For many introverts, the idea of speaking up in a meeting can be challenging. Unlike extroverts who get their energy from being around other people, introverts feel best alone or in small groups of people they know well. However, participating in meetings is a key part of career development and something that is required in almost any position introverts will apply to, from paid and unpaid internships to entry-level jobs.
Luckily, even if you’re a deep introvert, there are several things you can do to make your voice heard during meetings and to make being in a meeting (surrounded by people) enjoyable for you.
Prepare something to say
Introverts generally prefer to assess the situation and the group dynamic before speaking, integrating this information into what they say. They’re also more likely to spend a lot of time thinking before they speak and can sometimes miss opportunities to talk in situations where things move quickly.
A great strategy for counteracting the fast pace of most meetings is to prepare a few key points in advance and mention at least one of these during the meeting. This will not only make it easier to speak up but will also ensure that you’re adding value to the conversation.
Pro Tip: Email the meeting organizer ahead of time and ask for the agenda. This will help you structure your thinking and also ensure that you’re addressing the main points of the meeting.
Speak up early
As anyone who’s been in a group setting or class discussion knows, the conversation can shift gears rapidly. By speaking up at the beginning of the meeting, you can establish your presence early on, while the conversation is still structured and not too fast-paced. Having made an impact in the meeting, you can then take additional time to decide whether you want to say anything else. This is also a great chance for you to guide the conversation and make it happen on your own terms.
Pro Tip: If you’re feeling unsure about how to speak up, try observing those who usually take the lead. Make note of what they say and how they say it, then adapt it to fit your style.
Follow up after the meeting
Even with pages of notes and a full meeting agenda, chances are that there will be a few things you want to think about more carefully before you share your opinion. That’s absolutely fine and, in fact, it’s where introverts can really shine.
As Susan Cain, leading introvert expert, explains in her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, having time to think through things on your own often leads to better ideas. If you do have something to add after the meeting, don’t be afraid to share this with the team by sending out an email with ideas and action points. This will likely keep the conversation going and result in some great outcomes for everyone.
Contrary to popular belief, introverts and extroverts are not at odds with each other. In fact, the two personality types are two sides of the same coin and often balance each other out, especially in professional settings. Although you may not feel as comfortable speaking up in a meeting as some of your more extroverted coworkers, by using these tips you can make an impact while staying true to who you are.