Pachter's Pointers:
Business Etiquette Tips & Career Suggestions


Speak Up: 10 Ways to Get Your Voice Heard

Have you ever left a meeting or conference thinking, “I wish I had said something?”

You are not alone. People often come up to me and confess that they are hesitant to speak up at meetings. Others mention that when they do say something, no one responds.

In a recent article in the New York Times, Sharon Napier, CEO of Partners + Napier, stressed the importance of voicing your opinion when she said: “Don’t sit quietly and think about things and maybe whisper to somebody or tell people afterward. Put yourself out there, and get involved in the conversation.” 

Check your behavior against this list of 10 key assertiveness points to make sure your voice is heard. Do you:

1. Prepare ahead of time? It is easier to say something when you have practiced. Think about the meeting and what may be discussed. Familiarize yourself with what you want to say so that you can say it with confidence when the topic comes up.

2. Establish your presence? Walk into the room as though you belong there. Greet people. If you feel comfortable being in the room, you will feel more confident about saying something at the meeting.

3. Understand the consequences of not speaking up? You want your bosses, colleagues, and customers to view you as competent and credible. If you don’t speak up, they don’t know what you know, and you can become overlooked and irrelevant. Jenny Ming, chief executive of the clothing chain Charlotte Russe, was also quoted in the New York Times article. She said: “What I learned is that you can’t assume that people know what you’re thinking or what you want in your career. You have to speak up.” 

4. Speak early? The longer you wait to give your opinion, the harder it will be to speak up. Make a comment or ask a question near the beginning of the meeting.

5. Make your point without asking permission? Do you say, “May I make a point?” When you do, it’s easy for others to think, “No.” Either say, “I have a point,” or simply speak out with your comments.

6. Speak loudly enough to be heard? If you speak softly, your comments may not register with others. Practice increasing your volume. Initially, you may feel that you are shouting, but the chances are that you are finally speaking loudly enough to be heard. Additional information on verbal and nonverbal communication can be found in my latest two books, The Power of Positive Confrontation and The Essentials of Business Etiquette.

7. Know how to interrupt? Yes, I know, interrupting is generally frowned upon. Yet, in some situations, if you don’t interrupt you won’t get to speak. The easiest way to interrupt is when the other person takes a breath. You then speak up quickly, acknowledge what the person said, and add your thoughts.

8. Avoid giving too much detail? If you belabor your points, people will tune out. Say what you need to say in as few words as necessary.

9. Control your body language? Do not wring your hands or play with paper clips or rubber bands. They become distractions, and take away from what you are saying. Make sure you look people in the eye. You appear more confident when you make eye contact.

10. Eliminate self-discounting statements? Don’t start your comments with, “It’s only my opinion,” or similar statements. Don’t conclude with, “I don’t know. What do you think?” If you discount yourself, it’s easy for others to discount you as well.

Pachter & Associates provides training and coaching on business etiquette and dining. For additional information, contact Joyce Hoff  at 856.751.6141 or joyce


  1. Anonymous11/21/2014

    From a reader:
    This is Excellent information for reading! Please keep them coming!
    I will be sure to apply it daily!

  2. Anonymous11/21/2014

    From a reader:
    Barbara, I really enjoyed reading your recent post. I have a reputation of speaking up, even if it feels a little uncomfortable. Many times, what I say affirms what others are thinking ... but are just to afraid to chime in. Thanks again for a great article! Much appreciated.

  3. Thank you Barbara. I enjoy reading this article. From now on I want to get involved in a conversation and speak up, it's not just enough just to sit quietly. Communication matters.

    1. Thanks for your comment and best of luck in the future.

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