Text II. Business Meetings Language Etiquette

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.

a) 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:

Use 'can' or 'could'.

Sean, can I just ask you?

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'

I'd like to be with other editors

I would like to be able to show her drawings

This sounds much more polite than I want

Say 'sorry'

I'm sorry, but I really strongly disagree

Sorry to hold the meeting up'

This is a very common way to soften what you say. The speakers are not really apologizing for what they say using sorry is telling the listener: I'm going to say or do something you might not like, so please dont get upset.

Use 'just'

I just wanted to see

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.

Use 'I think' or 'I feel'

I do feel quite strongly that we're bringing this out too soon

I dont think weve 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

Okay everybody, as you can see

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 dont use these words and expressions, you may give people the impression that you are rather detached and/or authoritarian.


b)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.


1. Discussion Questions:

How often do you have to go to meetings? Do you like or dislike them? Why?

What factors determine if a meeting is successful or unsuccessful?

Have you ever chaired a meeting? Was it an easy or a difficult task? Why?

Have you ever been to a meeting in English? Did you prepare for it in any special way?

Did you encounter any language problems that you hadnt anticipated?


2. Meeting Roleplay:

Roleplay a meeting on the subject you are interested in, using the language from the section. To make this more interesting or challenging, some or all students are given one of the following instruction slips:


You are too polite! Use inappropriately polite language in the meeting.


You are rude! Express your ideas in a direct, impolite way.


Make as many interruptions as possible! Interrupt, interrupt, interrupt!


You agree with everybody! Each time someone speaks, tell them that you agree with them.


You disagree with everybody! Each time someone speaks, tell them that you disagree with them.


You havent prepared properly for the subject of this meeting! In fact, you cant even remember what the meeting is supposed to be about!


You havent done the vocabulary preparation for this meeting! You cant remember any of the English words you need!


You love meetings! You want this meeting to continue forever! Try to keep the meeting going, and dont let anyone stop it.


You hate meetings! Try to stop the meeting as soon as possible.

5. Meeting Quizzes:

a) Self-Assessment Test (Are the following statements true or false)?

1. The person who is in charge of the meeting is the person who takes the minutes.

2. The best way to call a meeting is to inform each participant individually by phone.

3. An agenda should outline the order and amount of time to spend on each item at the meeting.

4. Engaging in small talk throughout the meeting is an effective way to keep the focus.

5. When someone agrees with a motion it is "seconded".

6. The person who is speaking during a meeting is the person who "has the floor".

7. A polite way to indicate that you want to make a comment during a meeting is to say: "If I could just come in here..."

8. When there is a tie vote, it is customary for the chairperson to ask one participant to reconsider his/her decision.

9. During the closing remarks, the person holding the meeting should introduce new staff members or guest speakers.

10. Reminders are typically announced after all of the items on the agenda have been covered.

b) Agenda Setting(The following sentences are in the wrong order. Cut them out and re-arrange them, or simply write them in the correct sequence so they all make sense).

1. Secondly we want to have a look at the production budgets.

2. And then well see if theres any other business.

3. OK, everybody thank you all very much for coming today.

4. If we could go through each of them in order.

5. And finally we need to look at the staffing levels for the project.

6. Just three things on the agenda today.

7. First of all we need to discuss our aims for the project.

8. Right lets start with item number one.

c) Interruptions(Finish the sentence with the correct phrase).

1. ______, I would like to begin by saying that the company profits are up on last year's figures.

A. To begin at

B. First of all

C. And start with

D. And for starters

2. ______ about the plans for next month's meeting?

A. Can I hear you

B. Can I clarify you

C. Can I ask you

D. Can I include you

3. ______ , but I just wanted to clarify a couple of points before continuing.

A. Sorry to hold the meeting up

B. Sorry to hold the meeting down

C. Sorry to hold the meeting around

D. Sorry to hold the meeting along

4. ______ that all of the staff members should have an opportunity to give their opinion about the company review.

A. I don't feel very strongly

B. I am feeling quite strongly

C. I am feeling more strongly

D. I do feel quite strongly

d) Agreeing and disagreeing(Complete the following sentences by underlining the correct word from the options given).

During the meeting, the managers asked everyone present to give them (agreement / feedback / information) on the presentation that theyd just seen. Some people said that they strongly (disagreed / unhappy / prohibit) with the new direction that the media company was taking. They said that they would be much (comfortable / happier / prefer) if there were more opportunity to discuss the plans before any final decision was reached. In his role as (fireman / editor / director), Tim Peacock said that he would look into the possibility of holding workshops to allow more time for discussion between staff.

e) Any Other Business(Finish the sentence by choosing the correct words and writing them into the empty boxes).

1. Well, were almost at the end of the meeting so is there say / other / thoughts / business / all / any / things?

2. Just before we go on to the next point, nothing / to / say / like / now / something / I / don't / would.

3. Does anyone have anything they want on / at / raise / to / question / rise before we close the meeting?

4. Just looking in the diary, I see there are a couple errors / in / conflicts / at / of / mistakes, so we may need to reschedule our next meeting.

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Any other business (AOB) | 

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