Have you ever played Jeopardy alone?  I bet you shout out all the answers and hold nothing back.

What’s the average wingspan of the peregrine falcon, Alex?”

“What is Bergy Seltzer?”

“Alex, let’s make it a true daily double.”

You try to run every category and you are not intimidated by final jeopardy.  You’ll bet it all.  In reality, you may have only answered a fraction correctly. But, there was no fear. You had no problem screaming out the answer whether it was right or wrong.

You went for it.

Now, let’s switch it up a bit. What happens if you watch Jeopardy in a room full of people? How likely are you to still go for it? Or, do you only answer what you absolutely know is correct? Do you hold back because you are afraid of what people might think if you get it wrong?

That’s the “Jeopardy Principle.” It is what happens when we are comfortable alone, but when the room gets full, we tuck ourselves away into a corner.

Learning to Speak Up in Meetings

Does the “Jeopardy Principle” apply at work for you?

Are you hesitant to speak up in meetings? Or, maybe you are the type who prefers to carefully reflect before you speak? Perhaps you are afraid? Feel you have nothing to add? Not confident to disagree with what is being said?

We have a myriad of reasons why we are hesitant to speak up.  Unfortunately, some people – including your boss – can interpret this to mean that you do not have an opinion or anything of value to add.

Make no mistake.  Your contribution is valuable. Too often, employees save comments for the break room or for after the meeting when not all people will hear what they say.

Surveys have shown that the average employee can spend about one third of their work day in meetings. If you do not speak up, you are not visible. Having a presence in meetings is vital to your career, no matter who you are. Meaningful contribution is also a key to making meetings more effective and everyone will thank you for that!

How to Cultivate a Commanding Presence in Meetings

Not everyone is born with a leader’s impressive presence, but that does not mean you cannot develop and perfect your own personal charisma. Here are seven tips to help you develop your presence.

Start Slowly and Practice: If this is all new to you, you probably won’t change overnight. Set a goal of making at least one comment in every meeting. The more you make, the more your comfort level increases.

Remember, You Are the Expert: You get paid for your expertise. Everyone loses if you hold back. You deprive your organization and your coworkers of your knowledge when you sit silently. You leave the impression that you have nothing to contribute. We know that’s not true. Position yourself by understanding what you bring to the table. Your involvement is as valid as any other person. If you are constantly deferring to others, you are letting them take away your strength and power. You have worked too hard for this knowledge. Use it and share it.

Be prepared: Understand the purpose of the meeting and prepare a few questions or comments in advance. Great conversations in meetings usually spark insight and other questions from group members.

Prepare by:

  • Reviewing the agenda beforehand.
  • Knowing the purpose of this meeting to anticipate what questions might be asked.
  • Knowing who will be in the meeting.
  • Brushing up on the topic if you are not familiar with it.

Speak First: Be the first one to express a viewpoint. Lead the discussion rather than follow it. The sooner you contribute, the less time you’ll spend worrying that your opinion differs from the others. If you delay your contribution, you will find it harder to break into the conversation. Put that onus on someone else. I guarantee you there is a high likelihood that others share your opinion.

Don’t Use “Weak” Words: There are certain words and phrases that can make you appear less confident and indecisive. They may even frustrate your listener. If the listener is your boss, frustrating them is not the goal.  Some common weak phrases include “ I think,” “I would just like to say,” “I feel,” or “It feels like.”  Using words like these do not radiate confidence and you reduce your credibility when you say it. Drop the weak words and state what you mean.

Don’t Make a Habit of Saying “Sorry” in Meetings: “I’m sorry to interrupt,” or “I’m sorry to ask you,” or “I’m sorry to take up your time.” If you mess up, apologize. Don’t apologize for the sake of apologizing. You should feel like you are able to state your opinion without apologizing.

Challenge Yourself to Ask Questions: Asking questions is a great way to ease into meeting dialogues. Questions trigger conversations.

Some questions to ask are:

  • That is impressive. What made you think of that?
  • If you do this, how will it affect _______?
  • What do you mean by __________?
  • Tell me more about ____.

Use your expertise to dive deeper into what others are saying. Do not ask random questions simply for the sake of asking a question. Make your questions meaningful.

Don’t let the “Jeopardy Principle” hold you back from achieving career success.

“Alex, I’ll take power over my career for $1000, please.”

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Jan Johnston Osburn is a Certified Career Coach and Organizational Consultant. Her organizational specialties are Talent Acquisition, Training, and Leadership Development. She holds a Master’s degree from the University of Buckingham, UK, and has certifications in Executive Coaching and Advanced Social Media. Her website is www.JanJohnstonOsburn.Com.