Business English Tip of the Week

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Useful Phrases for Business Meetings

16 Jun 2019

Here, we're going to introduce you to a few useful phrases for 1) watching the time, and 2) regaining focus in a business meeting.

Watching the Time

One of the most difficult things about holding an effective meeting is staying within the time limits. A good agenda will outline how long each item should take. A good chairperson will do his or her best to stay within the limits. Here are some expressions that can be used to keep the meeting flowing at the appropriate pace.

I think we've spent enough time on this topic.
We're running short on time, so let's move on.
We're running behind schedule, so we'll have to skip the next item.
We only have fifteen minutes remaining and there's a lot left to cover.
If we don't move on, we'll run right into lunch.
We've spent too long on this issue, so we'll leave it for now.
We'll have to come back to this at a later time.
We could spend all day discussing this, but we have to get to the next item.

Regaining Focus

It is easy to get off topic when you get a number of people in the same room. It is the chairperson's responsibility to keep the discussion focused. Here are some expressions to keep the meeting centred on the items as they appear on the agenda.

Let's stick to the task at hand, shall we?
I think we're steering off topic a bit with this.
I'm afraid we've strayed from the matter at hand.
You can discuss this among yourselves at another time.
We've lost sight of the point here.
This matter is not on today's agenda.
Let's save this for another meeting.
Getting back to item number 5.
Now where were we? Oh yes, let's vote.

 

Bulleted Lists in Business Writing

09 Jun 2019

You can use numbers or bullet points in your vertical lists. Vertical lists are a great way of presenting more complex information clearly. Here we're just going to show you three types of bulleted lists. The differences between the three types lie in the way the lists are punctuated.

Type 1

The following conditions are necessary for fully-funded training:

  • This is your first training course.
  • Your employer signs the enclosed form.
  • You have a clean driving licence.

The initial phrase is a complete sentence but ends with a colon (:) to show that a list follows. Each point in the list is a complete sentence, so it starts with a capital letter and ends with a full stop.

Type 2

The fees include:

  • course material
  • preparation time
  • travelling expenses.

The initial phrase is a complete sentence but ends with a colon (:) to show that a list follows. Each point in the list is short (a phrase) and so the points do not start with a capital letter and only the last point has a full stop.

Type 3

The courses are designed for trainees who:

  • have a degree in accountancy;
  • need work experience; and
  • live in the London area.

The initial phrase is a complete sentence but ends with a colon (:) to show that a list follows. Each point in the list is part of a continuous sentence. The points do not start with capital letters and there is a semi-colon (;) separating each point. Before the last point there is 'and' to show that it is part of a continuous sentence.

With this type of list, be careful that the points coming after the introduction are grammatically consistent. Take a look at the following example of a grammatically inconsistent list.

Incorrect Version:

The people:

  • who live in London;
  • who are over 25; and
  • have a degree;

are eligible.

This list is incorrect because you need another 'who' in the third point to make a grammatically consistent sentence.

Correct Version:

The people who:

  • live in London;
  • are over 25; and
  • have a degree;

are eligible.

This list is correct because "who live", "who are" and "who have" are all plural endings to match 'people'. The list is grammatically consistent.

 

How to Start a Conversation

02 Jun 2019

Start out by asking the person questions that are easy to answer.

A good balance is around two or three closed questions, that have short answers, and then one open question, where they have to think and talk more. Early on, it is often better even with open questions to keep them simple and easy.

Tips

  • Ask them something about themselves.
  • If you do not know their name, then start there.
  • Compliment them about their appearance. Ask them where they got that nice suit, watch, hat or whatever.
  • Comment on their good mood, ask them why they are looking a bit down. Say they look distracted and ask why.
  • Ask if they have family, the names of their children, how old they are, how they are doing in school and so on.
  • Ask about their occupation, their careers and plans for the future.
  • Ask about hobbies, interests and what they do with their spare time.
  • Pay attention when they give you an answer. Show interest not only in the answer but in them as a person as well
  • And when they tell you something, show interest in it. Follow up with more questions.

Conversation Starters

  • General starters

Hi, I'm Paul.

Sorry, I didn't catch your name.

I like your dress. Where did you get it?

Nice hat!

You look worried.

What's the matter? You look down.

Is there anything wrong? You seem distracted.

  • The weather (especially in climates where it changes often).

Nice day, isn't it?

Beautiful day, isn't it?

Can you believe all of this rain we've been having?

It looks like it's going to snow.

We couldn't ask for a nicer day, could we?

How about this weather?

  • Recent news (though be careful to avoid politics and religion with people you don't know very well).

Did you catch the news today?

Did you hear about that fire on Fourth St?

What do you think about this rail strike?

I read in the paper today that the Sears Mall is closing.

I heard on the radio today that they are finally going to start building the new bridge.

How about United? Do you think they're going to win tonight?

  • Family (siblings, where they live, etc.)

Do you have any children?

Do you come from a big family?

Do you have any brothers or sisters?

Do your family live close by?

Do your children go to the local school?

  • History (what school they went to, where they have lived, etc.)

Are you from around here?

You're not from around here, are you?

Have you lived here long?

Are you from London?

Where are you from?

How long do you plan to live here?

Where did you live before coming to Singapore?

Did you go to school around here?

Which school did you go to?

How do you find living in Singapore?
  • Work (what they do, people at work, etc.)

Looking forward to the weekend?

Have you worked here long?

I can't believe how busy we are today, can you?

You look like you could use a cup of coffee.

What do you think of the new computers?

  • Holidays

Are you going away anywhere this summer?

Do you have any plans to go away somewhere?

Are you doing anything special at the weekend?

Taking a vacation this year?
  • Hobbies and sports

Are you interested in football?

Which sport to you like best?

My passion is golf. What about you?

Are you a member of any clubs?

How do you spend your free time?

Are you going to the game tonight?

Great win for United on Saturday.

What's your favorite sport?

 

 
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