$1 billion per minute – that was how fast Masayoshi Son, one of Japan’s wealthiest businessmen, managed to raise money in a meeting in Saudi Arabia.
Masayoshi Son spent 45 minutes talking to former Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. By the end of the meeting, bin Salman had committed $45 billion to Son’s venture fund for investing in startups.
Because Son had mastered English, he could express himself confidently – and pitch to Bin Salman in a way that other people wouldn’t have been able to pull off.
Like Son, maybe you’re dealing with clients from other countries. Or maybe you’re part of an international team. In both cases, English is likely to be the language that you’ll be turning to the most during business meetings. Your proficiency in English can have a huge influence on the outcome of these meetings – such as whether you can successfully close deals or gain common ground with a client.
In this blog post, we’ll fill you in on the essentials of business English meetings – from top vocabulary phrases to cultural tips that’ll help you get along with others professionally.
Types of Business English Meetings
There’s a huge variety of business English meetings that you might find yourself in. You might be doing a quick update session with your team, checking in with freelancers, or coordinating a project with a client. On the less formal side, you could also be in a team-building meeting where you’re indulging in games and happy hour.
To keep it simple, you can think of business English meetings based on these categories:
One-on-One vs. Group
The number of participants in your meeting matters. Most business English meetings involve a group, so unless you’ll be managing the meeting or presenting in the spotlight, you’ll usually have to speak less. Still, you’ll have to be observant of social cues from the other participants.
With one-on-one meetings, you’ll have more of a chance to connect with the other person. Since one-on-one meetings can be less intimidating, people can be more open and willing to share what they think.
Internal vs External
During internal meetings, you’re talking to people from within your group or company, while external meetings are held with clients, partners, and agencies – anyone outside your company.
Internal meetings tend to be more relaxed. Participants already know each other, and you have a common goal to work towards. External meetings -especially with clients – tend to be more formal and even high-stakes. Negotiation and disagreements are also likely, so people are more careful with their words and behavior.
In-Person vs. Remote
Meetings are traditionally in-person, but remote meetings are already becoming the norm – especially since participants might not even be in the same country. Although you’ll have to be prepared either way, there are huge differences between these types of meetings.
In-person meetings have more of a personal touch because you’re face-to-face with the other person. You’ll probably engage in more small talk. On the other hand, remote meetings are convenient, but socializing is harder and technical issues can pop up more often.
Since remote meetings have their own set of rules (and English vocabulary) compared to in-person meetings, they can take some getting used to. Here’s a top resource that’ll help you become confident with meetings over video call: the Creativa Business Meeting Mastery course.
It has engaging, high-quality video courses that are all about how you can present your best self in English. Each episode goes deep on gestures and intonation with realistic reenactments by professional actors. By mastering both business vocabulary and body language, you’ll become amazing at managing meetings in English.
Interested in knowing more? You can view a free episode directly from the course.
English Vocabulary for Business Meetings
Whatever business meeting you’ll be joining, they do have some commonalities. The leader of the meeting discusses the agenda at the start, participants interact with each other throughout the meeting, and then there’s a wrap-up at the end – with maybe a next meeting being scheduled.
When you know the exact native English phrases to say at each part of a meeting, you can express your ideas with much more impact. Scroll down here to download a free PDF worksheet with vocabulary exercises about managing a business English meeting – from stating the agenda to setting the pace all throughout. This way, you’ll be able to remember the vocabulary better, and you can bring them up naturally at your next business meeting.
As a summary, we’ve rounded up the top English vocabulary for business meetings below, complete with example sentences:
Starting a Meeting
You don’t jump into the main points of the meeting right away – it takes at least a couple of minutes for participants to settle in, especially when they’re not all arriving at the same time. During this time, people might make small talk with each other to break the ice. Once there’s a suitable number of participants present, the leader of the meeting greets everyone and then signals the start of the meeting with these phrases.
- Thank you for being here, everyone. What do you say we move into our agenda for this meeting?
- I’m glad to see everyone here! We can now get started.
- Good morning / good afternoon / good evening, everyone. This meeting is about…
Transitioning to the Meeting Agenda
If you’re the leader of the meeting, then you’ll have to explain what the agenda or objective of the meeting is. This is also when you’ll describe any ground rules such as taking turns speaking or making a final decision at the end. You might appoint someone to take the minutes or to go over the notes from a previous meeting.
- We’ve got a few items on the agenda today. Let’s start with…
- By the end of this meeting, we should have…
- This is what we’re going to discuss today.
Keeping the Meeting Pace
Meetings only have a limited amount of time, but the more participants you have, the faster things can get out of hand. One person might take too long to make their point, or the meeting can get sidetracked as participants start commenting on each other’s suggestions. For this reason, it’s up to the leader of the meeting to manage the pace.
- Let’s keep it short, everyone.
- Would you mind if we come back to this later?
