how to speak up in meetings

How to Speak Up in Meetings–9 Systematic Steps

It’s happened to you, hasn’t it? You’re in a meeting, with brilliant ideas floating around your mind, and they don’t come out. Maybe you didn’t say anything at all. Or perhaps you did, and it didn’t come out the way it sounded in your head.

I want to make this clear straight away. The process of drawing conclusions in your mind is very different from explaining your ideas to others. When you intake information, your brain quickly processes it using data you’ve acquired along the way. But when you report information to others, they’re working with a different dataset. Their experiences are different from yours.

Have no fear, my dears; there is a process to conveying information, and I’m here to teach it to you.


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How to Speak Up in Meetings

  1. Realize that meetings are high-stakes situations. You care about the outcome. You want people to consider you credible and an authority on the topic.
  2. Understand that conveying your message involves a different process than thinking the ideas in your head.
  3. Sit at the back of your chair. This offers your upper body support so that you can be relaxed & breathe.
  4. Feel confident that your message is valuable.
  5. Emanate warmth. Look around the room and care about the other participants. You can even look at each person on your computer screen. They’ll feel good that you’ve taken the time to look at each of them.
  6. Be relaxed. Increase your awareness of where the tension lies in your musculature and get into the habit of eliminating it.
  7. Use abdominal breathing.
  8. Speak with pauses. Once you become accustomed to silence, there will be no stopping the influence you’ll have over your colleagues.
  9. Smile & make eye contact.


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Meetings are High-Stakes Situations

You can tell your best friend your genius ideas, and she thinks your firm is lucky to have you. She says you should be the CEO. But for some reason, you don’t deliver the concept as profoundly when you’re in a meeting. Is it a mystery? 

Mystery solved. There was no mystery. Communicating well during informal situations & less well during high-stakes situations is normal and happens to everyone. Our bodies go into fight or flight during anxiety-ridden situations, causing our minds to draw a blank, rapid speech, high pitched voices, shaky voice, the list goes on.

Why we speak differently in high-stakes situations.

Body Language

You’ll want to have an open body posture and sit at the back of your chair. Keeping your body supported keeps you in control of yourself. An open body posture means don’t cross your arms or legs.

Communication skills go both ways. You’ll want to use what you know on others as they’re speaking. Take a look around you at the meeting and see what your colleagues’ bodies are doing. Are their arms crossed? They may be defensive. Are they sitting against the back of their chair with their head up? They’re feeling confident.

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Feel Confident That Your Message is Valuable

You’re good at what you do. You’ve been working on it for a long time. Have you made some mistakes? Yes, but you’ve learned from them.

Your bosses, colleagues, team, and clients need to hear your message. Your input is inestimable. It’s your responsibility to deliver it so people can act on your ideas. 


how to speak up in meetings

Love Your Audience

Don’t think about yourself. Overlook your fear of being ridiculed or dismissed and focus only on how your ideas will help. 

I don’t distinguish between audiences. If you’re in a meeting or on the stage, most of the same rules apply. If you care about what your audience knows and what they need to know, you can remove your fear and anxiety.

When you love your audience, you emanate warmth, and your credibility shoots way up.

Speak From Your Abdomen

Speech is air molecules that vibrate. Your vocal mechanism is a musical instrument. There’s a ton of misinformation out there that we are supposed to speak from our throats. That’s incorrect. Speaking from your throat keeps you in a state of fight or flight. 


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You want to use abdominal breathing for speech. This will keep you relaxed and give you an authoritative and influential voice.

Speak with Pauses

To be easily understood, we need to provide information in chunks. That’s how people process information most efficiently. Bulleting your speech also stops you from using filler words because you replace your fillers with pauses.

I want to hear from you! Have you got any neat tricks you use to speak up in meetings? Any embarrassing tales of woe during meetings? Share them in the comments section below.


how to speak up in meetings

9 thoughts on “How to Speak Up in Meetings–9 Systematic Steps”

  1. This has always been a problem for me, Sometimes when I’m in meetings and I want to share something, it doesn’t come out the way it sounded in my head. So your point that the process of thinking my ideas and conveying them being different really struck me. That makes perfect sense! Love your stuff! Thanks for sharing!

  2. It’s funny, I never realized that the higher the stakes of a situation the worse I speak. But it makes perfect sense and it’s true. Don’t know why I didn’t put that together.

    I promise myself I’m not going to use filler words or say, “I think” and I end up doing it at meetings. I don’t do it when I’m just chatting with a friend. Big difference.

  3. I remember when I first started my career I was so surprised to find that my ideas weren’t coming out the way I expected them to in meetings. I’d never had any problems speaking. I never told anyone because I thought it was only me. But now I can see I wasn’t alone at all! Now I see the same thing when I report to the board. These techniques make a whole lotta sense 🙂 and I’m going to put them to good use!
    Thank you, Ita!

    1. Everyone thinks they’re the only one who isn’t a perfect communicator during high-stakes situations! But it’s the norm. It makes sense that the more you want out of a situation the more fear or stress you’d have. Those are the times you must perform your best!

      You just need to put some practice in just as you do for anything you want to be good at. 🙂

  4. Brittney Pagan

    This advice is so helpful and realistic. A bit of an eyeopener on how people can feel, and why it’s important as a manager or leader of the meeting to ask questions directly to each person in the meeting, sometimes just to have them participating. It will benefit the outcome, and the general feeling about the meeting afterwards. At least that’s my experience.

  5. Reading this has allowed me to see that meetings are definitely high-stakes, however I never actually thought about it as being high-stake situations because everyone I work with come across as so confident in our meetings. So because they seem confident and relaxed, I just thought its not the situation that is high-stakes, its just me that’s the problem. I need to put these techniques into practice so I can be heard!

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