How To Have Effective Business Meetings In English: Tips For English Language Learners
Attending meetings is an everyday part of business, but when those meetings are not in your native language then they can cause you to get stressed, worry or lack confidence.
If you are like most people who work internationally, then your meetings are in English, you are working with an international team and in many cases your colleagues are native English speakers.
I’m not sure if this happens to you, but most of my students wish they could participate with more confidence and show their colleagues everything they know. I mean, you have years of experience, you are an expert in your field, but because of your spoken English you just don’t feel you have the confidence to express yourself well.
Trust me, this feeling SUCKS! But, in reality it is just your perception, I mean, planning a successful meeting where you need to speak is not as difficult as you might think. The key is to incorporate the following strategies in order to run effective meetings in English.
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I am sure you have heard this before, but the key to an effective meeting is planning. Meetings can be a huge drain on company time and company productivity. Tim Ferris, from his famous book “The 4-hour work week” goes as far as to say:
“I don’t agree to meetings or calls with no clear agenda or end time. If the desired outcome is defined clearly with a stated objective and agenda listing topics or questions to cover, no meeting or call should last more than 30 minutes. Request them [meetings] in advance so you can best prepare and make good use of the time together.”
Tim’s approach seems pretty radical, and yes, I am sure you are thinking, wow, 30 minutes doesn’t seem like much. In saying that, let’s take a look at my tips for how to run an effective meeting in English.
You need to define your objectives and right it, I see it, as an effective meeting should only have one objective. Secondly, you should be able to write it down in one sentence.
Why do I recommend this for language learners? Well, knowing the meeting objective will help you to plan what you want to say to get that objective met. Writing it down in one sentence will keep you hyper-focused on achieving it.
Know your role
Golden rule, only invite people who should be in the meeting, meaning no spectators.
You should know your role in the upcoming meeting, if you don’t then ask the meeting organizer.
Why do I recommend this? Well, if you know your role and what is expected of you then you can start to prepare the material as well as the types of things you want to say.
You can even take it one step further by brainstorming any questions you think you might get from the content you are responsible for sharing.
Have everything ready
Making sure you have all the relevant information and documents; facts or figures is a must.
Why? Well, if you know you will already be nervous about your English then you don’t want to get even more nervous during the meeting trying to find the important information.
You know what I mean, you get asked a question, you go blank, then freeze, then mumble about just looking for that information, with everyone staring at you. How embarrassing! We can avoid that easily with preparation.
Think about what you’ll need to say
This one is quite obvious, but so often overlooked. You should sit down and take the time to review all of the expressions for participating in a meeting. Make some notes, think about what you will be required to share and how you could explain it. Think about the questions this information will generate and get some answers ready.
Doing this will make a huge difference to your confidence in a business meeting. You could even right some relevant phrases in the columns of the documents that you will be reading from.
I recommend taking 10 – 15 minutes before the meeting to do this important step. This small investment of time will make a huge difference in the meeting.
Know who is coming
Finally, in the preparation stage, make sure you know who will be coming.
Once you have the list of attendees, ask yourself these 3 questions:
- Why are they coming?
- What do they need to know?
- What do they already know?
Just by asking these 3 questions, you will gain some insight into your attendees and you will be ready with answers and information to the questions that may arise in the meeting.
Making small talk is part of any meeting, in fact it is really important for setting the tone of the meeting. There is nothing worse than sitting in a room with some other people in SILENCE, waiting for everyone else to show up.
Talking to people that you already know is not usually an issue, but what if you are confronted with colleagues from other departments, branches or countries. Even worse, what if you are stuck with some external attendees and YOU are the face of the company.
Follow these tips to avoid embarrassing silence and feeling uncomfortable.
Be ready with some expressions
Having some ready prepared expressions will go a long way to helping you feel more comfortable, so make sure you plan some before the meeting.
Have some ideas of recent events
A quick review of the news headlines or recent events will be a good place to start. Try and be sensitive to the topic. If the news surrounding you lately is all bad (cough , cough, COVID-19), then maybe try looking for something a bit light hearted to set the tone of the meeting on a positive note.
Be sensitive to your participants (goes back to who is coming)
Making sure you know who is coming will help you to choose decent topics for discussion. You can make it easy for people to engage you in conversation by using open questions and tag questions. This makes it easier for people to answer.
Key expressions for participating
Finally, you should really have a wide range of key expressions at your disposal for each stage of a meeting. Luckily meetings follow a pretty standard structure, so by understand the stages of a meeting then you can learn what are the typical expressions used.
For example, if you are leading a meeting then you will need to know typical expressions, both formal and informal for opening and closing a meeting.
If on the other hand, you are participating or presenting in a meeting, then you will need to know common expressions for some of the following meeting skills areas:
- Asking for clarification
- Expressing opinions
- Checking and clarifying
- Agreeing and disagreeing
AOBE is here to help you!
As you can see, participating in meetings doesn’t need to be an uncomfortable or nerve-racking experience. It just requires a bit of planning and understanding of the language we use in meetings. In fact, improving your confidence and levels of participation in meetings will lead to more productive meetings and better outcomes for you professionally.
Remember, the way people perceive you professionally is dependent on how well you can communicate and connect with them.
If you’re not sure where to start, then take a look at our free sample course on meetings or enroll in our short course “How to confidently participate in meetings”. On this course we deep dive into all the language you will need to effectively and confidently express yourself in business meetings.
Enrol in the course here
How to confidently participate in meetings
Thanks for joining me for another episode of The Art of Business English, I hope you have found these tips useful. Please comment below on the areas that you find the most difficult when participating in business meetings, I would love to hear your thoughts.
Till next week take care.