here are 8 steps that can help you speak up in meetings confidently, so you can fuel your career progression!
Step 1: Know Your Value
You were invited to attend the meeting for a reason.
Somebody thinks you have something of value to share.
When attending a meeting, too often we feel other people know more than us, are more highly qualified or senior. Feeling intimidated, we stay silent.
It is essential for you to appreciate that your expertise will add value to the meeting when you share it. Even if you all have the same role, you have a unique experience to share.
If much people value your experience and knowledge enough to invite you to the meeting, it is for you to value it as well.
Step 2: Prepare for the Discussion
As part of our career, we will be invited to many meetings that will vary from a regular team meeting to a project or budget update.
Before the meeting, find out what will be discussed, so you have time to make notes of any contributions you may like to make or questions to ask.
Research the meeting subjects or get updates from colleagues before attending.
This preparation will strengthen your resolve to speak, as you will feel more confident in taking part in the meeting discussions
Step 3: Setting a Target
An essential element in having our voice heard is the awareness of how we are not speaking up in meetings.
To incentivise us to speak when we feel anxious, set a target on how many times you will speak in the meeting.
Set the target prior to the meeting to ensure you do not back down because of nerves.
As an example, you may decide that at the next meeting you will speak twice. Write the number 2 down on a notepad where you will see it in the meeting to encourage you to take part.
As you achieve your target of speaking, increase it for the next meeting.
Set target, speak, succeed, increase!
Step 4: Showing Up Early to Fend of Public Speaking Anxiety
When you are attending a meeting, whether it is online or in person, showing up early will help with your confidence.
If you turn up late, it can be intimidating and unsettling as you become the centre of attention, increasing your public speaking anxiety.
Then you have to catch up on what they have already discussed, making speaking up even more stressful for you.
If you arrive early, you will be relaxed and have an opportunity to chat with some of the attendees.
Even if you are only making small talk by asking questions such as ‘did you have a nice weekend?’ or ‘how’s the project going?’, you are already talking in the meeting!
Step 5: Combat Negative Thoughts - Speak up early
Our public speaking anxiety will develop as meeting discussions progress. This is especially true when senior people are attending or those we feel are more experienced or knowledgeable.
We start having those internal discussions on whether what we want to say is adding value or whether we should even speak at all.
To combat these negative thoughts, speak up early.
What you say does not have to be amazing. Just a brief comment will suffice to boost your confidence.
You will see how nobody criticised you, laughed at you, or said you were wrong. This will help you speak again later in the meeting.
It is important for you to speak early in the meeting, as the longer you wait to speak, the more your public speaking anxiety is going to build up.
Make a promise to yourself that your voice will be heard in the first X minutes of the meeting and commit to it.
Step 6: Start small to Combat Public Speaking Anxiety
When it comes to contributing to meetings, we often think that we have to come up with something so brilliant, that we end up sitting there in silence.
This silence is an easier option than stepping out of our comfort zone to speak up, face our public speaking anxiety and raise our profile within the organisation.
There is no need for you to create the pressure of coming up with a brilliant contribution before you speak in a meeting.
The contribution can easily be a comment that gets your voice heard and boosts your confidence.
For example, imagine a meeting discussion people are talking about an idea. You could say:
‘Yes, I agree’.
As simple as that.
Maybe you could say:
After someone has made a comment or suggestion, you can ask a question such as:
‘In what way?’
‘How would that work?’
Can you see that each example is a short contribution of 3 or 4 words that is getting you involved in the meeting discussion, your voice heard and building your confidence?
Rather than waiting until you have something brilliant to say, just contribute those short little pointers early in the meeting to boost your confidence.
This is what successful people do, now you can too!
Step 7: Commit to Your Comment
When we are experiencing public speaking anxiety about how we are going to be judged by everyone attending the meeting, we start to signal our anxiety.
This results in us undermining our own credibility to be speaking.
We may prefix our contribution to the meeting with a self-protecting disclaimer, which instantly undermines their credibility:
“This might be a silly question, but...”
“My insight may be wrong, but…”
“I may be wrong, but…”
“I probably misunderstood, but...”
When you use disclaimers, the first thought you are planting in the listener’s mind is that you are wrong, asking a silly question, etc. This removes the value in what you then say next.
You will have more impact and feel more confident when you omit these disclaimers and make your contribution to the meeting.
When you commit to your comment by having a belief in yourself, others will have a belief in you.
Step 8: Actively Listen
Have you ever heard someone repeat a comment that somebody has already made in a meeting?
This was because they were listening to their internal dialogue rather than the discussion taking place in the meeting.
As we debate with ourselves whether we should share an idea and what everyone will say or think, we are distracted from the discussion, making it even harder for us to contribute to the meeting…
Rather than having an unintentional internal discussion about what is being shared in the meeting. This will help you feel more confident and contribute more to the meeting.
As you now follow these 8 simple, yet powerful steps, they will beat your public speaking anxiety and build your confidence, allowing you to speak up in meetings and achieve more success in your career as people see, hear and value your experience and knowledge.
About The Author
Andy O’Sullivan is a keynote speaker, award-winning mentor and an international best-selling author of 5 books on public speaking, pitching and presenting.
When Andy first started his career, he struggled to get his voice heard. As a shy introvert, he struggled to speak up in meetings and avoided the distress of delivering a presentation. The result? He became ‘invisible’, causing his corporate career progression to stall.
Frustrated at continually seeing his less experienced, more confident colleagues receiving the opportunities and promotions because of his fear of speaking in public, Andy embarked on an exciting journey to overcoming his fear of public speaking.
Today, Andy’s many international clients benefit from this journey and his 30+ years experience. With Andy’s help, they lose their public speaking anxiety and develop the confidence to speak up in meetings, deliver presentations and grow their impact within their organisations, and attain massive career success.
Resources to Help You