BUSINESS ENGLISH advanced
4. Meetings

 

 

1.      Preparation for the meeting

 

Language Checklist

Chairing and leading discussion

 

Opening the meeting

Thank you for coming …

(It’s ten o’clock). Let’s start …

We’ve received apologies from …

Any comments on our previous meeting?

 

Introducing the agenda

You’ve all seen the agenda …

On the agenda, you’ll see there are three items.

There is one main item to discuss …

 

Stating objectives

We’re here today to hear about plans for …

Our objective is to discuss different ideas …

What we want to do today is to reach a decision …

 

Introducing discussion

The background to the problem is …

This issue is about …

The point we have to understand is …

Calling on a speaker

I’d like to ask Mary to tell us about …

Can we hear from Mr. Passas on this?

I know that you’ve prepared a statement on your Department’s views…

 

Controlling the meeting

Sorry Hans, can we let Magda finish?

Er, Henry, we can’t talk about that.

 

Summarising

So, what you’re saying is …

Can I summarise that? You mean …

So, the main point is …

 

Moving the discussion on

Can we go to think about …

Let’s move on to the next point.

 

Closing the meeting

I think we’ve covered everything.

So, we’ve decided …

I think we can close the meeting now.

That’s it. The next meeting will be …

 

 

Skills Checklist

Preparation for meetings

 

Chair

·         Decide objectives.

·         What type of meeting (formal or informal, short or long, regular or a ‘one off’, internal / external information giving / discussion / decision making)?

·         Is a social element required?

·         Prepare an agenda.

·         Decide time / place / participants / who must attend and who can be notified of decisions.

·         Study subjects for discussion.

·         Anticipate different opinions.

·         Speak to participants.

 

Secretary

·         Obtain agenda and list of participants.

·         Inform participants and check:

Room, equipment, paper, materials.

Refreshments, meals, accommodation, travel.

 

Participants

·         Study subjects on agenda, work out preliminary options.

·         If necessary, find out team or department views.

·         Prepare own contribution, ideas, visual supports, etc.

 

The role of the Chair

·         Start and end on time.

·         Introduce objectives, agenda.

·         Introduce speakers.

·         Define time limits for contributions.

·         Control discussion, hear all views.

·         Summarise discussion at key points.

·         Ensure that key decisions are written down by the secretary.

·         Ensure that conclusions and decisions are clear and understood.

·         Define actions to be taken and individual responsibilities.

 

 

 

Practice 1

Suggest phrases which could be used by a chairperson in the following situations in a meeting.

a.       To welcome the participants to a meeting.

b.       To state the objectives of the meeting.

c.       To introduce the agenda.

d.       To introduce the first speaker.

e.       To prevent an interruption.

f.        To thank a speaker for his/her contribution.

g.       To introduce another speaker.

h.       To keep discussion to the relevant issues.

i.         To summarise discussion.

j.         To ask if anyone has anything to add.

k.       To suggest moving to the next topic on the agenda.

l.         To summarise certain actions that must be done following the meeting (for example, do research, write a report, meet again, write a letter, etc.).

m.     To close the meeting.

 

 

Practice 2

1. In groups, work out a brief agenda, with an appropriate order, for a meeting of the marketing department of Axis Finance Ltd., a medium-size financial services company. Your agenda should include the points listed here:

Any other business                                                       

New products

Minutes of previous meeting      

Marketing plans for next year

Date of next meeting

Review of marketing performance in the current year

Personnel changes                                                                    

Chair’s opening address                                    

Apologies for absence.

 

 

 

 

2. In pairs, prepare a brief opening statement by the chair to introduce the meeting above:

Think about what the opening statement from the chair needs to say

Use your agenda as a guide

Refer to the Language Checklist

Practise in pairs

 

 

 

8. Participating in meetings

 

 

Language Checklist

Discussion in meetings

 

Stating opinion

It seems to me …

I tend to think …

In my view …

We think / feel / believe …

There’s no alternative to …

It’s obvious that …

Clearly / obviously …

 

Asking for opinion

I’d like to hear from …

Could we hear from … ?

