MED Magazine - Issue 22 - September 2004
Top Tips for Business English
Teaching meeting skills
by Rosemary Richey
Welcome to the brand-new Top Tips for Business English
column of MED Magazine! In the next six issues you can read a series of
articles dealing with Business English teaching matters. In these articles
you'll find useful tips and lesson activities based on the Macmillan
English Dictionary for teaching basic business skills for areas such
as meetings, presentations, negotiations and socialising. Moreover, these
skills will be presented in major business sector contexts such as banking/finance,
law, tourism, engineering or medicine. The first article in the series
gives you tips on teaching meeting skills.
Language and skills for meetings can be taught as early
as pre-intermediate level, but are ideally polished up at upper intermediate
and advanced levels.
|| Bear in mind that being able to function
in meetings in English is often a huge pressure for your students.
They may feel insecure about competing in an international meeting
setting. Even more personal, the participants' meeting skills in English
may make or break their chances to get promoted in the company.
|Put your students at ease by brainstorming
in pairs or groups on the following topics:
||What kind of meetings do they
attend? Are these meetings informal or formal?
||How often do they go to meetings?
||What is their role in the meetings
(e.g. chairperson or participant)?
||What do they like/dislike about
||What are their biggest problems/complaints
||Have they attended/conducted a
meeting in English before? What were their experiences like?
Language and skill components
|To start your lessons, for any level,
review the basic components of a meeting what happens before,
during and after a meeting. Then check students' familiarity with
the meaning of lexis used in meetings, e.g. agenda, minutes,
chair(person), etc. Click here for some activities
and teacher's notes
to practise lexis relating to meetings.
|Your follow-up lessons should include language functions
for both the participants and chairperson. Look at the following table
of corresponding function and language:
|opening the meeting
||I would like to welcome you ...;
Our action points are ...
|general polite business etiquette
||use of would, could;
If you don't mind ...; May I ...;
use of the first and second conditionals: If we reduce costs ...;
If we increased our market share ...
||I see your point, but how about ...?
||Could I just stop you a moment to say ...
||That brings us to another related issue ...
||Why don't we try to sort this out by ...?
||I would like to suggest ...;
How about looking into ...?
||Can we wrap up what we've discussed? AOB?
|follow-up for the next meeting
||Our meeting is set for ...;
Please come prepared to report on your action points.
|Type agenda in the search box in the top left
corner, and click on Go. This will bring up the basic meaning
plus some useful phrases (e.g. high on the agenda, be on
|For a further check, select SmartSearch from
the main menu. Key in agenda in the search box and click on
More search options.
|Select Examples in the left-hand panel and
click Go. This will bring up example sentences that contain
the word agenda.
|Have students write down and then present two or
three examples they found in their search, and discuss useful phrases
and collocations such as: get onto/move to the next item on the
agenda; organize the agenda; run off some copies of
an agenda; strike off the agenda.
Teaching ideas and resources
In reviewing the language and skill components discussed
in the previous section, the ideal learning setting would be a meeting
simulation with role-play. Depending on how familiar your students are
with meetings, they can practise step by step (opening to closing) over
one to two class periods. For more experienced participants, meetings
can be done as a whole in one class. In any case, allow your students
to prepare beforehand either in class or as homework.
Here are some useful tips for realistic practice for any
meeting, large or small, formal or informal:
||Try to create meeting situations based on students'
real-life meetings at work. For other meeting contexts, read the business
news on the Internet. Take a particular topic from a business story
and make a role-play for your students.
||Elicit samples of participants' emails showing agendas,
reports, minutes, action points, etc for realia. Integrate these forms
of communication as part of the meeting where the participants explain/discuss
the importance of each. As follow-up to the meeting, the chairperson
can assign a writing task to each participant.
||In each simulation have groups monitor each other
as they perform their meetings. Prepare an observation sheet where
students focus on language and skills. Students then give each other
feedback on their performance in the meetings.
||Invite a real-life manager to observe students' meetings
and to give feedback.
||Take advantage of listening extracts with transcripts
and videos which show a good mix of native and non-native English
speakers in a typical international meeting setting. The transcripts
can provide an excellent basis for identifying, practising and discussing
language and skills used in meetings.
Next month I'll continue with
teaching tips for meetings. In the meantime, I look forward to your feedback
and suggestions on any Business English concern you may have. You can
send me an email on this page.
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