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Common business English phrases for a workplace meeting

February 17, 2018 - Dom Barnard

English is the major language of international business. Individuals need to increase their competence and fluency in order to remain competitive in the workplace. Meetings are a key part of this modern workplace and individuals need to develop effective communication skills for them.

Understanding the right phrases, language and conversational tone to use during a workplace meeting will help with career progression in our fast-paced international economy.

This article covers essential communication skills for a business meeting, including useful phrases, vocabulary and terminology. You’ll improve your ability to lead meetings and deliver workplace presentations.

Leading a meeting in English

When leading a meeting, it’s important you ask everyone to introduce themselves and provide a brief meeting agenda. A formal business meeting could start in the following ways:

Introducing yourself

You’ll want to start the meeting by welcoming your attendees and introducing yourself. You can start with a simple greeting, using phrases such as:

  • “Good morning / afternoon”
  • “Let’s begin”
  • “I’d like to welcome everyone”
  • “Since everyone is here, let’s get started”
  • “I’d like to thank everyone for coming today”

After greeting them, introduce yourself:

  • “I’m [your name]. I’ll keep this meeting brief as I know you’re all busy people”
  • “I’m [your name] and I arranged this meeting because…”

Asking others to introduce themselves

For effective discussion during the meeting, it’s essential that individuals attending the meeting are well-acquainted with each other. The person leading the meeting could ask everyone to introduce themselves in the following ways:

  • “Let’s go around the table and introduce ourselves, [name] do you want to start?”
  • “Let’s introduce ourselves quickly – please state your name, job title and why you are here”

You ideally want people to say their name, position in the company and reason for being at the meeting. This will help guide any discussions during the meeting.

Setting the agenda

Likewise, it is important to start the meeting by outlining the agenda clearly and the key objectives of the meeting. The objectives can be stated with the following phrases:

  • “I’ve called this meeting in order to”
  • “We’re here today to discuss”
  • “There are [number] items on the agenda. First…”
  • “Today I would like to outline our plans for”

Defining action points to be completed before the next meeting

When the meeting has finished, give an overview of what needs to be completed before the next meeting. Use the following phrases:

  • “[Name], can you have these action points finished by next week’s meeting?”
  • “Before the next meeting, I want [action point] completed so we can discuss the results”
  • “By the next meeting, we’ll have [action point] in progress”

Getting involved in meetings

Active participation in the meeting is reflected by asking questions and interrupting the presenter politely if you do not understand what is being said, or if there is agreement / disagreement. It is a good idea to show that you are actively involved in the meeting.

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How to interrupt politely

If you accidentally speak over someone or have something to add to what is being said, you can interrupt with the following phrases:

  • “Sorry, but just to clarify”
  • “Sorry I didn’t quite hear that, can you say it again?”
  • “That’s an excellent point [person’s name], what about doing [action point] as well?”
  • “From our departments perspective, it’s a little more complicated. Let me explain”

You can also use phrase such as:

  • “Excuse me for interrupting”
  • “I’ve never thought about it that way before. How does it affect [this point]”

Asking questions

There are many different ways to ask questions during the meeting. The following phrases are suitable when asking for someone to repeat what they have said:

  • “Can you repeat that please?”
  • “Can you run that by me one more time?”
  • “Can you repeat that in a simplified way?”

For clarification the following phrases should be used:

  • “I don’t fully understand what you mean. Could you explain it from a different angle?”
  • “Could you explain to me how that is going to work?”
  • “Just to be clear, do you mean this [repeat the explained point in the way you understand it]”

The person leading the meeting or giving the presentation can also ask:

  • “Are there any more comments?”
  • “What do you think about this proposal?”
  • “Are there any areas of this project we are not thinking about?”

Presenting at a meeting

During the presentation, it’s important to engage your audience and clearly set out the structure of your presentation. You can use the following expressions to achieve this:

Presenting at a meeting in English

Introducing your topic

The presentation should begin by introducing its purpose with phrases such as:

  • “Thank you for getting here on time. Today we’re here to discuss”
  • “We’re here to discuss the progress on [name of project] project”
  • “Due to issues identified in [project name], we’re here to come up with a quick resolution”

The presenter can also outline the presentation procedure to ensure clarity, with the phrases such as:

  • “We’re going to run through the main points of the agenda”
  • “The presentation will cover these [number of points] topics”

Concluding your presentation

The presentation should end by briefly going over the key messages and action points again. The conclusion should ensure that the individuals present in the meeting leave with a clear idea about the next steps. It’s also polite to thank the audience for attending.

The concluding phrases could be:

  • “To summarize then, let me just run through what we’ve agreed here”
  • “Before we end, let me just summarize the three main points”
  • “To sum up what I’ve presented”
  • “That brings me to the end of my presentation, thank you for listening”

Answering questions

The presentation can also end by requesting input or feedback from the participants and answering their questions, if any. The following phrases will be useful for such situations:

  • “Any final thoughts before we close the meeting?”
  • “If you have further questions or want to discuss any of it in more detail, we can meet privately or you can send me an email [have email address on the final presentation slide]”
  • “I’d like to thank everyone for sharing their time today and any feedback would be valuable”
  • “So do we think this is the correct way to proceed?”
  • “Are there any objections to what I covered?”

Additional business meeting phrases

Aside from the typical benefits, clear communication is required to hold off an interruption, delegate tasks, confirm decisions, apologise for being late, or excuse you early from a meeting. The following phrases will prove useful for such situations and will help ensure a productive meeting.

When holding off an interruption, you can say:

  • “Can we come back to that point later? Let me just finish what I was saying”
  • “Can I just finish making my point?”

Likewise, apologise for being late by saying:

  • “Excuse me for being late, I was”
  • “Sorry for not getting here on time, I was”

Some useful negotiation phrases during a meeting:

  • “I hear what you’re saying, however our senior manager is very clear on this one”
  • “I understand that we can’t do that, but can we discuss some other alternatives?”
  • “I agree with what you are saying, however have you considered [different method]?”
  • “How about this as an alternative [proceed to explain your alternative method]”

If you want to leave a meeting early, gather your stuff quietly and politely excuse yourself by saying:

  • “Excuse me, unfortunately I have to leave early. I need to be [briefly explain where you need to be]”
  • “I’ve got to shoot off, I’ve got overlapping meetings”
  • “Sorry I’m going to have to leave now, [reason for leaving early]“

You can plan a future meeting by saying:

  • “I’d like to set up a meeting with you at your earliest convenience. When are you free?”
  • “I’d love to continue this conversation at a second meeting, when are you next free?”
  • “We haven’t covered everything we needed to, shall we set up another meeting?”

When the meeting is on a tight schedule and the discussion is dragging on, you can use these phrases:

  • “I’m afraid that’s outside the scope of this meeting”
  • “Why don’t we return to the main agenda of today’s meeting”
  • “We’ve gone slightly off topic, let us get back to [main agenda]”

Learn more English for the workplace with our Learn English for Business immersive course, where you can practice what you learn in online exercises.