Most people don’t like meetings. Even people at the top of their careers can find the process somewhat uncomfortable. But if you want to advance your career, you need to raise your visibility in the workplace, and that often starts in the conference room. It’s the one place where you will consistently have the opportunity for your voice to be heard — that is, of course, if you make a conscious decision to talk.
What you talk about will obviously depend on the meeting topic, but the following strategies are some of the simplest ways to make your next meeting work for you:
1. Show up early.
Plenty of people will arrive just before the meeting is set to begin. Don’t be one of them. This can make you feel as if you’re in a rush, which isn’t ideal when the goal is to put your best foot forward.
Instead, give yourself a good 10- to 15-minute window to get to the meeting. This will provide you the opportunity to not only choose a seat of your liking but engage in a little banter with colleagues as they arrive.
Conversations can create a sense of inclusion. So when talk eventually turns to agenda items, you’re already part of the discussion. On top of that, the chitchat happening prior to a meeting allows your coworkers to get to know you better.
2. Speak up early.
It’s quite common for people to defer to more senior colleagues while at a meeting. It’s a sign of respect, after all. But this causes you to become almost invisible to the other people in the room.
Make a plan to speak up early in the process. Give yourself a timetable of anywhere from five to 15 minutes into the session. Offer an opinion or ask a question. As long as you’ve gathered your thoughts, your contribution will be welcomed.
Tip: Prior to the meeting, ask the person who invited you the following question: What will we be discussing? This gives you an opportunity to prepare how you’ll contribute to the overall meeting, taking some of the pressure off when it’s time to talk.
3. Build on the discussion.
If you’ve ever been to a meeting, you know how quickly ideas get tossed around. And you may find yourself in a position where something you’ve prepared to say has already been brought up.
Don’t let this silence you. Pay close attention to what others are saying. You may notice a common thread, providing you a window to say something like, “I’ve heard a number of you mention X, what would that entail?”
Not only is your voice being heard but you’ve now taken the lead by moving the meeting forward in a unified direction. You’re basically encouraging people to agree on the next steps of whatever process or project is being discussed.
4. Tackle a problem.
Most people want to work on processes, projects, or products that are already working — or somewhat established, at least. If something isn’t working, taking it on gives you a chance to make a much bigger impact at the company.
And besides boosting your visibility in the workplace, leadership may start to see you in a different light. You’ve become the go-getter, the one who has enough initiative to tackle serious problems — problems without clear solutions.
5. Talk next steps.
Someone has to talk about next steps at the meeting, so why not make that person you? It’s another way to set yourself apart from colleagues. Pose questions like, “Do we need any additional information? What is the next step in the process?”
Then, volunteer to take something on for the next meeting. Again, it’ll show initiative, but it also commits you to the process. And, in turn, you’ll be more motivated and help create behaviors that will more likely set you up for success.
So the next time you get a meeting invite, instead of trying to duck out, use the above strategies to boost your visibility. Although you may never look forward to meetings, they may become more valuable.