I was talking to a first-year today when she mentioned she never speaks in class. She admitted she felt intimidated and that she always “need more time to think through everything” before she speaks. It wasn’t until my internship that I really learned how to speak more effectively on the spot. Here are a few tips I have learned on how to speak up more in class:

  • Prepare for questions that will be asked. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was to focus on the questions asked of you on a recurring assignment. During your first case discussion, write down the questions your professor asks about the case. This will be your “cheat sheet” for the next cases in that class. Make sure to come up with 2-3 points for at least half of those questions.
  • Don’t wait for your comment to be “perfect”. It probably won’t happen! Since the other people in your class are not perfect, this is more likely about your perception/self-confidence than reality. Try to imitate the best parts of their comments- are there certain words or strategic issues that seem to keep coming up? I also make a mental note any time somebody says what i had planned to say – this shows that I was on target for the case.
  • Participate early in the class. Ever notice how there’s a lot of silence at the beginning of class and then a ton of people throwing in their comments at the end? One of the biggest tips I have for speaking up more is to answer those initial questions. This will make it easier to speak again in that class and your point is more likely to be remembered.
  • Answer every question (in your head!). Cold calling can be super painful if you aren’t doing this already. Stay engaged the entire class. I also like to think about my comments in relation to others- do I agree with this person? If not, at what point do I disagree?
  • Challenge yourself to speak up at least once. My final tip would be to reward yourself for speaking up. If you have a class where you feel intimidated, bust out your good tea and treat your self! Even if it wasn’t the most insightful comment, it’s important to create that habit feedback loop.

I hope this helps you speak more in class! Good luck!