5.3 Meetings 2: Learn to speak up in meetings

Partaking in meetings can sometimes feel overwhelming, especially if you're not comfortable with the language used. This could also be aggravated by being shy or lacking confidence. What can be done to overcome your fears?

In meetings, one can really show your value and build your reputation. You can make your voice heard. Here are some tips to overcome your fear to speak up:

  • Set yourself a goal for the meeting. You may want to say one thing about a specific agenda point. Once you have achieved this goal you'll feel more confident.
  • Prepare yourself thoroughly for the meeting. Practise the goal(s) you've set for yourself. Make a list of your thoughts that can be pertinent to the meeting. This includes practising using phrases and words used generally in such meetings.
  • Use your expertise to provide needed context in the discussion. What is your specific expertise?
  • Discuss items you want to raise in the meeting with somebody that will also be in the meeting ahead of the meeting. By doing this the other person will know that you would like to say something and he/she might even ask your opinion in the meeting.
  • Do not use words or phrases that minimise what you have to say such as "I am not sure, but....", "I don't really know...." or "this might be a stupid question...."
  • A quick way to draw attention to yourself is by raising your hand.
  • Remember that you were invited for a reason. Even if your English isn't fantastic, take a chance, make a few mistakes and speak up. You'll be surprised at the results!

In the previous lesson, we've started the meeting. In this lesson we will be looking at partaking in the meeting.

Exercise 1.

Interrupting politely:

"Excuse me for interrupting..."

"Sorry, can I just clarify...."

"Sorry, I didn't quite understand that, can you say it again?"

"Yes, that's a very good point, what about....."

"I've never thought of it in that way...."

Asking questions:

To clarify a point:

“I don't exactly understand what you mean. Could you perhaps explain it differently?”

“Could you tell us how that is going to work?”

“Just to make sure, do you mean ...."

Asking someone to repeat something:

“Can you please repeat that?”

“Can you say that again in a simpler way?”

The person leading the meeting can also ask:

“Any more comments?”

“What do you think about the suggestion?”

“Anything that we haven't covered ?”

Other typical phrases used in meetings:

Apologising for being late:

“Sorry for being late, I was ...”

“Excuse me for not getting here on time, I was...”

When somebody interrupts, you can say:

“Can we come back to that later? Let me just finish..."

“Could I just finish making my point?”

Some negotiation phrases:

“I hear what you’re saying, however, our production manager is very clear on it”

“I understand that we can’t do that, but can we perhaps discuss other ways?”

“I agree with you, however, have you considered...?

“How about doing it slightly differently, for instance ...”

Should you need to leave a meeting early:

“Excuse me, unfortunately I have to leave early. I need to ...”

“I’ve got to go, I’ve got ...”

“Sorry I’m going to have to leave now, ...“

When planning future meetings:

“I’d like to schedule a meeting at your earliest convenience. When can you make it?”

“I’d love to continue this conversation at another meeting, when are you free?”

“We haven’t covered all the things we needed to, shall we set up a second meeting?”

When discussions are necessarily dragging on:

“I'm afraid that's outside the scope of this particular meeting”

“Could we return to the main agenda please?”

“We’ve gone slightly off-topic, let us get back to point ...”

Listen to the next video for more about speaking up in a meeting.

Exercise - Speaking up in meetings

Read the script of a meeting below and then answer the questions. The original script can be found on the Blair English Website

Compare the phrases in bold in "Meetings - Speak up - Exercise" with the phrases in the Business English Space (Scroll down to "How and when to interrupt").

Do the quiz now.

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