How to speak up at work – during virtual meetings

Posted by: NHS Horizons - Posted on:

Originally published by Leigh Kendall – 8th September 2020

Have you ever felt uncertain about speaking up at work? You’re not alone!

Some useful advice has been crafted by Otegha Uwagba – Scriberia has created this brilliant sketchnote inspired by this article.

The original article was published in 2017 – long before Covid, social distancing, and virtual meetings becoming the norm. Otegha Uwagba’s principles stand, whether your meeting is face-to-face or virtual – there are some additional challenges and opportunities presented by virtual working that I’ve considered below.

Create a business case

First and foremost of course, you need to build a business case with relevant evidence and data. Whether it’s a formal business case or evidence to support your argument, being prepared with evidence will build your credibility, and hopefully give you a confidence boost.

The virtual world gives us so many more opportunities for presenting our business case than might be typically possible in a traditional face-to-face meeting. Good old PowerPoint still has an important role to play, of course. 

There’s a whole host of other virtual tools that can be useful to engage your audience and seek their views such as annotations, tools, Jamboard, and Slido. This post by my colleague Bev demonstrates how Jamboard can work in practice, while Claire here explains how Slido can work.

Put forward your ideas confidently

Framing your ideas as Otegha suggests – with confidence, not qualifiers (“I think” rather than “I feel like…”) is a great idea. In a virtual meeting, being unable to directly eyeball those you’re meeting with can be a challenge. 

Help boost your confidence, credibility, and influence by thinking about the angle of your camera. Can you see your full head and shoulders? What can be seen behind you? Wherever possible, make sure the background is not distracting from you and what you have to say.

A consideration for virtual meetings is how best your message might be received – and hold their attention. Think about how you might use the virtual tools mentioned above. Making sure you practice your presentation and using the virtual tools you’ve chosen will boost your confidence, too.

Know your audience

As Otegha recommends, take the time to know who the audience for your ideas is. What’s their agenda? What are their priorities? 

Take a look at the Twitter profiles of those whom you are seeking to influence. What are they passionate about? If you haven’t met them in person, or haven’t worked with them before, their Twitter profile can give you useful insight into their personality. You could also connect with them on Twitter, giving you the opportunity to build a rapport with them before the meeting.

Within the virtual space, consider how the decision makers like to receive information. Are the people you are seeking to influence open to using new virtual tools? What’s their confidence level with them? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, think of who you could ask to find out.

Break the ice

Speak up as early as possible during the virtual meeting. The beauty of virtual meetings is that there is usually a chat box – make use of that to introduce yourself, and/or to add constructive comments during the meeting.

If you’re chairing a virtual meeting, you can help give everyone an equal voice by inviting people to introduce themselves. Even if everyone present knows one another, a ‘check in’ where participants are invited to share what they’re expecting to achieve from the meeting helps demonstrate everyone’s views are valued. Similarly, doing a ‘check out’, where participants are invited to share in turn how they have found the meeting is very useful (and provides an opportunity to clarify actions and next steps).