Lead a Business Meeting in English | 10 Must-Have Strategies for Success
This lesson was originally published in November 2016. The lesson content has been updated and a new video was added in April 2022.
How do you start, manage, and end a business meeting or decision-making conversation effectively, ensuring that, by the end, everyone is satisfied and that the primary goals of the meeting were accomplished?
It’s no easy task.
Whether you regularly host meetings but struggle with the confidence of doing them in English or you are unexpectedly tasked to do so, today you’ll learn 10 must-have strategies for success when leading a meeting in English (with example phrases along the way)
A quick Google search will highlight the importance of starting and ending your meeting on time and creating an agenda.
We will briefly talk about each of those with common English phrases that are used.
That said, we’re going far and above the basic strategies. In this Confident Lesson today, you’ll also gain lesser-known strategies that ensure preparedness and smooth communication.
Ultimately, everyone will walk away from your meeting/discussion feeling it was worth their time and they are clear about what’s next.
Here are the 10 strategies you’ll learn:
- Set and share the agenda
- Prepare your key points
- Determine and communicate the purpose
- Open the meeting
- Model active listening skills
- Ask targeted questions
- Minimize off-track conversations
- Say your point and stop talking
- Give thanks where thanks is due
- Close with your final action steps
For more on this topic, please visit Must-Have Phrases for Online Meetings.
Lead a Business Meeting in English – 10 Must-Have Strategies for Success
Strategy 1: Set and Share the Agenda
Preparing an agenda in advance helps to create a roadmap but many meeting and conversation leaders top there.
Sharing the agenda with your team in advance ensures that everyone has the opportunity to come to the meeting prepared and is an essential next step. Not only that but it shows that you value input from all your team members, including those who tend to be more shy or introverted and need that extra time to think
You may be surprised by the well-thought ideas that come from team members who feel less comfortable thinking in the moment.
An easy way to share your agenda and communicate expectations is to send it out via email or post it on a team communication platform at least 24 hours in advance and say:
- Please find the agenda for [insert day/date] meeting attached. In sharing it now, I expect everyone will have time to prepare in advance and I expect a more successful outcome to the meeting.
Strategy 2: Prepare Your Key Points
Having an agenda is a great start, but it doesn’t mean you’re ready to clearly share your ideas.
How many times have you wanted to express your ideas but, in the moment of opportunity, you lost all the words you wanted to say?
Preparing in advance will help you be ready to speak and share your ideas confidently.
Whether you’ve written the agenda or you’re reviewing an agenda your boss shared, use these questions to help you prepare:
- What updates do I need to provide? What are the key details?
- What ideas or questions do I want to bring up?
- What issues do I want to discuss and resolve? Why are those important?
- What challenges am I facing that I need help with or need a decision on?
- Who do I need to thank or acknowledge?
Of course, you may not have an answer to ALL these questions. But they do help you clearly identify your ideas or comments in advance so you’re better prepared.
While you go through these questions, write down a few keywords in a notebook so you can reference them easily if you start to forget. Remember it’s normal to bring a notebook to a meeting or to have notes available during an online video conference.
Having those keywords on paper will trigger those ideas when you need them.
Strategy 3: Determine & Communicate the Purpose
One last important step you can take before the meeting is to determine the purpose and share it with others.
In other words, what is the one specific thing that must happen in this meeting?
Do you need everyone to agree on a way forward for your new product launch?
Do you expect everyone to leave the meeting with a list of tasks they are responsible for?
Is the goal of the meeting to get a thorough progress update?
Communicating the meeting purpose, along with the agenda, will help ensure this primary goal or purpose is met.
Strategy 4: Open the meeting + Initial Updates
Setting a positive, productive tone right from the start will help others feel comfortable when it’s time to contribute their ideas. It will also encourage everyone to stay present with active listening skills.
This means you’ll think carefully about how to start the meeting, including how you welcome everyone to the meeting, create time for introductions (if needed), and present the agenda or initial updates.
A few common phrases to get things started include:
- Good Morning/Afternoon.
- Since everyone is here, let’s get started.
- Let’s begin.
- First, I’d like to welcome everyone.
- I’d like to thank everyone for coming today.
If introductions are necessary, here are a few phrases to use:
- Before we dive into the agenda, let’s go around the room and introduce ourselves quickly – please share your name and your job title.
- I know most of you but I see a few unfamiliar faces. Before we start, let’s do a quick round of introductions?
- Let’s go around the table and introduce ourselves.
- Salina, would you like to introduce yourself?
And once you’re ready, provide a brief review of the agenda and purpose of the meeting:
- Our goal today is to…
- We have a few items to discuss today. The first is… The second is…
- We’re here today to… / We’re here to discuss…
- By the end of our discussion today, we should have a decision on…
- Let’s start with the first item on the agenda…
As you review those phrases, note the transitions that are used to help guide the listener. Words/phrases such as
- let’s start with
- and now
- by the end of our discussion today
Allow your meeting participants to know what to expect and follow you easily as you move through the agenda.
