Meetings are terrible for everyone. Sometimes they're necessary, but virtually no one enjoys being stuck in a room listening to long-winded explanations and questions that could have likely been asked and answered more quickly and efficiently over e-mail. If you are a shy person — or even just an introverted person — meetings become that much more hard to handle — in fact, they're likely riddled with anxiety. Will you have to talk? Will someone call on you like teachers did in school? What if you say nothing at all, will people think you're not paying attention? Will people think you're stupid?
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For the shy among us, there are a few ways to get through meetings and even emerge feeling confident and like you made a contribution. Here are some tips for excelling in meetings even if the idea of a meeting makes you want to run and hide.
1. Speak up early-on.
Try and be one of the first people to speak in the meeting. It might be terrifying, but what's more terrifying is sitting there and waiting for the perfect opportunity to say something. If you can chime in with some extra info, some details, a yay or a nay then do so. The sooner you speak up, the less time you'll have to agonize over how quiet you're being.
You'll likely get an agenda before the meeting commences, make sure you look it over. While you're at it, choose one item on the agenda that you have an opinion about or knowledge about and choose that as the topic you are going to speak on. Being prepared and having a plan will make the idea of diving in far less scary.
3. Listen well.
Sometimes, when we're feeling really anxious about what's happening around us, we retreat into ourselves. Make a conscious effort in the meeting not to do this. Look around at your colleagues, listen to what they're saying, and digest it. The more you're able to listen, the more present (and less anxious) you'll be. Also take notes, it will keep you in the moment.
4. Whatever you do, don't hide.
Sitting in the back of the room, standing behind a really tall person, diligently taking fake notes so your boss doesn't see your eyes — just don't do it. Not only will you then focus on staying hidden, but you will probably just call more attention to yourself. You don't have to be the loudest person in the room, but pretending you're not in the room won't work either. So show up, listen, prepare, and get your talking in early. Before you know it, you'll be back at your desk.