I've gotten feedback that I'm more on the quiet side and that I could be more active in meetings. However, I feel like I don't have much to add when it comes to meetings. I want to say something that's insightful and adds value to the conversation, but I'm unsure how to come up with that level of material, especially on-the-spot during the meeting. How do I figure out what to say?
First, I recommend going through these other Taro career advice:
I want to say something that's insightful and adds value to the conversation...
This is a common misconception I see among earlier-in-career engineers, and it's important that you get rid of it. This sets the bar too high for yourself, and this will lead to you never speaking up in meetings. The hard part is that talking in meetings and engaging is like any other skill: You get better at it over time, and the best way to learn it is just to start doing it.
A meeting tactic I didn't share in those other Q&A is that paraphrasing the content of the meeting can very effective. Here's how it works:
If you have a supportive team and you've gotten feedback that you should speak up more in meetings, I'm fairly confident your team will support you as you "break into" meetings more and start expressing yourself more often!
Alex already described Active Listening in his post, which is a very important skill to develop. Being able to succinctly restate key points helps your note taking, and allows these summarizations to occur that sort of “check point” what is being presented.
Beyond that, though, everyone will benefit from a “blotter” that goes out after a meeting, and using that as a jumping off point for further offline discussion. Some people cannot synthesize information, reflect on it, and have good feedback in a time-constrained situation. Everyone should have a voice, not just those that speak quickly in the meeting itself.
Assign a note taker who is not the presenter in every meeting, and have those notes sent to the team after, even if everyone wasn’t able to attend. Then you have an “in” to provide your thoughts in response there, and have a record of it.
Diversity makes us better, but that means having flexible channels for this kind of feedback. If the introverted people, or those that require longer reflection to give insightful feedback, or those with social anxiety are all dismissed because they can’t give a response in one’s of minutes in a meeting, that is a loss. Level the playing field, and it will yield benefits beyond your own ability to contribute.
Other answers have already provided excellent advice here. I am just adding my two cents here. You can add value to meetings not just by providing insights but also by asking good questions which can then help you and others get better understanding of the topic of discussion. Good questions can help uncover insights which were being overlooked before. Showing interest in the meeting is also participation. I'd recommend starting with a mindset of curiosity and letting your questions guide the way.