A room full of loud voices and a free-for-all format is perfect for Office Ninjas who’re comfortable jumping in at a moment’s notice. But give those same criteria to an introvert and call it a meeting and it may only evoke fear or a bit of nausea. When you think about it, meetings do sort of favor the bold—but that doesn’t mean introverts can’t leave a mark on the discussion too.
However, piping up in meetings isn’t an introvert-only issue. What happens when you’d rather listen than force a hasty opinion or idea? Does your head get so full of thoughts that by the time you’ve processed and pulled them together, the meeting has moved onto the next topic?
If it’s in your nature to think before you speak, assessing the playing field before jumping in is part of the bargain. But since all that internal processing doesn’t happen in a second or two, your colleagues could mistake your deep thought for disengagement. Or worse—you can become invisible in the meeting, hurting your chances to lead down the road.
Whether it’s naturally in your personality or you have to do a bit of faking, there are three simple strategies you can use to hold your own in meetings, roundtables, or anything else your team does to hash out plans and ideas.
1. Feel Out the Basics
When you get invited to a meeting, the first three questions you should ask are:
- Who’s going to be there?
- Why were you invited?
- What is going to be discussed?
Getting answers to those simple questions can help prepare how you’ll contribute to the conversation before you’re caught in the moment. Let’s face it, if you’re an introvert, writing may be your communicative comfort zone. Jot a few notes down beforehand to keep your ideas from escaping you. This will help ease the anxiety of being in a group brainstorm session—and any nuggets of gold you have will definitely get shared.
Introverts thrive best in meetings when they come prepared. Thinking on your feet to get things done is a natural Ninja skill, but for introverted Ninjas, sharing your thoughts and ideas in front of your peers? You’d like to take a minute or two to make sure your contribution isn’t just snappy, it’s valuable.
2. Practice Your Flow
You know the age-old advice about practicing your presentation in a mirror before the big day? Same thing goes for meeting prep—you don’t have to nail your perfect pitch, but experiment speaking about your ideas so you can find the right words to use.
Practicing a natural conversation about your idea will give you time to tweak your thoughts and help you figure out what’s missing. The more you speak about it, the more natural you’ll feel jumping in at the meeting and sharing your voice.
3. Take a Minute
No, we’re not talking about meeting minutes. Buy yourself some time to think by simply asking for it. “Can I take a moment to think about that?” or “I’m hearing some great points. Can we table it for now so I can reflect more thoroughly?” are simple requests that won’t derail the meeting, but will give you extra time.
It will be awkward asking the first few times, especially if not knowing what to say immediately is what you struggle with. But if you ask in a firm and graceful way, your colleagues won’t even bat an eye—the extra time will benefit everyone when you bring back a total gem to the table.
Suggest New Meeting Structures
Let’s be honest—meetings, generally, aren’t run well. Despite the evidence that group brainstorming can actually cause productivity loss, many companies continue to use the technique. Why? Because it feels counterintuitive to run meetings any other way.
Take It Online
What most companies miss is how a meeting’s structure can make or break creativity. Instead of hosting everyone in one room (or worse, a conference call), consider bringing the meeting together virtually—online brainstorming allows time for individuals to think before contributing.
Virtual teams are here to stay, so there’s no shortage of collaborative tech for you to use. Test the waters and suggest a virtual brainstorming session instead of a live group one. The advantages to virtual brainstorming will outweigh the drawbacks. By eliminating production blocking (AKA when people are expected to take turns sharing their ideas), participants are more comfortable contributing their thoughts—there’s a sense of anonymity that leads to increased diversity of ideas.
It’s not that introverts and meetings are a bad match. Most people, introverted or not, don’t love speaking in formal settings. And suggesting a change in collaboration methods might not be easy, so start with small ideas when you do. Once the meetings start to improve, you’ll get better results for the whole organization, and you’ll be the one leading the charge.
Do you have any ideas to help your fellow introverted Ninjas speak up in meetings? Let us know in a comment!