Jon Baker of Introvert in Business is a speaker and coach who helps accountants to improve business performance

How many times have you seen board meetings drift without the right things happening? The outspoken CEO or CMO dominates the discussion, and important details don’t get discussed, projects aren’t as successful as they should be, budgets aren’t set properly and company performance suffers.

Have you sat in one of those meetings without saying everything you wanted to because of the irrelevant and frustrating discussion?

Many find it hard to deal with extroverted, louder, egotistical voices in meetings. They don’t say what they want to, or walk away thinking ‘I wish I’d said…’

Why don’t you get heard?

There are three main reasons why you might not speak up in meetings:

  • Detail. If you are introverted, you tend to think in detail rather than ‘top-level’, leading to incompatible discussions that hold many back.
  • Thought. Internal processing means introverts ‘think to talk’ while extroverts typically ‘talk to think’. Introverts consider their point before talking, whereas external processors consider the point by talking. This delay gives the introvert a more complete view but sometimes not quickly enough for extroverts, who are ready to move to the next topic.
  • Time-wasting. Introverts tend to be reflective and (unless they feel very strongly about a particular point) are unlikely to add to a conversation unless they feel they’ll be heard and add value.

Internal processing means introverts ‘think to talk’ while extroverts typically ‘talk to think’

Have your say
  1. Prepare. Practise the points you most want to say, in short sentences. If you’ve prepared them, they’re easier to say.
  2. Announce your points in advance. Where possible, get your points on the agenda. If not, briefly state them near the beginning of the meeting.
  3. Plan your pre-meeting small talk. Introverts get drained by pre-meeting small talk. Plan some points pertinent to the people there, or points in the news. You’ll feel less drained by the time the meeting starts.
  4. Make assertive holding statements. Internal processing can delay you while you think of the perfect answer; that gap can get interpreted as you not knowing! In his book Great Answers to Tough Questions at Work, Michael Dodd says that replying with a practised ‘I’ve been thinking about that and have two really important points to add’ will give you a couple of seconds to think, stopping somebody taking the conversation away. Have a couple of ‘holding statements’ you’re comfortable with.
  5. Body language talks. Stand, or sit, as if you are confident. It shows you’re alert, interested and helps make your point more powerfully.
  6. Look for allies. When making your point, invite an ally into the discussion (‘Wouldn’t you agree, Pete?’) and build on their points (‘Pete made a good point when he said…. I’d add…’).
  7. Use listening skills. Introverts tend to be good listeners. This makes them great at summarising. Rambling, extrovert-led discussions often leave people confused and frustrated. Summarising what’s been said helps you get recognised and allows you to easily make your point.
  8. Be bright and brief. Summarise your detail into a sentence and be ready to follow up with more detail, if needed. Having made your point, stop – don’t fill the silence. People respect brevity, even though they might not deliver it themselves. Don’t pad out or soften your points with comments that trail off at the end. End confidently and clearly.
  9. Don’t apologise. Starting by being apologetic weakens your position. ‘I need to add…’ is much better that ‘I’m sorry, but…’.
  10. Don’t set up barriers. Don’t start by saying ‘I disagree’. Better are things like ‘Perhaps we might also consider…’, or ‘I agree, but have some doubts about…’.
  11. Link back. If somebody gets interrupted (or you interrupt them), give them the floor again afterwards. ‘I think Pete got interrupted just now.’ You’ll get seen more positively, and it makes it easier should you ever interrupt.
  12. Follow up. Introverts tend to be more comfortable with one-to-one discussion. Play to your strengths by delving deeper into relevant topics outside the meeting.