If you’re entering the business world, there’s one thing you’ll need to get used to: meetings. Attending meetings is an essential and guaranteed part of any business player’s working life, and meetings can be called to discuss matters large and small. In order to survive and thrive in the business world, you’ll not only need to know how to survive meetings, but how to organize and conduct them yourself.
First things first: why do we have meetings? Many jobs involve arranging meetings with colleagues, bosses or clients and meetings can be essential for effective business communication. You’ll probably have to present your company in English someday. Meetings are a time for presenting new, important information, planning for the future, and touching based on ongoing projects.
Most meetings have an agenda or a list of items to be discussed during the meeting. It’s quite common for topics to arise during a meeting so that the planned topics get side-tracked and the meetings can last much longer than necessary. That’s why meetings need a clearly defined agenda and a chairperson to oversee the meeting. The ‘chairperson’ is usually in charge of drafting the agenda and ensuring the meeting stays on track.
Let’s look at the key aspects of a business meeting in a little more detail.
If you’re new to the world of business and the norms of business meetings, you might not be familiar with the role of a chairperson. In formal meetings, the organizers will often select a chairperson, who is charged with overseeing the organization and general progress of the meeting. So what exactly does this person do? Here are some examples of a chairperson’s responsibilities:
Presiding over the meeting
Making sure the meeting runs to time and sticks to the agenda
Allocating speaking time to members of the meeting
Conducting the questions and answers session
Overseeing a vote
Making key decisions
Taking responsibility for meeting minutes and organization
As you can see, the role of a chairperson is wide and varied, and it is a position of responsibility. As well as being helpful for the organization of a meeting, the chairperson is an important figure for making sure the meeting’s objectives are fulfilled and that there is even representation of all attendees.
As you can see, one of the chairperson’s key responsibilities is to ensure participation for all the attendees. So you may be wondering, why is this so important?
Most of the time, when we call a meeting, it’s because we want to share information with a group of people and get their feedback. A group forum for discussion is a great thing, but not everybody comfortable speaking up and chiming in, so it’s important to have someone whose designated job is to clearly allocate time to each member to participate and make themselves heard if they have something to say.
If you’ve gone to all the trouble of gathering your colleagues, make sure you hear what they have to say.
Before starting the meeting, it will be necessary to send out an email inviting all participants to attend and to inform them of the purpose and the suggested items on the agenda. There are some English phrases that will be useful to know to use in the email.
You will need phrases to state the reason for the meeting such as:
I’d like to arrange a meeting;
…to discuss a possible solution to our current problem.
…to talk about some ways that our product can be of benefit to you.
…to present our new service to you.
…to discuss this month’s sales targets.
…to introduce you to our new member of staff.
Please find attached a copy of the agenda.
You’ll need to think about where the meeting will be held. Will it be in a formal setting inside the office or will it be an informal one outside in a café? Once you ‘ve decided you’ll then need to inform people of the location:
The meeting will be held at …. (place) on …. (day) at …. (time).
It’s a good idea to ask for responses too:
Please confirm that you will be able to attend.
A standard phrase to finish the email would be:
I look forward to seeing you all soon.
To get the meeting off to a start is usual for the chairperson to welcome everyone and remind them what the meeting is going to be about. This can be done with some standard phrases:
Welcome and thanks for coming everyone.
We’re going to look at….
The purpose of today’s meeting is to discuss..
Now that everyone’s here, let’s get started with today’s agenda.
So, let’s get down to business.
There are some good ways to ensure your meeting achieves its aims and does not go off track. As mentioned, most meetings have an agenda – a list of items that will be covered during the meeting. It’s wise to make sure the discussion stays focussed on the agenda items and that there are defined time limits for each item and for the meeting itself. This can be done using these phrases:
The first item on the agenda that we need to discuss today is..
Let’s look at the next item on the agenda which is…
Let’s move on to..
Moving on, let’s take a look at item three on the agenda.
I think we’ve covered this point now..
I think we’re going off topic here so let’s get back to talking about..
Before we move on, I think we need to look at..
I’m sorry, but I don’t believe we’ve talked about..
Just a moment, I think we’ve forgotten to discuss..
