5 Easy Ways to Speak Up in Meetings and Say Something Smart

With all the virtual meetings these days, it can be easy to just stay quiet and not say much. 

But if you aspire to advance your career, learning to speak up in meetings, especially when senior team members are around, can be a game-changer. 

And the easiest way to make sure you speak up and say something smart in your next meeting is to start preparing before the meeting begins.

Why is it Important to Speak Up in Meetings?

It’s important to speak up in meetings because it helps you stand out and make a positive impression on coworkers and senior managers. If you want to get ahead at work, it is essential to speak up and contribute value during work meetings.

Meetings are a daily part of life in the business world, and in many cases, something that most employees disregard as mundane and unimportant. You may be tempted to check out during meetings, and this is especially easy to do during remote meetings.

But the truth is, how you perform in daily work meetings (team meetings, customer meetings, planning meetings, project meetings, business review meetings, brainstorm meetings, and more) has a direct effect on how you are perceived by others, and in turn, your opportunities for career advancement. 

You don’t want your silence in meetings to be misinterpreted as a lack of interest in the business, or worse, lack of confidence and competency by senior managers.

Why Do Some People Struggle to Speak Up in Meetings?

Many people struggle to speak up in meetings because they feel pressured to sound smart. Individuals who lack confidence or prefer to think before they speak often fear they won’t be able to add anything meaningful to work discussions, especially meetings that include senior leaders.

As a result, they remain silent spectators while their coworkers expertly share key thoughts and new ideas.

As a quiet introvert, this is something I can definitely relate to. Back in the day, my brilliant approach to meetings was to find a quiet seat in the back of the room, actively listening and observing, but letting my co-workers do the talking.

One time I even had a colleague start to tell me about a meeting he had attended, only to remind him that I had also been at the same meeting with him. I was so quiet he didn’t even know I was there!

Speaking Up in Meetings is a Skill You Can Develop

Many professionals who struggle to share their point of view in meetings are told to “speak up more” in meetings. Usually this type of advice is given by a manager with good intentions.

But the problem is when managers don’t provide any coaching about how to speak up more in meetings. It can feel more like a personal criticism instead of an opportunity for professional growth and development. And that can make you even more unsure of yourself!

But here’s the thing: Speaking up in meetings is a skill that one can learn and develop over time!

And just like developing all new skills, the more you do it, the better and more confident you will get!

Although I sometimes struggled with how to participate in meetings — eventually, it got easier, and I became better.

At first, speaking up in meetings is going to push you outside your comfort zone. And when it comes to getting outside our comfort zone, it’s a good idea to approach it in stages.

Start small — practice speaking up more during small groups when you’re surrounded by your coworker friends. This will help grow your confidence, and soon you’ll be ready to start sharing your point of view in a group setting that include a few senior people.

How Can You Speak Up More in Meetings?

The best way to speak up in meetings and contribute more to work discussions is by preparing before the meeting ever begins. Here’s 5 simple ways to speak up and say something smart in your next meeting:

1. Get a Drink

One of the easiest ways to prep yourself to speak up in meetings is to get a drink.

No, I’m not suggesting you down a shot of tequila to loosen up before the meeting. What I’m recommending is to invite other meeting attendees out for after-work drinks (or to some other social setting like lunch, coffee, etc.) a few days prior to the meeting.

Get comfortable with your coworkers. It’s much easier to speak up in meetings and share your thoughts when you’re in a work environment surrounded by friends instead of strangers. This can be especially helpful when you’ve recently joined a new company and don’t know everyone yet.

2. Bring Voice of the Customer

Another key way to add value with a different perspective during your next meeting is to share your customers’ perspective.

The voice of your customer is the ultimate expert opinion that can’t be refuted by others. By sharing what you’re hearing from customers during group discussions, you’re showing your team members that you understand what the market needs.

Take time to gather customer input in advance of meetings. If you have a sales position, it should be relatively easy for you to reach out to your customers and ask their input on a particular topic that will be discussed during an upcoming meeting. If you don’t have a sales position, then get to know the sales team and ask for their help in gathering customer perspective.

Once you have a few antidotal customer opinions, you’ll be in a great position to speak up and share them during your meeting.

3. Review the Agenda

The very first step you should take after accepting a meeting invitation is to review the agenda. With this information in mind, you can take time prior to the meeting to prepare relevant and valuable content that makes it easier for you to be an active and vocal meeting participant.

This may sound like common sense, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen individuals walk into a conference room or join a zoom call and ask others to explain the purpose of the meeting.

Ideally, the meeting leader will include an agenda in the meeting invitation. However, if that’s not the case, then you’ll want to ask for more details. This request not only helps you gain more insight into the meeting’s purpose, but it also shows the organizer that you are interested and engaged in her meeting.

Once you understand the nature of the meeting, you can start doing pre-work to formulate your thoughts around the topic and make sure you have great ideas to contribute to the discussion.

4. Offer to Prep

After you’re reviewed the key points for the agenda, your next step is to try and secure speaking time for yourself. An easy way to do this is to offer your assistance. Ask the meeting leader if there is anything she would like you to prepare in advance and share during the meeting.

Based on the type of meeting, you could help prepare a wide assortment of relevant content. For example:

  • For a meeting oriented toward information sharing, you could offer to provide status updates on one of your projects.
  • For a creative or brainstorming session, you could offer to gather details on industry best practices.
  • For a meeting focused on decision-making with key stakeholders, you could offer to prepare financial data or gather competitive insights.

By helping the meeting leader prepare for the meeting, you’ll gain more insight into the meeting objectives and likely be given a specific topic to talk about during the meeting. This will allow you to spend time in advance of the meeting preparing your content and speaking points.

5. Influence the Agenda

Another great way to secure speaking time during a meeting is to influence the agenda. This strategy works especially well for staff or department meetings where you may have an opportunity to add a topic to the agenda.

Ask your manager or department leader if you can have 5-10 minutes during an upcoming meeting to discuss your topic. Here are a few ideas that you could prepare to talk about during your next staff meeting:


  • Recognize – acknowledge others’ contributions
  • Celebrate – highlight a customer win or result from a key project
  • Share – provide information or project updates that others would find helpful
  • Fix – propose a solution to a problem
  • Recommend – propose ideas to work faster, smarter, cheaper

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Lower the Pressure to Speak Up More in Meetings

In my experience, the key to bringing your best to business meetings is to lower the pressure you place upon yourself. As a result, you can be more “present” in workplace discussions.

Trying these pre-meeting actions can help lower the pressure to come up with something smart to say during a meeting. Instead, you’ll be able to spend time in advance of the meeting preparing your content and speaking points.

Again, learning how to speak up in meetings is a skill. The more you do it, the better you will get. Start small and the next time you’re invited to a meeting, commit to speaking up at least one time.

And as you begin to get more comfortable being an active participant in meetings, the less time you’ll need to spend prepping. You’ll soon be able to voice your thoughts and ideas confidently and spontaneously — even in large group settings that include all kinds of senior executives!



About Author

Alison started her 20+ year career as an admin assistant and eventually advanced to a CMO role. But, as a quiet introvert, she was often overlooked for promotions. And in 2012, while stuck in middle management, Alison made a goal to use her corporate career to achieve financial freedom and retire in her 40s. You can read more about her story here.




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