What’s your view?

What do you think about …?

Do you have any strong views on … ?

Any comments?

 

Interrupting

Excuse me, may I ask for clarification on this?

If I may interrupt, could you say … ?

Sorry to interrupt, but …

Do you think so? My impression is …

What? That’s impossible. We / I think …

 

Handling interruptions

Yes, go ahead.

Sorry, please let me finish …

If I may finish this point …

Can I come to that later?

That’s not really relevant at this stage …

Can we leave that to another discussion?

 

 

Skills Checklist

Participating in meetings

 

Types of meeting

·         Decision making meeting

·         Information giving meeting

·         Spontaneous / emergency meeting

·         Routine meeting

·         Internal meeting

·         Customer / client / supplier - first meeting / established relationship

 

Structure of decision making meetings

·         Study / discuss / analyse the situation

·         Define the problem

·         Set an objective

·         State imperatives and desirables

·         Generate alternatives

·         Establish evaluation criteria

·         Evaluate alternatives

·         Choose among alternatives

 

The DESC stage of meeting

D         Describe situation

E          Express feelings

S          Suggest solutions

C          Conclude with decision

Goal of decision making meetings

Objective: to get a consensus in a time-efficient and cost effective manner

 

Importance of communication

·         Two-way process

·         Participants must be aware of others’ needs

·         Full communication and understanding is essential

·         Four elements in communication: awareness – understanding – empathy – perception

 

Reaching a consensus

·         Discussion leads to consensus

·         Consensus is recognised and verbalised by leader

·         Decisions checked and confirmed

 

 

 

Practice 3

Use the skeleton outline below to recreate the entire dialogue with a partner. Choose alternative interruptions and ways of handling interruptions.

 

 

‘The fall in sales is mainly due to

 the recession affecting world markets.’

                                                Interrupt: ask for clarification.

Polite response.

(general fall of 5 % / most product areas

 / especially oil processing sector

/ also due to sale of Anglo, UK subsidiary)

                                                Interrupt: ask why Anglo was sold.

Reject interruption:

No time / discussed before.

 

Try to move on to future prospects.

(the outlook is just good now)

                                                Interrupt: disagree.

Respond: you disagree.

Forecast are much better.

Interrupt: you want to talk about new markets.

Promise to discuss this later.

But first …

                                                Interrupt: suggest a break.

Reject the idea.

 

 

·         Reading

 

1.      Read the following extract and answer these questions.

a.       What kind of meeting is the text about?

b.       What structure does the text describe?

c.       What key points is made about communication?

 

2.      Read the text again. Do you agree with:

a.       The first sentence? Give reasons for your answer.

b.       Hayne’s suggestions for the steps involved in decision making?

c.       The view that communication must be a two-way process?

d.       What the writer says about consensus in the final paragraph?

 

The reason for having a meeting is to make a decision. Information may be given in a presentation followed by questions or discussion, but it is to get a consensus that the meeting has been arranged in the first place. Achieving this in the most time- and cost- effective manner possible is a goal that everyone attending (the meeting) must share.

Marion Haynes (1988) maintains that decision-making meetings need to follow a specific structure. The rational decision process includes the following steps:

·         Study / discuss / analyse the situation

·         Define the problem

·         Set an objective

·         State imperatives and desirables

·         Generate alternatives

·         Establish evaluation criteria

·         Evaluate alternatives

·         Choose among alternatives.

One other aspect of decision making is the necessity for participants in the meeting to be aware of one another’s needs and perceptions. If these are not effectively communicated, if there is an insufficient degree of understanding of one another’s requirements, then an acceptable conclusion is unlikely to be reached. There are four essential elements in decision-making: awareness, understanding, empathy and perception.

It is only when we accept that communications are a two-way process that any form of communication, including decision making, will become genuinely successful and effective.

Decision-making is not always an identifiable activity. Frequently the discussion can evolve into a consensus which can be recognised and verbalised by the leader without the need to ‘put things to the vote’.

 

 

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