An essential part of managing a meeting is making sure it sticks to time. People have busy schedules, so it’s important to start and end the meeting when you say you will. To achieve this goal, you must keep an eye on time management throughout the whole duration for the meeting to check that the meeting is running according to the agenda and the provisional schedule. Time management can be tricky, especially when it involves cutting someone off or shutting down a stimulating point of discussion.
Here are some helpful phrases for doing just that:
It’s time to start, so let’s kick things off right away.
We’re still waiting on a few people, but let’s get started anyway.
As a general point of information, we’ll be sticking closely to the agenda today.
As interesting as this discussion is, let’s move on.
Time is of the essence, so let’s go to our next item on the agenda.
I’m afraid we don’t have any more time to discuss this further.
As much as I would like to keep discussing this, we’re running out of time.
Let’s make sure we have enough time to hear everyone.
Let’s start wrapping things up.
That’s all we have time for.
It’s important to interrupt and let people know if you haven’t understood what they’ve said.
Sorry to interrupt but…
Could you please clarify…?
I’m not sure I understand what you mean by..
I’m sorry, I didn’t quite catch that..
Sorry, I’m not following you. Did you mean…?
Could you be more specific?
Once everything on the agenda has been covered or time has run out, it’s time to end the meeting with some natural phrases:
Now we’ve come to the final item on the agenda.
To recap, we’re going to..
This is what we’ve agreed on..
So we’ve decided to..
Can we sum up what we’ve agreed?
OK everybody, thanks for coming.
That’s all for today.
It’s a good idea to make sure the meetings are efficient and effective and are only as long as necessary. They’ll be more productive and useful that way. Your employees will reap the benefits and they’ll be happy to attend future meetings!
As you’ve understood by now, meetings can involve a great deal of organization, time, and effort on the part of the chairperson and attendees.For this reason, meetings should always have a clear purpose and a defined agenda. A meeting that lacks organization or purpose is one that’ll leave attendees feeling bored and as though they’ve wasted some of their valuable time. You can avoid hosting an ineffective meeting by doing the following:
Define the objective of the meeting
Ask yourself whether the meeting really needs to take place, or would an email do?
Only invite attendees who are directly involved in the outcome of the meeting
Use the meeting to define goals going forward, as well as methodologies
Don’t allow the meeting to extend beyond its allotted time
These days, more and more of our meetings are taking place virtually. Although it might seem like a drag, it could be a good thing. After all, a virtual meeting saves a lot of the work involved with organizing and attending an in-person event (not to mention reducing your carbon footprint). If you have the choice, but you’re not sure which type of meeting you favour, ask yourself the following questions:
Does the meeting really need to take place in person?
Will a virtual meeting detract from the meeting’s objective?
If you still haven’t decided, here’s a short list of some of the advantages and disadvantages of both types of meeting:
(+) Fewer constraints regarding scheduling and location
(+) Often quicker and more to the point
(+) Everyone who wants to can connect and participate
(-) Difficult to concentrate and remain focused
(-) Lack of face-to-face human interaction
(-) Vulnerable to technical issues
(+) Easier to forge relationships
(+) More suited to “wooing” colleagues and clients with lunches, tours, and perks
(+) Better facilities oral communication, negotiation, and debate
(-) Time consuming and heavy on organisation and logistics
(-) Can be exclusive if certain invitees cannot attend
(-) Unnecessary waste and inefficiency (in time, supplies, and resources)
Our online learning platform is a fantastic resource for polishing up your English grammar and vocabulary, and now we’re taking things a step further with virtual lessons.
With a group or individual class under the guidance of one of our TESOL-qualified English teachers, you can hammer out the topics that stress you the most, whether it’s making business phone calls, preparing a presentation, or conducting a meeting.
Speaking English with a trained professional is the best way to practice and to prepare for real-life business interactions.
The GlobalExam Business English course is a training platform to help people learn the English language required in a business setting. As well as meetings, lots of other situations are covered too including:
The course includes videos with dialogues using our team of native English speakers. There is plenty of practical advice and the opportunity to create a professional CV in English too.
Business English offers training courses at beginner, intermediate or expert levels. Candidates can do a test so that they can find the most suitable level to start at. All participants receive a certificate of completion at the end of each course. Come and start your business English training today!