Strategy 5: Model Active Listening Skills
Recently my Confident Women Community spent 2 weeks exploring the world of soft skills in English.
Soft skills include a mix of attitudes, character/personality traits, and interpersonal skills that lead to the ability to communicate effectively, lead a team, or find solutions to problems.
Active listening skills are certainly an essential component of interpersonal skills.
In leading the meeting, listening carefully and demonstrating that you’re listening actively communicates that you value what others are saying.
I have a full lesson on how to demonstrate active listening in English, so I won’t go over all the details here but a few key points include:
- Look at the person who is speaking. Even in a video call, you can show that you’re listening by looking directly at the camera.
- Use body language to show you’re following along including nodding your head.
- For more, be sure to go to my lesson “Signs of Powerful Listening in English”
Strategy 6: Be Ready to Ask Targeted Questions
If you’ve called a meeting or are leading the discussion, others are looking to get to guide the conversation along.
The best way to do that – and to encourage effective conversation – is to ask questions that are strategic, that elicit details and get others talking, that recognize others and their contributions, or that offer to help if needed.
Here are a few examples:
- “Based on the opportunities we have, what is the best way forward?”
- “Given these challenges, how shall we proceed?”
- “What do you hope to achieve?”
- “How can we apply that approach throughout the company?”
- I’d like to hand it over to Cindy, who can share her thoughts on ______.
- What does everyone think?
- Tom, would you like to offer any information on this?
- What are your thoughts on _____?
- I’d like to get your input on _____.
- “How did your team accomplish this?
- “Who helped you with this project?”
- “What helped you complete this project?”
- “How did you come up with the idea?”
- “What would help you the most right now?”
- “What can I do to help?”
- “What resources do you need to take your project to the next level?”
Strategy 7: Minimize Off-Track Conversations (Help Others Stay on Point)
It’s not uncommon to get off track in a conversation.
New ideas, challenges, and topics can be interesting and useful but may take the conversation away from the key topic and potentially interrupt the original goal of the meeting.
When you need to get the conversation back on the right track, here are effective ways to do that:
- We need to move on to ensure we have enough time and meet our goal for this meeting.
- That’s a good point but we’ll need to follow up on it after the meeting.
- That’s very valuable input but we need to finish this topic – can we follow up after the meeting?
- That is a very valid point but we need to focus on our original topic.
- Can we add that topic to the agenda for our next meeting?
- Unfortunately, we only have ten minutes left, so we have to move on to the next item.
- Let’s table this issue for now – we need to move on.
Strategy 8: Say Your Point and Stop Talking
When we’re nervous, unprepared, or not getting the kind of feedback we expect, there’s a tendency to ramble. What that means is to talk and talk and talk without direction. And, without impact.
Whether you’re introducing the meeting topic, sharing your own ideas/recommendations, or recognizing others for their contributions, keep your comments brief.
To do that, say what you need to say one time. Then stop. Pause.
It might feel awkward the first time but this gives a clear indication that you’re inviting others to comment or ask questions.
Trust that if people have questions, they will ask.
And if there are no questions, go on to the next point to keep the meeting moving forward.
Strategy 9: Give Thanks Where Thanks Is Due
A good leader will recognize the contributions of others.
When it’s applicable, take time to praise and encourage others. This doesn’t have to be a lengthy speech. A simple sentence or two can be a powerful motivator.
To help, you can follow this structure:
- Name the individual/team.
- Identify what they did/accomplished.
- Describe the impact it had.
Here’s an example:
“I’d like to take a moment to thank Anna for her idea to update our audience on upcoming changes to the platform. In doing so, not only did our community feel engaged in the process but they also shared ideas that helped us to make informed decisions that would better benefit our members.”
Strategy 10: Summarize the Key Points and Close with Your Final Action Steps
It may seem repetitive to summarize what has been discussed or decided but, in English-speaking culture, this is not only expected but it also ensures that everyone leaves the meeting with clarity.
Here are some sentences starters to help:
- We’re getting close to our time, so let’s wrap it up with [summarize key points/decisions/steps].
- Any final thoughts before we close the meeting?
- If there are no other issues to discuss, I’d like to finish with [summarize key points/decisions/steps].
- I’ll follow up with you individually for the items we weren’t able to discuss here.
- If you have further questions or want to discuss, we can meet privately or you can send me an email.
- How does [insert date] work for the next meeting?
- How about next Tuesday for a meeting to discuss our follow-up items?
- I’d like to thank everyone for sharing their time today.
- I look forward to seeing you all at our next meeting.
Now that you’ve reviewed the lesson, I’d like to hear from you.
Would you share:
- What has helped you to be successful in English in your meetings? You might have a useful tip that could help someone else in the Confident English Community.
- Do you still feel nervous when you have a business meeting in English? If so, what is your greatest challenge?
I look forward to hearing from you. As always, thank you for joining me.
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