- Since we only have [time] left, we should…
When you’re in a video meeting, you’ll almost always have to be familiar with technical vocabulary. Even with face-to-face meetings, you might still have to mention emails or files that you’ve sent other participants before. Here are some common phrases that you’ll encounter:
- We saved it on the shared drive.
- You might want to check the email with the subject line…
- I’ll send you a link to the doc.
If you’re going to present via video call, you’ll be showing your presentation slides through screen-sharing. You can give other participants a heads-up so they won’t be surprised when the screen suddenly changes.
- Just a sec here while I start the screenshare.
- I’m going to screenshare this doc, so please be sure to stay in the call window.
- Please take a look at the…
Video calls have their own set of controls that you’ll have to juggle during meetings. Instead of simply speaking out loud, participants might have to turn their videos and mics on and off at various points. This can get confusing, which is when the phrases below will come in handy.
- Sorry, I can’t hear you – your mic might be muted.
- Could everyone mute their mic? There’s a lot of background noise.
- Can I get everyone to turn on their video?
Interacting with Other Participants
Since there are parts of a meeting where anyone can speak up, you can put yourself forward smoothly using certain business English phrases. It’s also possible to ask respectfully for clarifications when a participant stops speaking. Still, you wouldn’t want to interrupt them mid-sentence – wait until there’s a natural pause, then you can bring up any of these phrases.
- Sorry, may I jump in?
- I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that. Did you say…?
- Just to check, do you mean…?
Maybe you don’t agree with a meeting participant. Instead of pointing out the issues right away with someone’s idea, it’s more polite to phrase what you want to say as either a suggestion or a question, then ask what other people think about it.
- Might I offer a suggestion?
- What do you say we…?
- Maybe we can… Having said that, I would be interested in your thoughts about it.
Ending a Meeting
At the end of the meeting, you’ll be checking back on your agenda: did you achieve your objective? To get all of the participants on the same page, the meeting leader gives a quick summary, then discusses the next steps. This can mean scheduling another meeting or simply sending out emails about what you’ve discussed.
- To summarize what we’ve talked about in this meeting…
- Let’s focus, then, on the next steps…
- For our next meeting…
Of course, meetings do require time and effort from all of the participants, so the meeting leader can end it on a positive note by thanking everyone for being there. Once the meeting head says this, it’s usually a sign that the meeting’s over.
- It was such a pleasure to see you all. We’ve really seen a lot of progress here today.
- I’d like to thank you for the great teamwork today.
- I am very excited about where this project is going. Thank you, all!
Dos and Don’ts for Business English Meetings
On top of the English phrases above, there are assumed do’s and don’ts for business English meetings. The four tips below are crucial in showing other meeting participants that you’re professional and considerate:
Be mindful of time zones and cultural differences
If it’s an international business meeting, then participants will be coming from different countries. Aside from cultural differences, people may vary in terms of how they speak English. They may not have the same accents, or they prefer using different words for the same thing – for example, “drugstore” vs. “chemist’s” in US vs. UK English.
In video meetings, participants may even be spread out across the world, with separate time zones. Because of this, it’s important to communicate clearly and to be culturally sensitive.
Don’t be late
While some cultures are more accepting of people being late, English-speaking cultures can be very specific about the time. If they say the meeting will start at 9 AM, they’re expecting you to be present exactly at 9 AM – and showing up even minutes later can seem rude to other meeting participants.
You wouldn’t want to be the one person that everyone’s waiting for! To be safe, try being there at least a few minutes early.
Use open and approachable body language
Whatever type of meeting you’re attending, people will definitely notice your body language. Having an upright posture, smiling occasionally, and making relevant English gestures while explaining will go a long way towards helping other meeting participants feel comfortable around you.
Body language can even make more of an impact than the words you’re saying – which is why it’s key to being an excellent communicator in English. Scroll down to download a free worksheet with tons of exercises about improving both your vocabulary and body language during business meetings. You’ll get a run-through of how to use gestures and intonation to express yourself powerfully, whether you’re greeting a colleague or delivering a presentation.
Don’t be distracted
Participants are generally expected to give their full attention to business English meetings – especially if there are only a few of you attending. While you probably won’t be able to help having your mind wander off sometimes, there are certain gestures that you’ll want to avoid.
Don’t yawn while someone’s talking, or keep looking at your watch in an obvious show of impatience. You could also put your phone on silent before the meeting starts so there won’t be any chance of the meeting getting interrupted by your phone ringing.
When you’re looking to expand your career prospects and connect with more people professionally, English is your best bet for a second language. After all, more than half of people who speak it only picked it up along the way – so you’re in good company. As remote work and video calls become the norm, international business meetings are on the rise – and English is often the language that bridges people together.
Getting the hang of business English meetings can take some time, but it’ll pay off well for your career. To speed up your learning, you can check out the Creativa Business Meeting Mastery course. It’s designed specifically for English learners looking to upgrade their professional communication skills.
You’ll find out how to be persuasive and effective in all sorts of business scenarios – with lessons on body language, intonation, and vocabulary. Here’s a free episode from the course to get you started.