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Business Meeting - Informal

Business Meeting - Informal

 

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Requirements

Business Meeting (informal)


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

In this lesson, we will concentrate on attending an informal 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, even in formal meetings. However, they are a good framework by which to understand what is happening in business meetings, formal and informal.

For more information on Robert's Rules of Order, please go to (official name of lesson on formal meetings).

An informal meeting usually has a "facilitator" or "chair" who runs the meeting. The facilitator usually hands out an "agenda" which is a list of topics to be covered or things to do during the meeting. The facilitator usually hands out the agenda either shortly before the meeting or at the beginning of the meeting. Sometimes facilitators send an electronic copy of the agenda.

Attendees are usually expected to print out the agenda and bring it to the meeting so they will know the order of events.

The facilitator usually asks for attention and "calls the meeting to order" by saying "Good afternoon. Thank you all for coming." If there are any visitors, the facilitator introduces them by saying, for example, "I'd like to introduce _____ _____, our lead sales associate from Arizona." or "I'd like you all to welcome _____ ____, vice-president of ABC Industries.".

The facilitator then explains the purpose of the meeting by saying "The purpose for this meeting is to …", for example "The purpose of this meeting is to decide how to allocate resources among our U.S. locations.".

Another way to explain the purpose is to say "Our aim here today is to …" or "Our purpose here today is to …".

Sometimes the "minutes" or the official record of the previous meeting are distributed at informal meetings. The facilitator might say "Let's hear the report of last week's meeting.", and might ask the secretary to read the minutes.

Sometimes the minutes are emailed to participants before this meeting so that participants can have time to think of anything that needs to be changed in the minutes.

Sometimes in informal meetings, the facilitator reminds the participants of important points in the previous meeting by saying "Last time, we decided . . ." or "Last time we agreed to …".

After these so-called "housekeeping" chores have been covered, the facilitator might refer people to the agenda by saying "Have you all received a copy of today's agenda?" or "Let's turn to the agenda for today's meeting.". The facilitator might say "The first item on our agenda refers to budget in our New York location. David, can you bring us up to date on that situation?" or "David has prepared a report on that situation. David, would you take over?".

While David is speaking, other attendees should be quiet and pay attention. During a "presentation" or "report", side conversations and interruptions are considered rude. If anyone needs to leave the meeting, he or she should either leave before or after a presentation, not in the middle of one, as the commotion of leaving would disturb the meeting.

After David has completed his report, the facilitator might say "Thank you, David. Does anybody have anything to add?" or "We appreciate the effort you put into your presentation, David. Does anybody have any questions?". If nobody has questions, the facilitator might say "If nobody has any comments or questions, let's go on to the next item." or "Let's break into small groups to discuss David's report." or "Let's come back to this after we cover our next item.".
The meeting proceeds along this line until all the items have been covered.

Sometimes the facilitator gives an opportunity to discuss something that is not on the agenda by saying "Is there anything else we need to consider?" or "Does anyone have anything else?". If the facilitator does not give this opportunity, a participant might ask "Do we need to consider …" or "Would it be appropriate to discuss ____ now?".

As the facilitator is considering ending the meeting, he or she might say "To summarize today's meeting …" and then quickly summarizes the main points of the meeting in one or two sentences. She or she might say "To sum up, …".

Near the end of an informal meeting, participants usually decide on the next meeting time and date. Most participants bring their business calendar to this meeting, so they will know when they will be able to meet again.

The date and time of the next meeting is usually settled by informal consensus. "Can everyone meet next Thursday at 2:30?" or "Do you have any conflicts on Monday at 10?" or "Is everybody able to get together again next week at the same time?".

At the end of an informal meeting, the facilitator usually says "We've covered everything on our agenda." or "Is there anything else we need to cover before we close the meeting?". There is usually an informal ending to an informal meeting, such as "We're finished here." or "We'll pick this up again next time." or "Let's finish up for now.".

Let's take a look at the beginning of this informal meeting at David's workplace. This scenario shows the tenor of an informal business meeting. Although the tone is relaxed, and the participants are informal, they are informed and prepared for the meeting.

Facilitator: Hi everyone. Thanks for coming. Did everyone get a copy of the minutes to the last meeting and today's agenda?
(heads nod yes)

Facilitator: Okay then, were there any problems with the minutes?
(heads shake no)

Facilitator: All right then, let's get straight to the point. We are having some problems with the STV Company, and we are here to decide how to address the problems. The first item on the agenda is the history of the problem. David has prepared a short report on the way the problem started, so David, I'll hand off to you.

David: Thank you. As you all know, the STV Company has always been a … (this will fade out and come back at the end of the report) …. Time elapses … (come back to the end of the report) … so that sums up our problem with the STV Company.

Facilitator: Thank you, David. That's important information for all of us. Thanks for putting that together. Are there any questions? …
Less senior associate: I'm not quite sure I agree with you on the beginning of the problem. I tend to think that we are just as much to blame as the STV Company.

In this meeting, the facilitator calls the meeting to order by saying "Hi everyone. Thanks for coming. Did everyone get a copy of the minutes to the last meeting and today's agenda?". The facilitator draws people's attention to the agenda by asking if everyone received it. He could have said "Lets turn our attention to the agenda." or "Please take a look at today's agenda.".

In an informal business meeting, people can nod their heads to indicate agreement or compliance. They can also shake their heads to indicate a negative answer. Of course, people can also speak up by saying "Yes" or "No".

The facilitator checks on the accuracy of the minutes of the previous meeting by asking "Okay then, were there any problems with the minutes?" He could have asked "Did we cover everything in the minutes?".

The facilitator says "Let's get straight to the point.". He could have said "Let's get right to the point." or "Let's not waste any time." Or Let's get down to business.". He breaks his next sentence into two parts – one to explain the problem and the other to tell the purpose of today's meeting. He says "We are having some problems with the STV Company, and we are here to decide how to address the problems.".

He could have said "We have noticed some problems with the STV Company. The purpose of today's meeting is to decide how to deal with the problems." The facilitator then moves to the agenda, which will be completely devoted to the purpose the facilitator announced.

He says "The first item on the agenda is the history of the problem." He then immediately gives David the opportunity to share his report with the group. He says "David has prepared a short report on how the problem started, so David, I'll hand off to you." In this way, the facilitator moves the meeting forward quickly and efficiently. He could have said "David, I'll let you take over." or he could have addressed the group by saying, "David will give his presentation now.".

David begins his report by saying "As you all know . . ." In this way David builds credibility and empathy with the group. Since they are all working on the problem together, David does not talk down to anyone. Since they are all working together, nobody talks down to David either.

While it is true that people have varying amounts of control in the company, the control is less important than solving the common problem. Anyone can disagree with David, even people who are less senior than he is. However, it is important for everyone to remain polite.
After David's report, a less senior member of the team disagrees with David's analysis of the problem. While the associate is polite, he does not pretend to agree with David. He says "I'm not quite sure I agree with you on the beginning of the problem. I tend to think that we are just as much to blame as the STV Company." We see that his language is not confrontational because he says "I'm not quite sure I agree …" and "I tend to think …" rather than using confrontation language such as "You are wrong…", or "I disagree with you." However, he clearly disagrees with David. In most businesses, such disagreement is common, and it is not discouraged.

It is important to note that in informal meetings, the behavior is relaxed, but everyone is prepared for the meeting and ready to solve and discuss the issues at hand. The term "informal" refers to the type of meeting, not to the type of preparation required.

Outstanding! You are now ready to attend an informal meeting. "Let's get down to business.".