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HOW-To: 7 Strategies to Speak Up More in Meetings

For so many creatives, meetings can be rough business.

There’s the guy who always talks over you. The awkwardness of being put on the spot by your boss. The utter pressure to contribute in any capacity—which is especially tough for introverts.

So what’s a designer to do?

In her HOW Design Live session “Speak Like a Leader: Strategies and Tactics for Finding Your Voice—and Using It,” author and brand advisor Terri Trespicio brilliantly broke down just that.

Here are seven tips gleaned from her talk.

  1. Reframe the whole notion of meetings in your mind.

We tend to think of meetings as a “pass/fail” type of scenario. The more helpful way to treat them, Trespicio said, is as an ongoing, evolving conversation with your colleagues and clients. It’s a conversation you’ll have throughout the entirety of your tenure at a job or with that client, and then you’ll start a new one with someone else. So don’t feel the common pressure to wait to speak up until you have something utterly perfect or profound to add, or you’ve reached a state of complete confidence.

“Waiting until you’re confident to start speaking is like waiting until you’re flexible to do yoga. You’re gonna be waiting a long time. Guess how you get flexible?” she said. “Y​our job is less about being genius, and more about moving a conversation forward.”

Approaching meetings in this way lowers the perceived stakes—and thus lowers the barriers of entry into the conversation.

  1. Never downplay yourself.

One thing so many of us do in meetings when proposing an idea is to first dunk on it: “This might just be me, but …” Or, “This is probably a terrible idea, but…” In our minds, it lowers those aforementioned stakes and barriers of entry. But we’re dead-wrong when we do it.

“It doesn’t make your ideas more digestible because you put them down first,” Trespicio said.

Instead, propose the idea and just let it live on its own: Here’s what I have today …

  1. Don’t be afraid to break in.

You might think you’re interrupting by simply adding your thoughts to the mix. That’s not the case.

“A conversation is not a monolith. It’s an irregular, ongoing living, dynamic thing. Conversations disrupt themselves. When you say to yourself, ‘Oh, I don’t want to interrupt,’ what you’re saying is that you’re not part of the conversation.”

You don’t have to interrupt to be in the dialogue—you’re a part of it already. So change your mindset around it: “You’re not interrupting,” Trespicio said. “You’re participating.”

  1. Flatter your way in.

So: How do you actually get a word in edgewise when everyone else is dominating the conversation? One strategy is to pop in with praise—à la, “Bob, I just have to stop you there. I want to emphasize that point you just made so we all don’t miss it.” The person dominating the conversation will stop in their tracks by someone recognizing their brilliance and pointing it out to others. And that’s when you strike, and add your thoughts to the conversation while you have the mic.

  1. Don’t fear silence.

One of our greatest fears is to finally throw an idea into the mix … and then have it met with silence. But Trespicio doesn’t see that as a negative. “I think silence is a real source of power. It is audible punctuation. The problem is when we rush to fill it.”

When someone is silent, it doesn’t mean they hate what you have just proposed. Rather, they just might be digesting and reflecting.

  1. Don’t be afraid to be wrong.

When she started doing media interviews, Trespicio was terrified that she would say something wrong on the record. But, “calculators are correct. You’re not a calculator. Leaders have insights, hunches and ideas.”

Moreover, she says being right isn’t actually the point—the point of group discussion is to help one another think better.

  1. Don’t forget to pass the mic.

Sure, you don’t want to put your colleagues on the spot. But if you have the proverbial mic and you know a co-worker is stuck in the same paralyzed position you’ve been in, help them out.

Ultimately, “The great Seth Godin says it’s possible to change your approach and to choose to take your turn,” Trespicio concluded. “And it’s your turn.”

For much more, tune into the full session right here!

For more on Terri Trespicio click here.