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A business-English activity

Madrid English teacher Christopher Wright writes about Meetings. You can do the interactive activities in this order: Meetings - Websequitur, Meetings - Matching, Meetings - Simple Cloze, Meetings - Difficult Cloze, Meetings - Quiz, and Meetings - WebRhubarb. Or, if you prefer, simply read and listen to the article below.

Christopher Wright
Christopher Wright

Profesor de inglés de negocios y de inglés general imparte clases en empresas y a particulares en el centro de Madrid.
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The definitions of some words and phrases can be found at the bottom of the page and linked in the activity above.

Meetings, Meetings, Meetings

By Christopher Wright

MP3    MP3

Technology was supposed to be the answer to the work-life balance and whisper it, decrease the number of meetings! I just didn’t believe the techies. Well surprise surprise, recent research has said that most managers spend at least 60% of their time in meetings in comparison to 45% in the 1970´s. Managers complained that at least 50% of their time spent in meetings was a complete waste of time. So what can be done? Well it’s not rocket science, here are tips I compiled from the experts:

Do we need to meet?

"What a stupid question", you say "of course we need to meet". Well dig deep and honestly ask yourself and colleagues, "Do we really need to meet?" Maybe you can solve issues through other communication tools, talking over a coffee or by using technology such as instant messenger, blogs, emails, forums. If you do have a meeting, be clear about what you want to achieve either as the meeting leader or as an attendee.

Prepare well

Surprise surprise, those people who prepare answers to key issues before going into a meeting, achieve their goals quickly and painlessly. Only invite those who are essential and relevant to the meeting issues. When giving invitees background information, keep it brief, to the point and relevant. Make sure you book the meeting room and check it has everything you need, like a projector and teleconference facilities, etc.

Leading a meeting

Some cultures (e.g. North Americans and Northern Europeans) use meeting agendas to prevent rambling and irrelevancy. Other cultures hate being constrained by such a rigid structure and prefer to have more free flowing meetings. Both methods have their merits, what is important to both, is the meeting leader or chair. This person needs to be respected by all attending, have a strong personality to control the meeting covering all major points/issues and to promote an inclusive atmosphere. In the summary the meeting leader should gain commitment to action points by meeting attendees.

Do what you say

We’ve all been to meetings, where attendees agreed to action points and then at the next meeting turned up and gave excuses. Trust is broken, motivation plummets and nobody takes the meetings seriously. So think before you agree to an action point and if you’re over stretched, just say no and explain why. Shoddy work helps nobody.

Meeting Minutes

It’s the worst job in the meeting, taking meeting minutes, but someone has to keep a record of what was said by everybody. Why why why? Well, those meeting minutes provide clues if you need to meet again and if so, what should be included and not included. Also it makes sure that people do what they say and when! So keep meeting minutes accurate, brief, action-orientated and get all attendees to agree to what they said.


We’ve all been in international meetings where we wanted to speak but we couldn’t and sat in silence, tongue-tied unsure of the correct English expression or phrase to use. Before you go to meetings, remember past occasions where you’ve communicated successfully in English and focus on how great you felt afterwards. Take a deep breath and quickly relive that feeling before you speak during the meeting. Secondly use pauses and eye contact, say something like "We should consider........., PAUSE (2 seconds), because............". Pauses focus attention on what you have to say, people assume it's important, while also giving you time to think.

Respect people

Well, I’m not suggesting we’re rude people or we lack manners. However in the heat of the moment, we often forget our manners, interrupting and shouting at people we don’t agree with. Often we become emotional and make issues personal and make personal comments instead of keeping things objective. This maybe acceptable in some cultures but others find it confrontational and not the best way to facilitate cooperation. So agree meeting ground rules before starting a meeting and don’t be afraid to remind people of these during the meeting!


