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Difficult meeting coming up? This preparation task could help.

Taking part in meetings in English can be a real challenge for many people, it often combines a number of specific skills - making small talk at the start, transitioning to the content of the meeting, listening, speaking, presenting, agreeing, disagreeing… it’s all there… so, it’s often worth spending a bit of time preparing for taking part in meetings.

Like many aspects of business, the better prepared we are beforehand, the less likely that it is that we run into difficulty. So, before any meeting, ask yourself the following questions to help you prepare. After answering the question below, I give you some useful language for the meeting and have linked a couple of interesting videos to watch!

The Questions

1) What is the purpose and desired outcome of the meeting?

This is about setting the scene for what you will need to follow and comprehend and what you contribution will likely be.

2) Who is likely to be attending the meeting and what will be their role in the meeting?

This will help you to understand the tone of the meeting - will it be a more serious meeting with senior managers, or a much more informal team meeting - thinking about peoples roles will help to start thinking about what others might contribute to the meeting and what you would need to be prepared to listen to and understand.

3) What is your role in the meeting and what will you need to contribute?

For example, will you need to present something, update someone on something, is there something that you would want to ask or say in the meeting?

4) How will you introduce yourself in the meeting (if needed)?

Can you do this confidently? as it might be the first contact you have with other participants, it's worth being able to do this well and really set the scene for communicating further in English.

5) What topics/themes/issues are almost certainly going to come up in the meeting?

Do you have the relevant vocabulary to talk about these confidently? Talking through these specific things is a great way of identifying any gaps in language that would need to be filled beforehand - it's also something that works really well as the basis of part of a lesson!

6) Do you have a couple of ideas for small talk conversation starters?


Functional Language

Generally the language we'd use in a meeting is no different to everyday life, so instead of trying to give you phrases for everything I would like to focus on some of the kinds of functional language that might come in useful when dealing with some of the slightly more difficult or awkward situations in meetings -

Interrupting intentionally:

I’m sorry to cut in, but...

Sorry to interrupt, but…

Can I (just quickly) add something?,...

Can I (just quickly) say something?,...

Can I (just quickly) make another suggestion?,...

Interrupting unintentionally:

Sorry, you were saying… (after interrupting someone)

Being interrupted:

Sorry, can I just finish what I was saying,

Okay, just quickly let me finish what I (or anyone else) was saying then we'll come to you,

Disagreeing with someone:

My understanding of that was actually slightly different, I thought that...

I'm not sure I entirely agree with that,....

Have you taken into account that,....

I understand what you are saying, but...

Bringing the conversation back onto a topic:

Hang on, we are getting off track here, let's get back to,....

Let’s get back to…

Getting back to…

You were saying that…


Video Examples

These videos, which I found on YouTube, show a couple of examples of how meetings might play out in English - whilst watching, how would the preparation ideas and functional language have helped you if you were attending these meetings?

Here is the second part...

And lastly, here is how Hollywood thinks a meeting would go...


Preparing for meeting can be done independently, but to really prepare yourself for the meeting it would be really useful to actually go over the meeting as a lesson - we could walk through the particular meeting scenarios using a combination of talking about the meeting and role-playing in the meeting to make sure that you feel fully prepared and confident to take part! Contact me on if you wanted to discuss how I can help you prepare for a specific meeting!

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