Well… not exactly. But I got your attention.
Have you ever sat in a meeting and wished you could vocalise your internal thoughts and contributions in a timely manner?
I have a relatively softly spoken mannerism and I often find myself having difficulties speaking up at the right moment in large meetings. My tendency and comfort zone is to process my thoughts internally before speaking. Unfortunately, this sometimes place me at a disadvantage in the Australia context, as the conversation would often move on, and I would have missed my opportunity.
I recently discovered a little trick which I’d like to share with my fellow quietly-spoken friends. I was invited to speak and participate in a segment of a full-day meeting. I roughly knew the agenda and (potentially) why my expertise was needed so I did some preparation and knew that I had the capacity to ‘wing’ parts of it. As I stepped into the room for the final hour of the meeting, clearly a lot of ideas had been discussed and I was quickly assessing the situation and seeing where my contributions/views would be of most value to the discussion.
I will add here, that it was a room of about 15 people – half with loud personalities who processed information through verbal communication while the other half needed the time and space to process and communicate.
I came to a very quick conclusion that in order for my voice to be heard, being loud wasn’t going to work in my favour.
So I practiced what I’d observed a dear wise, articulate, well-respected colleague used to do when he was in a meeting amongst senior executives – I made eye contact with the facilitator and lightly lifted my hand off the table to indicate that I wanted to speak.
In doing so I had, in effect, been given the ground to speak. And when I spoke, I deliberately lowered my voice and slowed my speech, with emphasis on particular words. I chose my words carefully and economically, aiming for cut-through, rather than throwing multiple darts and hoping one will stick (this can also work for different situations). This tactic allowed me to slow the rapid pace of the conversation, created space for myself and others and subconsciously embedded the idea that we need to consider the diverse ways in which we participate.
What I found most interesting was that I felt heard and my points were noted with a great deal of interest. I also spoke up to clarify my points when others reflected on my ideas. I felt the energy of the room shift from being focused on a few individuals to temporarily zone in on me and my content.
It was a small moment. But a big win. A big realisation. That I have finally found one way to be heard in a loud and noisy space.
To speak my voice.
What about you? What have you found that works for you?
I’d love to hear your stories via the comments box below.