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confidence to speak up in meetings

#006 | How To Speak Up In Meetings With Confidence And Get The Visibility You Deserve

Oct 08, 2022


When I ask corporate professional women what it is that holds them back from speaking up in meetings, here are the three things I hear most:

"What if I say something that's wrong?"

"I never get a turn."

"I'm always interrupted."


Early in my career, I struggled with visibility. I consistently found myself in rooms with people who (I thought) were more capable, more intelligent than me. So I was silent for most of those meetings. Either I'd wait politely for my turn to speak, which rarely came, or when I did speak, I'd be interrupted and feel bad about it. Worse, I would listen to people sharing my ideas as theirs and would say nothing about it. 

It took me years (and a lot of mentorship) to learn to speak up and create space for my opinions in meetings. And once I did, it fast-tracked my career advancement. Within 2 years, I went from being a program assistant to being noticed and hired by one of Barack Obama advisors.


Did your know?


In the work I now do supporting women leaders, I've realized that my early experience isn't uncommon. Did you know that in the average business meeting, women's participation is under 75% of that of men? And what's more is that both men and women are more likely to interrupt someone if that someone is a woman.

The problem here is that if you're not confidently sharing your opinions and having your voice heard in meetings, especially male-dominated meetings, it can be detrimental to how you're perceived in terms of confidence and, therefore, competence. This lack of visibility can prevent you from being noticed and valued, which can hold you back from advancing into a leadership role (no matter how hard you work).



Here are my top three tips to speak up with confidence in any meeting, and get the visibility you deserve.


1. Go Straight To The Point

If you tend to use too many words, in an attempt to soften what you're saying or avoid coming across as off-puttingly authoritative, then you need to stop. A too long preamble distracts your audience (even an audience of one) from the main message.


The solution is to structure your speech with bullet points and key info you want to share. 

  1. Your tagline (headline)
  2. 3 main points (max)
  3. Then, end with an invitation to comment or to ask questions 

Use this method for any intervention you make in a meeting. It sends the message that you know exactly what you’re talking about, you’re confident about it and it positions you as a leader who contributes meaningfully. It’s all about perception.


2. Try "Contrasting"


Here's how to shut down a mansplainer, or anyone else who's trying to deter you from the goal that you hope a given conversation will achieve. 

First, have a clear idea in mind of the result you're aiming for.

Then, when the other person tries to bury you in verbiage—particularly the patronizing kind—interrupt politely, and acknowledge his expertise.


Say something like:

“I know this is a subject that you know a lot about, and I really appreciate your willingness to share it with me. But let's talk about what we both want, which is [fill in the topic]."


I know this kind of situation can be frustrating, it can also affect self-confidence. Simply insist, tactfully, on getting back to the point. 


3. Take Back The Credit


Some people have the habit of publicly claiming other people's insights as their own. 

As soon as someone does that in a meeting (or anywhere else if other people are around), speak up and thank him! Then say you'd like to add a couple of things that have occurred to you since you first told him/her about it.

It's hard to imagine a more graceful, yet emphatic, way to point out the true source of that smart idea. 

To prevent it from happening again, meet with the person privately afterward and put him/her on notice that what happened was really not okay. 

Please, repeat both steps as needed. Don’t shy away from making your voice heard. Your opinion matters. Your work has value. So don’t allow anyone to take your leadership growth away from you.



Think of these three tips as training to develop your confidence to speak up during any meeting. The more you practice, the easier it gets.


See you next week again.

With your success in mind…Darine 


P.S. Whenever you're ready to improve your communication skills and have better conversations, click here. 

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