• Make Your Meetings Work


    I’m running a programme on training managers to run and take part in international meetings. It’s areal issue for NON-NATIVE English speaker managers to run and take part in international meetings and conference calls (conf.calls.)

    One of the particular problems of conf calls is that you have no visual clues to meaning. You can’t see anyone. So you depend on voice alone. Speed, accent and use of English are just three of the problems managers face.

    One manager summed up the problem in the NON-NATIVE SPEAKER’S LAMENT.



    Open mouth.

    Too late!’

    Why too late? The conversation has moved on. Your intervention is no longer appropriate.

    What can managers do to make life easier? Here are 5 key strategies. Also see the Training Activity that follows them.

    1 Have a clear structure.

    I firmly belief a structure helps. Make a checklist of the key stages of the meeting. This will help you keep control. Key items are: -









    This would be a typical meeting agenda.

    2 Match typical phrases (Stock Phrases) to each stage of the meeting.

    You can vary these, of course, but if you have basic phrases you know how to use and a clear structure it will make you much more confident, more fluent and help you keep control of the meeting.

    3 Be concise.


    Don’t talk too much. Think what you want to say. Say it clearly and with short sentences. You will have much more impact. To help you. Think of your thought as a product, a single item. Present as a package with a clear beginning, middle and end.

    Always say the positive things before you say the negative things.

    4 Plan your intervention.

    Get an agenda from the co-ordinator before the meeting. Check it and decide which item you want to contribute to. Call the co-ordinator and tell him or her you will want to speak. Ask him/her to call on you during the meeting. Even if he/she forgets, if you remind them they will remember and give you room to speak.

    5 Don’t make enemies of people you never see.

    It’s not hard to do. I don’t know you well. I’ve never met you. I only hear you in conference calls. Be calm, be charming and try not to disagree too strongly. Use phrases like, ‘ I agree up to a point but…’ or ‘I hear what you say but…’ or ‘Let’s agree to differ.’ The French call these a ‘quitus’.

    There’s lots more to say but these five pieces of advice can help you run and participate in more successful conference calls.

    Trainer Brief – Activity

    People from different corporate and national cultures have differing expectations of what should happen in meetings. What are your expectations?

    1 Give out the chart. Ask the students to Tick the box you think is closest to your style.

    © 2012 Barry Tomalin ‘Key Business Skills’ Harper Collins 2012

    2 Now list the numbers in your profile here.

    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ..

    Mine are:

    1A, 2A, 3B, 4A, 5A, 6A, 7A

    3 Now think of someone who you have regular meetings with. Maybe someone you don’t communicate with very successfully. In your opinion, what is their style? Write down their numbers and compare them with yours. What are the differences? How can you adapt your approach to theirs?

    4 Elicit the conclusions from your group and ask them to summarise the action they will take as a result.

    This is adapted from KEY BUSINESS SKILLS by BARRY TOMALIN, published by HARPER COLLINS TODAY. Look at the flyer under NEWS AND EVENTS on the home page.


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