Practice expressions from the text: Meetings Vocabulary Matching Activity

Work-life balance - making sure you don’t let stress at work affect your health. - equilibrio entre la vida y el trabajo.
Whisper - to speak in a soft, quiet way. - susurrar.
Techies - IT (information technology) workers or people good with technology. - entusiastas de los ordenadores o informáticos.
Spend time in meetings - to use time in meetings. - pasar tiempo en reuniones.
At least - not less than - al menos.
Complain - to say that you are irritated or unhappy because of something - quejarse.
Waste of time - spending time badly - pérdida de tiempo.
It's not rocket science - it is something that is simple and common sense. - es algo simple o no muy difícil como lo sería la ciencia de los cohetes.
Tips - helpful practical advice - consejos prácticos.
Compile tips - to gather or bring together different tips. - recopilar, reunir consejos prácticos.
Dig deep - analyse in more detail the answers to your questions. - analizar más profúndamente las respuestas a tus preguntas.
Issues - problems or worries that somebody has about something. - asuntos, cuestiones.
Tools - an instrument that helps you do something. - herramientas.
Talking over a coffee - to talk about something informally in a stress-free place. - hablar informalmente sobre algo en un bar o similar.
Achieve - to be successful in reaching an objective. - lograr.
Attendee - a person who attends an event. - asistente.
Painlessly - in a way that is without pain. - de forma indolora, sin sufrimiento.
Invitees - the people who are invited to an event. - invitados.
Background information - information that is essential to understanding a situation or problem. - información que es esencial para entender una situación o problema.
Keep it brief - to do something in a way that doesn't last very long. - hacerlo breve.
To the point (stick to the point) - to keep talking about the main topic set for a conversation without getting distracted. - mantenerse centrado en la cuestión principal de la conversación.
Make sure - to establish something without a doubt. - asegurarse.
Book the meeting room - to reserve the meeting room. - reservar la sala de reuniones.
Meeting agendas - a list of major points/issues to be discussed in the meeting. - orden del día.
Rambling - not focusing on one point at a time. - que divaga.
Irrelevancy - the lack of a relation of something to the matter at hand. - irrelevancia.
Constrained - to restrain or limit. - limitar.
Chair - group leader. - presidente.
Commitment - a promise to do something. - compromiso.
Action points - follow-up actions people have agreed to do. - puntos de actuación.
Turn up - to appear or come. - aparecer o llegar.
Motivation plummets - Motivation drops quickly. - la motivación cae en picado.
Take the meetings seriously - to respect the meetings. - tomar las reuniones en serio.
Over stretched - too much work to do at one time. - abrumado con mucho trabajo.
Shoddy work - badly done work. - chapuza.
Taking meeting minutes - writing down everything that is said by everybody in the meeting. - levantar actas.
Clue - evidence that helps solve a mystery. - pista.
Keep meeting minutes accurate - write the notes of the meeting correctly. - mantener la exactitud de las actas.
Tongue-tied - not being able to talk because of nerves.
Successfully - in a satisfactory way. - de una forma satisfactoria, con éxito.
Afterwards - after something. - después.
Take a deep breath - to breathe one time deeply. - respira hondo.
Lack manners - to not behave in a correct and proper way. - ser maleducado.
In the heat of the moment - in an intense emotional moment. - en la excitación o nerviosismo del momento.
Make issues personal - to feel personally attacked. - tomárselo de forma personal.
Make personal comments - to insult or attack in a personal way. - insultar o atacar de forma personal.
Keeping things objective - to act and think in a rational way. - mantener la objetividad de la situación.
Confrontational - to be argumentative. - polémico.
Not the best way - there are better ways to do something. - no es la mejor manera.
Ground rules - meeting rules that everybody agrees to. - las reglas establecidas para la reunión.
Remind people - to help people to remember something. - recordar algo a alguien.


Do this activity to check your comprehension of the text:
Meetings Comprehension Quiz.

Discussion Questions
(Email me your answers to

1) What are the alternative communication tools to a meeting?

2) What meeting preparation can you do?

3) What ways can you lead a meeting?

4) Why is important to commit to action points in a meeting?

5) How should meeting minutes be?

6) How can you solve being tongue-tied in meetings?

7) Why have meeting ground rules?

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