Meetings are a mixed-value bag. Some co-workers love to hear themselves talk and verbally process every thought. On the other hand, some co-workers never seem to speak up. Meetings aren’t just about having your voice heard. They’re about giving value – that’s what makes you stand out. And in days that are often filled with endless meetings, the individual who doesn’t just check out or chat it up is a standout.

How do you become a valuable voice during meetings? Seating location can help, but not if you’re meeting via video chat. You have to be more strategic about adding value. Here are five ways to approach meetings that will help you be a more valuable member of your team:

1. Plan.

Whether or not you have an agenda before a meeting, jot down some notes in order to organize your thoughts. Preparation makes you ready to speak early in a meeting and not wait to simply agree with others. Arrive on time for the meeting and speak early. Armed with a plan, it is easier to not just hang back and wait for others to speak. The longer you wait to speak, the less likely you will engage and add value.

2. Ask.

In order to add value, you don’t always have to be the one talking. You can be the one that asks important questions that makes others see information differently. When preparing, think of a few questions to ask about the meeting topic. Find ways to dig deeper or clarify, when necessary.

3. Synthesize.

Be the person who pulls everyone’s thoughts and ideas together. In other words, you want to help define the real problems, and then be the catalyst behind the solution process. Developing this soft skill can turn you into being the key voice that is needed in productive meetings.

4. Listen.

Perhaps this should be the first because if you don’t hear what others say, you can’t add anything valuable. Don’t bother asking any questions if you don’t plan on listening to the answers. And you certainly can’t synthesize others’ input and help drive a solution if you don’t listen to the other voices in the room. When it comes to listening, you also need to be careful that you’re not just trying to think of what to say when others are talking. Fake listening is the fastest route to becoming the least valuable voice in the room.

5. Communicate confidently.

In order for others to listen, you have to speak with confidence. You don’t have to raise your voice, but don’t undermine or add disclaimers to what you’re saying before it’s even said. Phrases like “If I may just say” or “I think”  discredit your opinion before you even offer it. You prepared and researched, so offer your ideas with confidence.  

It’s easy to get bogged down with endless meetings, but no matter how many meetings you have or whether they’re video, over the phone, or face to face, you can take steps to increase the value of your voice over time.

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Jillian Hamilton has worked in a variety of Program Management roles for multiple Federal Government contractors. She has helped manage projects in training and IT. She received her Bachelors degree in Business with an emphasis in Marketing from Penn State University and her MBA from the University of Phoenix.