Making Suggestions and Proposals in Business Meetings


​Welcome back to the Art of Business English, where we are looking in detail at meetings and how you can better performance and participate. 


If you have just joined us then I encourage you to go back and review our previous episodes on this topic. 


Today, I have some more very useful content for you. We will be covering how you can make suggestions and proposals in your next business meeting.


You will learn today expressions for making both formal proposals, less formal suggestions. We will also cover how you can make both positive and neutral or tentative responses to other people's proposals. 


Finally, I will bring the episode to a close by showing you how you can make a negative response by rejecting proposals that you do not agree to or like.


So, let's dive in an take a look at making formal proposals. 
 

Formal suggestions/proposals


If you are in a meeting with some important clients or with other important members of your company, then you will want to try and use formal language. 


You will remember that it is important to understand who is attending your meeting and make sure that you adjust your English accordingly. In most cases it is better to be a little more formal than less formal. 


So, let's take a look at the following formal expressions for making a proposal:

  • I propose that we…
  • I suggest that we…
  • I advise we/you...
  • I would recommend we…
  • I put forward that we… 

​Right, let's move on to the next part of this lesson where we look at some expressions for making less formal suggestions. 

Less formal suggestions


Firstly, we often find ourselves in meetings that are less formal. We are with our team members or with some suppliers or customers with whom we have a good relationship. In these instances, we may wish to use less formal language and make our suggestions a little less direct. 


​Take a look at these expressions for making less formal suggestions. 

  • I think we should…
  • Why don’t we…?
  • How about…?
  • What about…?
  • We could try…
  • Let’s have a go at…

As you can see with these expressions, you sound a little more tentative and a lot less formal than with the previous expressions. You will also notice that we are using less direct grammar, such as conditional tenses and open questions to generate discussion. 


Let's move on now, and see how we can respond to proposals and suggestions made by other people. 

Making positive responses


​When someone makes a proposal in a meeting we need to be able to show them that we agree with their ideas. To do this we should use some of the following expressions. 


​These expressions are fairly neutral and can be used to express positive agreement to some of the proposed ideas. 


​Remember, good communicators acknowledge other people's ideas, this reinforces in the minds of others that you are listening to them and is a great way to build rapport. 


​So, let's take a look at some expressions for make positive responses. 

  • Good/great idea.
  • That sounds fine.
  • I agree.
  • I think I can work with that.
  • Good point John. 

I am sure you will agree that these expressions are easy to use. Try using some of them in your next meeting and make others feel like you are really listening to them.


​In the next part of the lesson, I am going to show you how you can make more tentative responses to people's ideas. 

Watch the episode here

Neutral or tentative responses


​Sometimes we are not sure if we agree with someone. To avoid problems in the future, it is best to give a tentative response to someone's proposal.


​In the expressions below you will see that, we are checking or not committing. You need to have the courage and clarity to offer neutral responses when you are not sure about something.


​Take a look at how you can do that.

  • That’s true but…
  • I see what you’re saying.
  • We could try that if…
  • It sounds OK, but we should think it over.
  • I see your point, but what if we…
  • I’ll have to check with the boss…

​Once again you will see we are using less direct language. We have some conditionals and we are negating our previous comments by using "but". 


Let's now move on to the​ next part of today's lesson. Here we are going to learn some expressions for when we do not agree with the proposals being made.

Negative responses


​Sometimes you will find yourself in a position where you do not or cannot agree to a proposal or suggestion. In this case you need to have some expressions that you can use to politely, but firmly say no to someone. 


Saying "no" can take a lot of courage, so below you have some expressions that can help you express your disagreement.

  • I’m afraid we can’t do that.
  • I can’t agree to that.
  • That would be out of the question.
  • That is not something we can consider.
  • I’m sorry but that won’t work. 

​A quick word of warning, most of the expressions are polite ways of saying "no", however the third option "That would be out of the question" is quite a strong. You need to be careful when you use this expressions as you do not want to offend anyone. 

Inviting others to suggest


​Well, that brings us to the last part of today's lesson. Here I am going to teach you how you can bring in other people and ask them to make recommendations, proposals or suggestions.


Remember, the key to controlling a meeting  is to being the one asking questions. Here you can control the pace and you can also make sure you get all the information.


​Additionally, in a meeting, we sometimes need to extract information from other members, especially those we know are shy or do not like to participate.


If this happens, then you can use some of the expressions below.

  • What’s your suggestion?
  • What do you think?
  • Any ideas John?
  • What would you propose we do?
  • Would you like to put forward an idea?

​You will see that we are using "would" in some of the questions as this is a polite way to ask people for their input.

Final thoughts


​So, there you have it my friends, a wide range of expressions you can use in your next business meeting to participate and provide proposals and to make suggestions.


​If you are an expert then you should be giving your opinion. Don't be shy! Get in and give it a go. Remember, the more you practice your English the more confident you will become. 


​Let me know if you have any questions by commenting below. 

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About the Author Andrew

Andrew is the CEO and founder of the Art of Business English. Besides teaching and coaching native Spanish speakers in Business English, he is also passionate about mountain biking, sailing and healthy living. When He is not working, Andrew loves to spend time with his family and friends.

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