The Language Of Meetings And Agenda Setting Business Essay

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This module focuses on the language of meetings, which are central to business communication. Most meetings have an agenda - a list of matters to be discussed in the meeting. When you decide what to talk about in the meeting, you 'set the agenda'. The person in charge of the setting the agenda and running the meeting is the 'chairperson'.

Think

Imagine that you are the chairperson in a meeting. It is the start of the meeting and you are telling your colleagues about the items on the agenda. What phrases might you use?

After you've thought of five, click here for some more ideas.

Listen

Now you're going to listen to two audio clips about setting agendas for meetings. Both clips are from the start of meetings and feature a chairperson listing the points on the agenda. As you listen, see if you can hear some of the phrases above.

   Meetings: agenda setting

Check understanding

Check your understanding by reading the scripts below:

Clip 1

Sarah:

Right then, Alex, let's get down to business. On the agenda today for our public relations meeting are the research project, the launch of the website, the timeline for press releases, and the secretary of the year award. Are you quite happy with those points?

Alex:

Yeah, that's fine. If you could go through them in order, that'd be great.

 

Clip 2

Alex:

Okay everybody, thanks for coming. Let's keep this meeting fairly brief, really just a couple of things on the agenda. First of all, as you can see, the news on the book re-launch; and secondly, the office move; and finally, we'll have a little bit of time for any other business.

Meetings: interruptions

Introduction

In business meetings it is sometimes necessary to interrupt a speaker. This is possible but it should be done politely. We'll be looking at some ways you can do this.

Think

Imagine that you are in a meeting, and you want to interrupt to ask a question or make a comment. How might you do it?

After you've thought of five, click here for some more ideas. You'll also see some additional useful phrases for meetings.

Listen

Now listen to an audio clip from a meeting in a publishing company. Sean is talking about a book re-launch when John feels that he needs to ask something. As you listen, see if you can hear some of the phrases above.

   Meetings: interruptions

Check understanding

Check your understanding by reading the script below:

Sean:

First of all, the book re-launch. I just wanted to remind everybody that we will be re-launching the fairy-tales range with new modern covers, and that this is going to happen at the beginning of next month. It's important that we get this right and there have been quite a few…

John:

Actually Sean, can I just ask you - sorry to hold the meeting up - can I ask you about those dates, because I thought that this was going to be published the month after next, and I understand that everybody has got their dates, but I do feel quite strongly that we're bringing this out too soon.

Sean:

Well, any other thoughts before I comment on that?

Carrie:

I don't think we've got any choice at all about it. If the radio programmes are going out at the beginning of next month, we've got to launch the book at the same time if we're going to have any sales impact.

Meetings: agreeing and disagreeing

Introduction

Inevitably, people will agree and disagree with one another during meetings. It's important to make your position in a debate clear, while being polite to people you disagree with.

Think

Imagine that you are in a meeting and you disagree with someone over an issue. How might you make your point politely?

After you've thought of five, click here for some more ideas.

Listen

In the next audio clip, you will hear that Tim and Carrie have two different positions on an issue. As you listen, try and hear the phrases mentioned above.

   Meetings: agreeing and disagreeing

Check understanding

Check your understanding by reading the script below:

Sean:

The office move, as you know, the plans have been up by the main exit for a week now. I just wanted to see what kind of feedback you've got.

Tim:

Yeah, Sean, I'm sorry, but I really strongly disagree with the new floor plan. I think it's divisive to separate the secretaries and the assistants out from the editors and managers. I'd be much happier if we could be located in teams.

Carrie:

Actually, I think Sean is right. I've been chatting to some of the secretaries and they're quite keen to all be sitting in the same area, and, speaking as an editor, I think I'd like to be with other editors so that we can bounce ideas off each other and things. So I think Sean's floor plan is right.

Meetings: any other business

Introduction

Business meetings typically end with the chairperson asking if there is 'any other business'. This is an opportunity for anyone present to raise an issue that isn't on the agenda. After any other business, the chairperson closes the meeting.

Think

Imagine that you are a chairperson ending a meeting with any other business. What might you say or hear?

After you've thought of a few phrases, click here for some more ideas.

Listen

To end this module, we'll hear a clip of Sean closing his team's meeting with a request for any other business. As you listen, try and hear the phrases above.

   Meetings: agreeing and disagreeing

Check understanding

Check your understanding by reading the script below:

Sean:

Okay - any other business?

Will:

Yes, I would like to say something. An illustrator came in last week, and I think she's very good and it would be wise to put her on our books.

Sean:

… okay …

Will:

I would like to be able to show her drawings and her portfolio in the next couple of days. If that's all right...

All:

That sounds good…

Sean:

Yes, I'll look forward to seeing those. Right, I think that's probably about it, but anybody got anything else that they desperately want to raise before we wrap up?

All:

Nope.

Sean:

No? Okay. We'll be having another meeting, but there are a couple of conflicts in the diary so I think the best thing is if I email the date of the next meeting.

Meetings: language expert

Introduction

Meeting style and etiquette can change from country to country, company to company, and even from meeting to meeting, but generally speaking, it is important to be polite in meetings, even if the meeting is quite informal in tone.

Politeness

If you are interrupting or disagreeing with people, it is even more important to be polite: your views are more likely to be respected if you present them in a professional and non-confrontational (non-argumentative) way.

There are several ways to make what you say sound more polite and less confrontational:

BBC Learning English TeamUse 'can' or 'could'. 

In unit 4, John says; 'Sean, can I just ask you…?'

In Unit 1, Alex says 'If you could go through them in order…'

Both expressions above are more polite than simply saying 'I want to know…' or 'Go through them in order…'

Use 'would like'

In unit 2, Tim says '…I'd like to be with other editors…'

In unit 3, Will says 'I would like to be able to show her drawings…'

This sounds much more polite than 'I want…'

Say 'sorry'

In unit 2, Tim says: 'I'm sorry, but I really strongly disagree…'

In unit 4, John says: 'Sorry to hold the meeting up'

This is a very common way to 'soften' what you say. Tim and John are not really apologising for what they say - using 'sorry' is telling the listener: 'I'm going to say or do something you might not like, so please don't get upset'.

Use 'just'

In unit 2, Sean says: 'I just wanted to see…'

In unit 4, John says; 'Sean, can I just ask you…?'

The word 'just' gives the listener a message that you are not asking them to deal with something difficult or time-consuming; that it is not going to be a problem.  

The BBC Learning English Team in action

Use 'I think' or 'I feel'

In unit 4, John says: 'I do feel quite strongly that we're bringing this out too soon…'

and Carrie says 'I don't think we've got any choice…'

These phrases have the effect of softening what they are saying, by presenting their ideas as opinions, not orders or instructions.

Acknowledge people

In unit 1, Alex says; 'Okay everybody, ….' '…as you can see…'

In unit 2, Tim says; 'Yeah Sean, ….'

It's important to acknowledge the other people in the meeting, by using their names, or words like 'you', 'we', 'everybody', 'my colleagues' etc. If you don't use these words and expressions, you may give people the impression that you are rather detached and/or authoritarian.

Preparing for meetings

Participating in meetings which are conducted in a foreign language can be nerve-wracking - people may speak very quickly, they may use words that you do not understand, they may have strong accents, or they may talk about topics which are outside your area of expertise.

 

All these factors can make meetings difficult, but if you prepare for meetings by studying the agenda, researching the topics that are likely to be discussed, and preparing vocabulary that you think you might need during the meeting, you will feel more confident and your performance in the meeting will be better.

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