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Dylan Gillis
speaking up

Get your voice heard: How to be more assertive in meetings

Use your body language and choose words carefully.

WE’VE ALL BEEN there. You’re in the middle of an important meeting with your whole team. The conversation is flowing but you’re struggling to get a word in. Every time you try to bring up a point you either trail off mid-way through a sentence or one of your colleagues rudely interrupts you.

You have lots of great ideas but you can’t seem to articulate them. Ultimately you leave the meeting feeling a little dejected and deflated.

If this scenario sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Lots of people struggle to have their voices heard during important meetings, especially in loud offices with strong personalities. Over time, it can leave you feeling demoralised and downtrodden. This, in turn, can have a huge impact on your career.

Like it or not getting noticed in the workplace is vital to your success and meetings are a key way in which to do it - especially when your manager is present. Being able to hold your own in a meeting is a great way to show your boss that you are confident and proactive.

Here are a few top tips for being more assertive in your next meeting.

Ask questions: If voicing your opinion straight away is too nerve-wracking, start by asking some questions instead. Thoughtful and insightful questions could capture your boss’ attention more than flyaway remarks. It’s also a great way to show that you’re listening.

If your mind tends to go blank in meetings jot down a few important questions beforehand. You will be able to turn to them if there is a lull in the conversation.

Use your body language: Research shows that 93% of communication is actually nonverbal. If you want people to take you seriously then you need to appear confident (even if you don’t feel it).

Stand or sit up straight with your shoulders back, and keep your head held high. This will help you to look assertive while also aligning your body so that you can breathe better and speak more clearly.

It’s also important to gesticulate, ie move your hands and arms when you are talking. Different hand gestures can signal different things. Don’t wildly windmill them in front of your colleagues, instead use them to emphasise important points.

Choose your words carefully: Sometimes we have the habit of excusing ourselves before we speak. Never start a sentence with ‘Sorry, but…’ You are automatically weakening your position. You have been invited to this meeting for a reason – you do not need to apologise for participating!

Instead, try confident statements like ‘Should we look at this angle?’, ‘I agree to a certain extent but…’, or ‘I wonder should we consider this option?’ You will appear much more direct and efficient.

Don’t disqualify yourself: It’s often easier to berate rather than praise ourselves. A lot of people undermine their expertise by finishing presentations with one of the following statements: ‘I don’t know’, ‘I think’, ‘That’s just my opinion’.

It usually happens when we are not getting the response we want from the others in the room. If your boss is busy texting or your colleague looks confused it’s hard to maintain your composure and stick to your guns. But you must. Always try to finish speaking on a positive note – the last thing you say will be what people remember.

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