In today's installment in the Business English language series we are going to focus on vocabulary and phrases related to chairing business meetings. This can be an incredibly daunting prospect for many of our students who have to conduct some or all of their business meetings in English. Having a number of fixed phrases and relevant vocabulary which can help you to navigate the various stages of a meeting, from beginning to end, are integral to being a competent chairperson who can lead meetings using good Business English.
The first thing we'd like you to do today is to consider the following 3 questions:
1) What is the function of a chair person at the meeting?
2) What personal qualities should a good chair have?
3) What things should a chair do to make sure a meeting achieves its aims?
I think we can all agree that the overall function of a chair person is to ensure that the meeting they are conducting meets its aims. In almost all companies it is standard practice to email a copy of the agenda to all of the participants before the meeting commences. This should be done at least the day before, so that everyone understands what is to be discussed and can prepare appropriately. Now lets look at some Business English vocabulary which focuses on a number of the different skills a chair person needs in order to reach the goals laid out in the meeting agenda:
The first important skill, which every chair person requires, relates to making sure that every participant has the opportunity to speak and express their views and opinions. As a chair person, you should try and be neutral and allow the attendees to state their position without them feeling that the chair person has already made up their mind regarding the topic(s) being discussed.
This is a skill which is often lacking and results in meetings being taken over by the stronger more vocal characters around the table. As the chair person, it is your job to be firm with the participants and ensure that everyone gets a fair hearing and not only those with the loudest voices. Being assertive as a chair person means not allowing constant interruptions and thereby enabling those present to feel as if they have had the opportunity to have their say.
3) Staying on course
This is perhaps the most difficult skill to master as it is very easy for a business meeting to lose its way and you find yourself and the participants discussing a topic which wasn't on the agenda. The way to achieve this is to rank the importance of each item on the agenda and then ensure that you allot the appropriate amount of time for it to be discussed within the overall meeting time. Think of a chair person like the captain of a ship. You are the navigator and must be able to identify when a particular point has become dominant and it is time to move onto the next one. If a topic not related to the meeting has come up, then perhaps you could suggest continuing this discussion at the end of meeting.
An absolutely vital function of a chair person is to competently sum up what has taken place during the meeting and what actions are required next. In other words, a chair person needs to tell everyone in a concise way what was said and then conclude the meeting with a clear statement about what needs to happen next.
Now let's take a look at some of the key Business English phrases a chair person needs at the different stages of a meeting. We'll kick off by looking at some standard business English phrases and questions which are used to start a meeting.
Beginning and managing a meeting:
1) Ok, let's get started
2) Has everyone got a copy of the agenda?
3) Would anyone like to take minutes, or shall we just keep a list of action points?
4) Thank you all for coming. The purpose of today's meeting is ..........
Asking for other opinions:
1) David, could you give us your view on this please?
2) Jenny, what are your thoughts on this point?
3) Thanks very much for that, Now, can we hear what other people want to say?
Keeping the meeting focused:
1) Look that's all very interesting, but can we keep to the issue in hand
2) Well we don't have to decide today. Let's think about it more and come back to it next week.
3) So, we need more information on this issue. Andrew, can you look into this for our next meeting?
1) So, in summary, we've agreed about what we are going to do .....
2) So, in a nut shell, what you think is that .....
3) So, if I could just sum up, what you think is that ....
4) Well, thanks for all of your time today. I think it has been a very profitable meeting and we''ll meet again next week to talk about the outstanding points.
If you take the time to memorise these phrases and questions you will find that you are much better prepared and capable to conduct a Business English meeting. If you like the Business English language you've learnt in today's blog, then why not take a look at some of the other articles in our series by clicking here.