English Business Meetings and Discussions (3 videos)

You need to attend an English meeting. Are you going to understand what everyone is saying? And are you going to be able to manage everyone’s time effectively and make good decisions? We can help!

Here is a series of 3 videos designed to help you manage discussions and communicate clearly in business meetings. They focus on:
1. Managing time
2. Making Decisions
3. Achieving Understanding
Make sure you scroll down to the end to see them all.

English meeting 1. Managing Time

I hate meetings.
Me too. They’re such a waste of time.
We never get anything done.
What’s this meeting about?
No idea.
I thought you called it.
That’s funny. I thought you called it.
No. What time is it supposed to finish?
Three o’clock.
Half an hour to go.

Welcome to the first in a series of lessons on managing discussions. We’re going to be looking at things you can do and say to make your English meetings more efficient and productive. Let’s go to a business meeting and get started.

So I said to him, I’ve told you about this before and he said, I know you have. So I said, well tell me what you’re gonna do about it. And he said ….
Yes, thanks Jay. Erm, perhaps we could come back to this later if we have time.
Speaking of time….
Do you have another appointment then?
Bank manager at eleven forty-five.
Overdrawn again?
Can I remind everyone that I’m trying to get through this by eleven thirty?
Good, because I have to go to New York.
Yes, I know Jay.
OK. Let’s turn to item three which is security. Sally, could you fill us in on the new procedures?
Yes, sure.

Did you understand everything? Let’s check. What about this part?

Speaking of time….
Do you have another appointment then?
Bank manager at eleven forty-five.
Overdrawn again?

Sally has an appointment with her bank manager, but what does ‘overdrawn’ mean? We put money into our bank account, deposit it. And then we withdraw it, take it out.
If we’re overdrawn, we’ve taken out more money than we put in. That’s not good. Now what about this phrase?

Let’s turn to item three which is security. Sally, could you fill us in on the new procedures?
Yes, sure.

Fill us in. If you fill someone in you tell them what’s happened. You give them information and bring them up to date.
OK. Now let’s look at some different things you can do to make your English meetings more productive and efficient. First of all you’ll need an agenda – that’s the list of different points that need to be discussed.

Let’s get started.
Yes. What’s on the agenda?
There are two items. The annual budget and the office party.
Let’s start with the party!

An item is a thing, so here it’s a topic or subject on an agenda. Now time is always limited, so you need to make sure people keep moving along through the agenda.

I have to go to New York.
Yes, I know Jay. OK, let’s turn to item three which is security.

‘Turn to’ means move on, go onto the next topic. Now here’s a different problem. What are you going to say if someone starts talking too long?

So I said to him, I’ve told you about this before and he said, I know you have. So I said, well tell me what you want to do about it then….

Nobody is interested in what they’re saying, but how can you get them to stop? What can you say?

Stop talking.
Be quiet.
Shhhh.
You’re wasting time.
I’ll give you ten dollars to keep quiet.
Shut up.
Shuddup.
Zip it.

Well, you could say these things, but not if you want to be polite. Let’s look at what Louise said.

And he said, I know you have, so I said, well tell me what you want to do about it then and he said….
Yes, thanks Jay. Perhaps we could come back to this later if we have time.

Louise was diplomatic. And if time is slipping away, there’s something else you can do as well. Set a target time for the meeting to finish and then remind everyone.

Can I remind everyone that I’m trying to get through this by eleven thirty?

Remind – it means help someone remember. And get through – that means complete, finish. And speaking of time, we need to stop now. But come back again later and we’ll have another video on how to manage discussions.
Click here to watch this video with a clickable transcript.

English meeting 2. Making Decisions

OK everyone. It’s decision time. Yes or No? Jay?
I’m not sure. What’s your opinion?
Oh. How do you feel about it?
I don’t know. What do you think?
It’s difficult. Do you have any thoughts, Kathy?
Yeah. I think we should make a decision.
Right now?

Welcome back to another video on managing business discussions. Meetings always have a purpose. It could be to pass on information or update everyone. It could be to brainstorm ideas. Or it could be to make a decision. Let’s watch a meeting where a decision is being made.

So we need to decide what we’re going to do about getting tablets.
Oh, I’d love a new tablet. Me too.
Let’s get them.
How soon can we have them?
Hold on. How do you feel about this, Gemma?
We need to check out some different prices. You know there could be some better deals out there.
Jay?
She’s got a point.
Sally?
Mmm. I suppose so.
Could you do some research Gemma, say by next Tuesday?
Tuesday? Yeah, no problem.
OK great, so Gemma will get some prices and we’ll review the matter at our next meeting.

So did you understand everything? What was the topic of the discussion? Getting new tablets. And did they decide to buy some? No. They’re going to do some research first.

We need to check out some different prices. You know there could be some better deals out there.

Notice the phrase ‘check out’. It means look at or examine something to see if it’s good or acceptable. Deals are special low prices. Great. So now let’s look at some phrases you can use to reach decisions in your English meetings. First you need to get everyone focused.

We need to decide what we’re going to do about getting tablets.

So tell everyone what they need to do. Different people may have different opinions and ideas and that’s a good thing, or it can be.But we can make some bad decisions at meetings if we don’t listen to the right people.

Oh, I’d love a new tablet.
Me too.
Let’s get them.
How soon can we have them?
Hold on. How do you feel about this, Gemma?

Hold on. Stop or pause so we can collect different opinions. Now there are different ways to ask for opinions. We can simply call on people by name.

