Speak Up Sally: Three Tips for Making Meetings Magic (or at least tolerable)

“I survived another meeting that should have been an email”

This coffee cup quote makes me snort laugh. We have all sat through long, boring meetings: the ones that go on and on with seeming no point, the ones that just when you think you’re done and everyone is shuffling papers together and reaching for their phones someone (C’mon Sally. This has to stop) brings up a new issue. 

 

No one is listening. Everyone is dying for coffee, has to pee, or just needs to get the hell out of there and actually go do some real work. (Why Sally? Why now?)

 

I have a theory as to why Sally (Are you a Sally?) is waiting to the end. Here are my insights and tips to make meetings run smoother and save everyone from those painful last moments. 

 

You’re welcome.

 

TIP 1

 

Sally does not bring up her point until the end of a meeting because she does not want to look stupid.  She thinks everyone else has it all figured out and does not want to be the only one in the dark. So when the meeting is ending and she still hasn’t got a clue, she panics and blurts out her confused input because she does not want to get in trouble later that week for not understanding something important. 

 

Sally!!Bring up your point at the start of the meeting. If you are confused I guarantee others in the room need clarity too, but they are also battling self-consciousness. If you bring it up right at the start, you’ll be the hero. You’ll be seen as confident and bold enough to look foolish. Be the hero, Sally. Be confident enough to admit where your knowledge gaps are. Ask questions for clarity even if your brain is screaming: “Shut it. You’ll look stupid.“ Ask anyway and the whole room will breathe a sigh of relief because that was the question they were afraid to ask. 

 

TIP 2

 

Sally isn’t confused at all and has a great point to make. She’s been thinking about it for a while and is certain her idea will benefit everyone. Butshe is terrified of having the attention of the whole room on her. She knows her face is going to flush and she will feel that sick churning in her stomach. She leaves bringing up her point until the last minute because she knows if she slips it in she won’t have the full attention of the group. Carl is already standing up. The chairperson will likely say: “Let’s table this to the next meeting” so Sally will be off the hook of having all eyes on her. 

 

Sally!! Before you go to the meeting practice, practice, practice speaking your point out loud, and in front of a mirror if possible. Deep breathe before you speak. And know that even if your cheeks burn, it is not as noticeable as you think. Each time you speak up it will get easier. And if it is a disaster, don’t psyche yourself out by telling yourself you’ll never do it again. Tell yourself that doing things out of your comfort zone is supposed to feel awkward. Tell yourself you are building your ability to handle embarrassment and humiliation muscle. Tell yourself you are learning to process any and all feelings that come up. This alone makes you unstoppable.

 

TIP 3

 

Sally is simply not organized and never has a clue as to what the meeting is about.

 

Sally!! The agenda is your friend. Find out who is making the agenda and make sure the point you want to make is on it. You will feel in charge and you can take the time in advance to write down the points you want to make and have them in front of you. Boom. You’re a leader. 

 

Confession: I have been a Sally, but I have learned these tricks to make my experience of meetings more magical – or at least tolerable and productive. And bringing baked goods helps too. 

 

Happy Meetings!!

 

Linda Drosdowech

Word Sense Studio

 

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