Career Tips

How To Speak Up In Meetings Without Feeling Foolish

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How To Speak Up In Meetings Without Feeling Foolish

September 16, 2023

Career Tips

When it came to my ability to speak up in meetings, I was the kind of person who would go in hoping to say nothing at all. That’s because I was always terrified that I’d say something wrong. I was afraid of sounding ignorant. Or do something embarrassing. I wanted so badly for my silence to be taken as thoughtful and intelligent, but it usually just came across as me staring blankly into space while my brain tried desperately to find anything worth saying. 

Then there were those rare times when I got brave enough to speak up. It felt like my voice got stuck in my throat. I just felt no one really cared about what I had to say. Because I didn’t have confidence in myself or my abilities. Worse, I felt like I was The only person in the world who felt like this about speaking up in meetings. I felt like an idiot.

Thankfully anyone can learn to speak up in meetings with confidence (and not feel like an idiot)! Read on for six simple ways.

Speak Up Confidently by Focusing on the Topic

You can speak up in meetings confidently by focusing on the topic and preparing for meetings with good questions in advance.

Focus on the topic, not yourself. As you prepare to speak up, think about what you want to say, instead of how it will make you look or sound. It’s important to remember you’re there because there’s something important you have to contribute.

Prep with Good Questions to Speak Up in Meetings

  • Ask questions that are relevant to the topic
  • Ask questions that are open-ended, instead of yes or no questions
  • Ask questions that will get people talking (and listening)
  • Ask questions that will help you understand the issue better: What do we need to know? How can we make sure this doesn’t happen again? Who else should be involved in solving this problem?
  • Ask questions that will help you understand the other person’s point of view: Why did this happen? 

Think About the Next Steps

The next step is to think about what you want to happen after the meeting. What do you need to do after the meeting? What are your next steps?

How will this conversation impact your work? Is there anything else that needs attention at this meeting? Additionally, that about what do I need from my colleagues/bosses so that we can move forward after this session? 

This will help keep you focused on what’s important.  This way you won’t get distracted by things that don’t matter as much in the long run (like whether or not people liked your ideas).

Practice in Advance

If you’re able to, practice in advance. You can do this by preparing a few notes or bullet points ahead of time, then practicing in front of a mirror and/or with a friend or colleague. If neither option is available to you, try recording yourself speaking out loud while practicing. You might be surprised at what you hear!

You tend not to get too self-conscious. Which is an excellent way to see what works well for your voice. You’ll know  which things need work before meeting face-to-face with others.

Follow Through with Action Items

When you’re asked to follow through with an action item, it’s important that you follow through. This means completing the task that you were assigned, meeting the deadline, and delivering the expected results. Following through is important because it shows that you are reliable, trustworthy, and committed to your work.

Here are some tips for following through with action items:

  • Clarify the expectations. Before you start working on an action item, make sure that you understand what is expected of you. If you have any questions, ask the person who assigned you the task.
  • Set a deadline for yourself. Once you know what is expected of you, set a realistic deadline for yourself. This will help you to stay on track and avoid procrastination.
  • Break the task down into smaller steps. If the task is large or complex, break it down into smaller, more manageable steps. This will make it seem less daunting and help you to stay on track.
  • Check in with the person who assigned you the task. If you are having any trouble with the task, or if you need an extension on the deadline, check in with the person who assigned you the task. They will be able to help you and make sure that you are on track.

Following through with action items is an important skill for both personal and professional success. By following the tips above, you can improve your ability to follow through and achieve your goals.


Speaking up confidently and assertively in meetings can be challenging, but it is an important skill to develop for professional success. By focusing on the topic and preparing for meetings with good questions in advance, you can increase your confidence and make a valuable contribution to your team.

Here are some key takeaways from this blog post:

  • Focus on the topic. Before a meeting, take some time to think about the topic at hand and what you want to contribute. This will help you to stay focused and on track during the meeting.
  • Prepare for meetings with good questions in advance. Ask thoughtful questions, to show you are engaged and interested in the topic. It also gives you an opportunity to learn more and share your own insights.
  • Practice speaking up. The more you practice speaking up, the more powerful you will feel. If you are feeling nervous, start by speaking up in smaller groups or one-on-one conversations.

It’s important not to be afraid to make mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes, especially when they are learning something new. If you make a mistake, simply correct yourself and move on.

Remember, speaking up confidently is a skill that takes time and practice to develop. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t perfect it right away. Just keep practicing and learning from your experiences.

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Twanna Carter, PhD, ICF Professional Certified Coach (PCC), is a career coach and relationship coach for Twanna Carter Professional & Personal Coaching, LLC. She is a career coach dedicated to empowering Black women leaders, helping them achieve their career goals. With more than 20+ years of experience, Dr. Twanna is recognized as an expert in leadership, personal development, business strategy, career development, and lifestyle balance.  Helping professional women navigate change and uncertainty by providing them with the tools and strategies they need to be successful. Schedule a free 30-Minute Career Solution Call today.

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  2. I’m Not Yelling: A Black Woman’s Guide to Navigating the Workplace (Successful Black Business Women)“, Elizabeth Leiba.
  3. Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High” by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler.
  4. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Robert B. Cialdini.
  5. How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie.
  6. Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” by Sheryl Sandberg.
  7. Dare to Lead” by Brene Brown.
  8. The Memo“, by Minda Harts.
  9. Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones“, by James Clear
  10. Worthy: How to Believe You Are Enough and Transform Your Life“, by Jamie Kern Lima

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