Jay? She’s got a point. Sally? Mmm. I suppose so.

And we can ask what they’re thinking. All these phrases work and they’re very common and useful for meetings. There are more phrases you could use. These are less common but you might hear them in a formal business meeting, a news interview or a formal debate.

Welcome to Education Today. And tonight’s question is should schools give tablets to students? Where do you stand on that, Mrs Fagan?
Oh they must!
And what’s your opinion, Mrs Hollett?
Absolutely not!
And there you have it. Two perspectives on whether schools should give tablets to students.

Once you’ve collected everyone’s thoughts, you can come to a decision. For a meeting to be effective, it has to have results. So you also need action points.

Could you do some research Gemma, say by next Tuesday? Tuesday?
Yeah, no problem.

There are three elements to this action point. What’s the job – the action we’re going to take? Who is going to do it? We need to know who’s responsible. And when by? What’s the deadline?

We need to get price estimates.
That’s a big job.
Yeah, I don’t have time I’m afraid.
I’m busy too.
What?
You need to get three price estimates by Friday.
Who me?
Yes, make a note of it Jay. Jay to get three price estimates by Friday. Good. What’s the next item on the agenda.

So we’ve looked at a three step process here. First tell everyone what they need to decide.

We need to decide what we’re going to do about getting tablets.

Second, collect opinions so you can make a good decision.

How do you feel about this Gemma?

And third create an action point. Decide who will do what and by when.

Could you do some research Gemma, say by next Tuesday?

And don’t forget to summarize the decision so everyone knows what’s happening.

So Gemma will get some prices and we’ll review the matter at our next meeting.

And that’s the end of this video, but come back again soon and we’ll look at some more phrases for managing discussions.

Click here to watch this video with a clickable transcript.

English meeting 3. Achieving understanding

Kathy, do you have a moment?
Yes?
I just received this message and I don’t understand it. What does IDK mean?
The letters IDK?
Yes.
I don’t know.
Hmm. I’ll ask Vicki. Vicki, what does IDK mean?
I don’t know.
Well I don’t know either. People are so hard to understand. I’ll go ask Louise.

Welcome back to our third video on managing discussions. Sometimes the hardest thing about business meetings in making sure everyone’s understood one another. And that’s what this lesson’s all about. So let’s go back to the meeting we’ve been following and see how they do it.

Are we wrapped up then?
Yeah.
Ah, just a moment. Is there anything else anyone wants to say?
Is the meeting going to be at eleven o’clock again next week?
Yes, is that a problem?
Well sometimes I have to go to the other site in the morning and it’s hard to get here in time.
Sounds like you need a faster car then.
I’m afriad I have another meeting at two.
Errr, don’t worry about it then.
Just get up earlier on Tuesdays.
Yeah.
So are you saying it’s not a problem, Jay?
I’ll work something out.
OK. So we’ve agreed we’ll meet at eleven o’clock again next Tuesday.
Yeah. Fine.
Are we finished then?
Looks like it.
Yes, this meeting is officially over.

Did you understand everything? What about this phrase?

Are we wrapped up then?
Yeah.

Wrapped up means finished. And what about Jay’s question?

Is the meeting going to be at eleven o’clock again next week?

Why did Jay ask that? Because the time was difficult for him.

Well sometimes I have to go to the other site in the morning and it’s hard to get here in time.

So are they going to change the time of the meeting for Jay? No.

I’ll work something out.

When we work something out we find an answer, a solution to a problem. Great! So now let’s look at some things you can do to check everyone understands in meetings. The first one is summarize the important points. People say a lot of things in meetings so make sure the key points get heard. If you’ve made a decision, briefly restate it.

OK, so we’ve agreed we’ll meet at eleven o’clock again next Tuesday.

Summaries like this are helpful. Everyone can check they’ve understood. And that’s good because sometimes people don’t hear things.

I didn’t hear what you said.
I didn’t catch that.
Sorry?
Can you say that again?
What was that again?

You can use all these phrases to get people to repeat things. And if you don’t understand, you can say something like this.

I’m not following you.
I don’t get it.
What do you mean?

But if you don’t understand, try to be specific.

So customers in Europe need to pay VAT. OK?
No, I don’t follow.
You don’t understand.
No, I don’t get it.
What don’t you get?
I forgot.

Customers in Europe will need to pay VAT.
What do you mean by VAT?
Value Added Tax.
It’s similar to sales tax in the US.
Oh, I see.

This question’s specific. It tells us what you don’t understand. Now there’s another very useful way to check you’ve understood. That’s to paraphrase. Let’s watch Louise doing it.

I’m afraid I have another meeting at two.
Errr, don’t worry about it then.
So are you saying it’s not a problem, Jay?
I’ll work something out.

To check she’s understood, Louise paraphrases – she puts what Jay says into her own words.

So are you saying it’s not a problem, Jay?
I’ll work something out.

Customers in Europe will have to pay VAT.
So are you saying they’ll have to pay a kind of sales tax?
Yeah, sort of.
OK. I get it.

So are you saying that IDK means I don’t know? You gotta be kidding me.

Now what about ending a meeting? First you’ll want to check that everyone has finished talking.

Is there anything else anyone else wants to say?

It gives people a chance to speak if they want. And if they don’t, you can end the meeting.

This meeting is officially over.

And this video series is officially over too. If you have anything else you’d like to say about managing discussions and business meetings, please write to us in the comments.

Click here to watch this video with a clickable transcript.
Click here to watch more Business English videos

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