• Meetings B….Y Meetings!

    MANAGEMENT AND TRAINER BRIEF

    Another session in France this week on meetings. Nowadays executives outside the UK have to ‘meet’ on the phone in audio ‘conf calls’ and, less often, video conferences. And they have to do it in English.

    Their great fear is that because they are in meetings and often running meetings in English with English speaking executives from other countries, they won’t understand everything their foreign colleagues say. As a result they worry they will lose control of the conversation and sound and feel stupid.

    Is there anything they can do to keep control of the conversation? Yes, there is. On our courses the delegates have evolved a 10 point strategy to help keep control of meetings.

    This is what we practise in our sessions. The delegates agree the agenda, and then turn to face the wall so they can hear but not see each other. One of them agrees to be the convenor. Then they run a conf call and practise the strategies and the stock phrases that go with them. Here are the ten points.

    1 TAKE CONTROL FROM THE START.

    If you are the convenor, take control from the start. Introduce the topic and check who is online. This gives you and everyone else a chance to hear and begin to get used to different accents of English used on the call.

    2 DON’T TAKE THE MINUTES.

    You can’t control the meeting and concentrate on taking the minutes as well. Delegate the minutes. Arrange it before the meeting if possible to avoid negotiation of who will do what. Make sure the minute taker checks the minutes with you and that you check them and send them out to the meeting participants.

    3 INTRODUCE AGENDA ITEMS AND CONTRIBUTORS.

    Introduce each agenda item or point and identify the person who will introduce it.

    4 THANK THE PRESENTER AND OPEN THE DISCUSSION.

    At the end, thank the presenter and ask for contributions.

    5 SUMMARISE THE DISCUSSION AND DECIDE WHAT TO MINUTE.

    Summarise the key agenda point and say ‘Let’s minute that……’ usually the only things to minute are the action point (what), the action owner (who), and the deadline for completion (by when). However, a lot of ‘by whens’ are ‘Report back at next meeting.’

    6 CONCLUDE AND SUM UP.

    At the end of the agenda, many convenors sum up the key conclusions, or ask the minute taker to do so. Then they go round the table to ask ‘Any Other Business’ and fix the date of the next meeting. ‘Any Other Business’ is often known in British offices as ‘Gossip and Rumours!’

    And that’s it. Except that everything doesn’t always go according to plan. So the final four points are tactics for keeping the meeting on track.

    7 GOING TOO FAST.

    Native speakers often don’t realise how fast and indistinctly they speak. Many non-native speakers of English complain that when they ask the speaker to ‘Speak more slowly’, the native speaker repeats at EXACTLY THE SAME SPEED! Try this. Ask for slower speech but explain why. ‘Sorry, I’m not a native speaker. Could you slow down, please?’ or ‘Sorry, English isn’t my mother tongue could you speak a bit more slowly, please?’ The explanation usually gets a better result.

    8 NEED REPETITION.

    We heard the wonderful story of a French executive who asked an American on a conf call. ‘Sorry, I didn’t catch that. Can you say it again, please?’

    The American asked, ‘Which bit?’

    The Frenchman responded, ‘All of it!’

    Touche!

    9 GOING ON TOO LONG.

    Sometimes, people spend too long on a point and the non-native speaker convenor doesn’t know how to shut them up. Perhaps the best thing is simply say, ‘Sorry, we’re very short of time. Could you sum up briefly, please?’ However, where I work, they are sometimes more impatient and after a suitable pause, simply press the speaker’s ‘mute’ button. He can talk but no one is listening.

    10 GETTING OFF THE POINT.

    Finally, what do you do when someone insists on talking about something completely different? Then you have to interrupt and say, ‘Sorry, can we get back to the agenda?’

    However, in one memorable case, the convenor interrupted with. ‘Sorry, I can’t understand a word. Send me an email.’ He’ll never read it! Native speakers beware.

    You can download our MEETINGS podcast with Cathy Jacka. Visit DOWNLOADS.

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