By Rachel Owen, Communications Manager
We’ve all been there. You’re sitting in a group meeting nervously tapping your foot and wondering if you should speak up with your idea. Or, worse yet, the collective sigh as you asked a question left you wondering if you spoke out of turn.
How do you know if it’s the right time to share your idea?
Here are a few questions to ask yourself before speaking up in a meeting.
Should I Say Something?
- Is the idea on topic and on task?
- If it’s on topic, on task, and an appropriate time to speak up, go ahead and share!
- If you plan to say, “This is off topic, but …” you should plan to bring up the idea later. You want your contributions help to achieve the goal of the meeting – that will always help you look good.
- Does the concern or idea affect the entire group?
- If you want to try a new process but it might affect others, such as cause them to receive emails about the change or affect how their normal procedures work, it’s definitely a team concern, so speak up!
- If the question is only for your supervisor and doesn’t affect the rest of the team, it’s likely a personal question in disguise.
- Can the question be answered quickly in an email?
- Send an email unless it’s an FAQ others are concerned about, too.
- Has someone else already expressed the concern?
- Make sure that your question covers new territory or asks for clarification on a particular point. If you’re confused about details, it’s likely others are, too.
- Does it require a long explanation?
- If the idea can’t be explained simply, the idea probably isn’t fully developed. Refine your pitch to be brief and focused on the goal of the meeting.
- Does it require sharing confidential information?
- Never betray a confidence. You should rework your comment to include only appropriate information or don’t share it. Remember, loose lips sink ships.
- Will it put a team member in a negative light?
- Don’t throw your teammate under the proverbial bus – especially in a group meeting. Carefully craft your comments to be solutions focused before you share your idea. As always, a good rule of thumb is that it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Still unsure? During an appropriate time in the meeting, such as the Q&A at the end, ask, “Do we have time to cover [topic]?” Keep this request just as brief and simple as that. Be sure to wait for the leader to respond before you go any further.
Remember, the idea doesn’t have to “die” just because it isn’t shared in the meeting. Great ideas that are off-topic are still great ideas. Make a note of those sidebar, off-topic ideas and share them with the appropriate person after the meeting.
Often, it’s less about when you say something and more about how you say it. It helps to think about how you want people to perceive you. Do you want to be seen as being solutions oriented, a problem solver and a marvel of efficiency? Shape your questions and comments around those ideas.
Whether you share in the meeting or afterwards via email, make sure you pass along your innovative ideas. Your team needs your valuable perspective!