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Business Meeting - Formal

Business Meeting - Formal

 

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Business Meeting (formal)


Hello! In this lesson, we will learn the English associated with attending a formal business meeting. There are formal business meetings and informal business meetings.

In this lesson, we will concentrate on attending a formal business meeting. Formal business meetings operate according to Robert's Rules of Order, a protocol guide of "parliamentary procedure". The rules are usually not followed precisely. However, they are a good framework by which to understand what is happening in formal business meetings.

Before a formal business meeting, attendees receive an "agenda". The agenda is a list of things to be done at the meeting. The agenda is usually distributed several days before a formal meeting. The agenda might be delivered electronically, or on paper. If it is delivered electronically, the participants are expected to print a copy of the agenda and bring it to the meeting so they will be able to follow along.

Attendees at a business meeting should arrive on time and switch off their cell phones so they will not disturb others. There is sometimes assigned or pre-arranged seating at a formal business meeting. If you do not know the seating arrangements, you should ask someone before taking a seat. You could say "Are there assigned seats?" or "Where should I sit?".

At most formal meetings, the chair calls on the secretary to read the minutes of the previous meeting. The "minutes" are a formal record of the meeting. In some cases, copies of the minutes are handed to attendees before the next meeting so that any attendees can have time to think of any "amendments" or changes that need to be made to the minutes.

At some formal meetings, there is a "treasurer's report", during which the financial situation of the group is disclosed, and any earnings or expenditures are explained to the group.

During a formal meeting, the agenda is followed tightly. The chairperson announces which agenda item is being discussed. Nobody is allowed to discuss another item unless it is approved by the chairperson.

When a formal meeting begins, the chair of the meeting "calls the meeting to order.". The chair says "This meeting will come to order.". Everybody must stop chatting and pay attention at this time.

The number of people present at a formal meeting is counted. A "quorum" of people must be present in order to have a formal meeting. A quorum is usually more than half of the people who are supposed to attend. In most businesses, people do not have the choice of whether or not to attend meetings, so this step is not followed within a self-contained business. However, it stands to reason that the meeting would not proceed if one whole side of the meeting did not attend. For example, in a meeting between two businesses, both businesses would need to attend. In the case that there are not enough people present to hold the meeting, the chair of the meeting would say "We do not have a quorum, so this meeting is adjourned.".

In a formal meeting, people must be "recognized" by the chairperson. For example, if David wanted to speak at the meeting, he might raise his hand. The chair would say "The chair recognizes David Jones. Mr. Jones, you have the floor.". "To have the floor" means to have permission to speak.

It is considered very poor etiquette to interrupt anyone during a formal business meeting. In general, comments are made to the chairperson, even if they are in reference to another person who is present at the meeting. Sometimes this process is not followed. If you are new member of this meeting group, pay close attention to how disagreements or comments referring to other members are handled.

In a formal meeting, an attendee can make a "motion", which is a proposition for the assembled group to vote on.

To make a motion, a person says "I move that …". In order for the motion to be voted on or recorded in the minutes of the meeting, someone has to "second the motion". A "second" means that someone else agrees with the motion. "Motions" and "seconds" are sometimes arranged among members before the formal meeting.

In a formal meeting, a secretary is assigned to "record the minutes" of the meeting. The minutes are the written record of the proceedings of the meeting. The official minutes of a meeting are approved by the chair of the meeting and are sent to all attendees, usually within two weeks of the date of the meeting, and before the next meeting of the group.

At the end of a formal meeting, someone makes a motion to "adjourn" the meeting, which means to end the meeting. The "motion to adjourn" must be seconded. Then the chair of the meeting "adjourns the meeting" by saying "A motion has been made and seconded to adjourn the meeting.". A vote is taken or the chair asks "Is there any objection?". If there is agreement to adjourn, the chair ends the meeting by saying "This meeting is adjourned.".
In this scenario, Jennifer is attending a meeting of representatives from her business and representative from another business. The meeting has been called to order and there is a discussion of forming a team consisting of members from both businesses. We will watch as Jennifer makes a motion in a meeting.

Jennifer: (raises hand)

Chair: Jennifer Jones, you have the floor.

Jennifer: Thank you. I move that we form a team of people from both businesses to work together on the project.

Someone else: I second.

Chair: The motion has been made and seconded that we form a team of people from both businesses to work together on the project.

Someone else: I'd like to amend the motion to say that the team consists of 6 people, three from each company.

Chair: Is there a second?

Jennifer: I second the motion.

Chair: A motion has been made and seconded. Will the secretary please read the motion?

Secretary: That we form a team of 6 people – three from each company – to work on the project.

Chair: We will vote on the motion with a show of hands, please.
(voting by raising hands)

Chair: The motion to form a team of 6 people – three from each company – to work on the project is approved.

In this scenario, Jennifer raises her hand to receive permission to speak. In some formal business meetings, a person stands to receive permission to speak. In somewhat less formal business meetings, a person just starts speaking. Each meeting group has accustomed ways of doing things, so while Robert's Rules of Order are a good starting point, they are not always followed precisely.

The chair says "Jennifer Jones, you have the floor." The chair might have said "The chair recognizes Jennifer Jones. You have the floor, Mrs. Jones." or "Jennifer Jones is recognized by the chair. Jennifer, you may go ahead.".

After Jennifer thanks the chair, she makes a motion by saying "I move that we form a team of people from both businesses to work together on the project.". Some people might say "I would like to make a motion that we form a team of people from both businesses to work together on the project.".

Someone else seconds Jennifer's motion by saying "I second.". The person could have said "I second Jennifer's motion." or "I second the motion." or "I second that motion.".

The chair announces to the group what has just happened by saying "The motion has been made and seconded that we form a team of people from both businesses to work together on the project." Another way to make the announcement would be to ask the secretary to read the motion as the chair does a little later in this meeting.

Someone else is unhappy with the amendment as it stands and says "I'd like to amend the motion to say that the team consists of 6 people, three from each company." When the room is silent for a time, the chair asks "Is there a second?" Jennifer shows her approval of the amendment by seconding the motion to amend. She says "I second.".

The chair says "A motion has been made and seconded. Will the secretary please read the motion?". The chair could also have said "The secretary will read the motion.".

Since the amendment has been seconded, the group with vote on the amended motion. The chair explains how the vote will operate by saying "We will vote on the motion with a show of hands, please.". The vote could also be taken with a voice vote for which the chair would say "All those in favor say 'aye.' All opposed, say "nay.'" In this case, the term "aye" means "yes" and the term "nay" means "no".

If someone requests a vote by secret ballot, the chair would possibly say "We will vote by secret ballot." or "A ballot has been requested.", and ballots would be distributed for a secret written vote.

The chair announces the results of the vote by saying "The motion to form a team of 6 people – three from each company – to work on the project -- is approved." This means that a majority agrees to form the team.

Great! You have learned the basics of a formal meeting. Meetings take many forms. We will cover an informal business meeting in another lesson.