29th April 2020
These Business English blogs are aimed at upper-intermediate level students, and will include everyday phrases, expressions and idioms relating to various aspects of conducting business and workplace conversations.
Note down any phrasal verbs or expressions that you don’t know. A great way to improve your English is to add such language elements to your everyday speech, rather than just using text-book, standard English.
One view about how to plan a meeting:
Are all meetings cost-effective ? As the seconds tick away, you’ll start to appreciate what a terrible waste of time – and money– most meetings are.
So what can you do?
Firstly, make sure everyone arrives on time. No excuses. If five people at a meeting are sitting around waiting for a sixth person to turn up, just think how much money you are throwing away.
Secondly, get most of the work done before the meeting: send round detailed agendas, telling them what they need to do to prepare for the meeting. That means the meeting itself can focus on problem-solving and decision-making rather than wasting time explaining.
Thirdly, stick to the agenda. Don’t let anyone hijack the meeting by chatting about something irrelevant. Don’t let them take over yours.
Fourthly, set a time limit and stick to it. There’s nothing worse than a meeting that goes round and round in circles with no decisions ever being finalised. A time limit can be a great way to focus everyone’s minds on the purpose of the meeting and the need to achieve something concrete … and then to go back to work and start implementing the decisions.
Of course small talk has its place, but that place is not a meeting.
This is one point of view – do you agree with it ?
To what extent does small talk have a place in meetings ?
Talk about your experiences. Does it vary from person to person and culture to culture ?
This is a contrary (opposite) opinion; how do you evaluate this viewpoint ?
If you’re serious about making your meetings more effective, you need to give the participants plenty of time to ask questions, take the conversation in new directions, say things which may or may not be relevant, and above all, get to know each other. Of course, you need to make sure things don’t get out of control, but that means finding a sensible balance between small talk and getting down to business.
A company which does not tolerate small talk may get things done more quickly, but that doesn’t mean it’ll do things the best way, making full use of the skills and ideas of its employees … and it may well find that it loses its best employees and its customers just as quickly.
Which view do you agree with, and can you explain your reasons. Alternately, you may wish to select elements from both examples and make your own plan.
Asking about current projects:
Complete using present continuous (verb + ing)
- What ___ you ___ ( work) on at the moment ? // What are you working on at the moment ?
- How ___ it ___ (go) with your new assistant ?
- ___ you ___ (make) any progress with your big project ?
Asking about recent events: (use past tense)
- How ___ your presentation ___ (go) last week?
- How ___ (be) your business trip ? When ___ you ___ (get) back?
Asking about news: (uses past perfect)
- ___ you ___ (hear) back from that potential big customer yet?
- What ___ you ___ (be) up to in your department?
Asking about plans and predictions : future tense
- When do you think they ___ finally ___ (sign) the contract?
- ___ you ___ (go) to the conference this weekend?
Now match the questions with some answers from below. Try to practise with a friend or colleague
a) A little, but it’s very slow. We’re still tied up with the financing side of things, so it doesn’t feel like we’re getting anywhere.
b) Absolutely! I’m giving a presentation! I’m really nervous about it, actually.
c) Ah, nothing, really. Nothing ever changes! Busy as usual.
d) It was useful, but really exhausting. I just got back on Tuesday, so I’m still trying to get back on top of my inbox. But I’m glad I went. I made a few potentially useful contacts.
e) Next week, hopefully, but they’re still not happy with our service charges, so it might still all fall through.
f) Not bad, actually. He’s on a steep learning curve, but he’s trying hard, and he’s got a lot of potential.
g) Really well. We had a good turn-out, and some people said nice things about it. Whether anyone actually buys the product as a result is another question!
h) We’re about to start working on the new marketing plan. It’s not due to be launched for another two months, but it takes a really long time to get ready.
i) We’ve been really busy preparing for next week’s quality inspection. We’re nearly ready, but there are still a few big jobs to finish.
j) Yes, they emailed us this morning with an order for 500 units, so it looks like it’s all going ahead. Very exciting.
Lastly, the final point on our agenda – what do you think of this list ?
It indicates what British people say and what they REALLY mean.