Prepping Clients for Management Meetings
By Nives Torresi & Phil Wade
Copyright © Phil Wade & Nives Torresi 2017
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is a Teacher of English as a Foreign Language; English Drama; Business English and English Exam Preparation (Cambridge FCE) with over 15 years experience. Nives also works as an interpreter and mediator for negotiations. Her face-to-face courses include Business English Conversation and Business English for Managers and Engineers. She teaches online via interactive learning platforms for Business English courses and language tutoring. She is a moderator of Moodle MOOCs via courses, has presented for , and written a chapter on Micro Teaching in collaboration with Thomas Hodgers.
Phil Wade is a Business English teacher, coach and author of over 20 ebooks, including the BESIG David Riley award winning ‘Presentation Lesson Hacks’ and the ‘A 10 minute intro to Business English Teaching’ series, and is co-author of ‘10 Quick Prep 1-2-1 Business English Activities About Work Life’ along with Noreen Lam.
Kati Bilsborough has been drawing, designing and making things since a young age. After getting a degree in Interior Design, and doing an internship with a design company, Kati decided to explore other areas of design including Graphics, Web Design and Illustration. This led to creating ELT ebook covers for numerous writers and organisations, one of which won the BESIG David Riley award for innovation. She is currently working on original artwork for a primary coursebook and is designing materials for an online English course.
Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @bilsdesigns and on [+ Facebook+]
The idea behind “Prepping Clients for…” was to create a series of short and very niche ebooks on specific events that 1-2-1 Business English teachers, trainers and coaches help clients prepare for. Download the other ebooks of the series here:
1. To create an effective agenda
A good meeting requires an agenda of appropriate points to drive a meeting towards the set goals. They need to be clear and concise and easy to read and refer to within the meeting so as to assist both the person running it and those attending. Also, a good agenda will persuade people to attend and act as a useful record of previous meetings.
2. To make a path and stick to it
Creating a clear linear path through a meeting via points and then sticking to it is not as easy as it sounds. The meeting should flow naturally from one item to the next with a clear connection between them. This flow can be sidetracked by questions and points arising from other matters. Although this can be common, meetings must still meet their objectives and reach conclusions within the set time frame.
3. To discuss work in progress
Clients often have to discuss/update/explain the work in progress for their department. Items of meeting discussions would include past (if relevant), current, and future projects and teams. Topics may cover whether completion dates can be met; if the project is within the foreseen timeframe; if the project has been undergoing difficulties due to unforeseen circumstances like delays in consignment of raw materials, data issues and equipment failure.
4. To discuss teams and teamwork
Clients may need to attend meetings with superiors where their responsibility is to describe their department’s staff, their functions in the team and their regular duties. To do this, clients need to be able to speak concisely about their staff or team members in the meetings to convey the required information in a succinct manner devoid of any unnecessary or even biased language.
5. To adapt to social protocols
‘International’ is an important word in business as many companies employ staff from around the world and/or work with companies from other countries and cultures. Along with the numerous benefits, this provides the importance of understanding and abiding by cultural social protocols so as to avoid embarrassment of participants and misunderstandings on the one hand, and to create more productive and comfortable working relationships based on respect of other cultures on the other.
1. Creating an agenda
Ask the client to prepare an example of two types of meeting agendas. One should be a top level executive summary shared with the meeting participants. The second one a more detailed operational view which would include detailed points to assist the client during the meeting. Roleplay both meetings with the client leading them and using the agendas. Record them, and then review the footage and correct the use of Business English terminology where needed.
Elicit a typical meeting scenario from the client and ask them to create a very detailed agenda using numerous bullet points. Check the document marking the areas that need to be revised in particular for grammar, too much detail, etc. Get the client to fine-tune it even a few times until the document has only the main points with relevant details in a few words or in one sentence. Next, roleplay the meeting to check how well they can interpret concise points into more complicated issues, and ask questions about each one to make sure they are prepared.
2. Preparing information for the meeting
Ask the client to explain the type of information that is needed to be conveyed in their meetings. Next, elicit types of questions or remarks they have heard in meetings.
Tell them to write a list of relevant vocabulary and, during the class time, reinforce the use of numerical data, fractions, percentages, etc. or effective grammatical structures using practical exercises.
Assist the client in understanding the importance of collating information into a logical order and practice the likely scenario that would occur in the meeting. This can also help the client to clarify their own interaction and understand where to add or replace information. Work together with the client to arrive at a clear logical procedure.
Ask the client about their experience of questions and comments in meetings and how they affect them. Work together to create a meeting topic and short agenda, and then a list of 5 possible difficult questions and/or comments that could veer the meeting off. Roleplay the meeting, use the questions/comments and note how the client handles them. Then, discuss their strategy and how effective it was. Pinpoint areas for improvement such as redirecting to the topic, dealing quickly with questions, passing questions over to colleagues and politely showing authority.
3. Presenting work in progress
Ask the client to choose a recent task or project they have been working on. Tell them to explain what it is, how it began, who is involved and the deadline. Draw a timeline on the board, write the name of the project, the start date and all the relevant information on the left. Leave space in the middle for today’s update and a small space on the right for the future. Request the client to prepare a short ‘update’ on the project for you to cover the work so far and after today. When they are ready, tell them to begin and add the information to the timeline.
Assume the role of a demanding boss and ask them challenging questions to explain if the project will finish on time, why it has taken so long, if it can be done quicker, cheaper and with less people. Inform them of news you heard regarding problems and ask for clarification. Then, introduce new parameters such as informing them of a factory strike, the closure of a branch, new important working laws, a potential takeover of the company, a realignment of strategy which will deprioritise the project etc. Ask them to respond politely and to explain how they will adapt and refigure the project.
4. Presenting the team and teamwork
Presenting the team and/or relevant teamwork is often the role of the team leader in meetings with their upper levels. Ask the client to describe their team (with different names for anonymity) and the work that the team members carry out on a daily basis. Listen carefully and write down the names of the team and the language the client uses to describe them. Next, comment on any emotive language and rephrase it to focus solely on jobs and tasks, e.g. ‘X is our…., he/she works in the …. Department’, ‘he/she manages/develops/creates/organises/produces/leads’ … etc.
Ask the client to pick 3 staff members of different levels and prepare an unbiased review of their performance this year which covers their achievements but also any weaknesses. Listen carefully for any lack of clarity, too emotive or informal language and correct it at the end. Then explain that they can promote 1 staff member to a higher position and must explain who deserves the post and why by focussing on how they will benefit the company towards their goals.
5. Understanding cultural & social protocols
Elicit which nationalities and cultures the client has regular contact with through their work. Explain that you would like some ‘to do’ and ‘to avoid’ tips for each one. Ask the client to brainstorm some for a few minutes on a piece of paper. When they are ready, tell them to begin their advice and make notes using a table with nationalities/cultures on the left and ‘to do’ and ‘to avoid’ column headings at the top.
If they get stuck, ask basic questions and ask for examples to help reflect and create tips for specific situations, e.g. ‘What social or communicational problems have you experienced with…colleagues from…’, Why do you think they occurred?’, ‘How generalisable is that of the nationality/culture?’ and ‘How could you have created a better outcome?’
Raise the issue of misunderstandings and problems caused by cultural differences and provide an example from your own work life. Elicit an example from the client and ask probing questions to understand what the real issue was. It could have been due to a difference in work ethic, behaviour, attitude or something else. These differences are normal but can cause problems so discuss how the client would advise a new staff member to behave in such a situation. Next, ask for advice for working in the client’s company for you and 2 foreign friends (pick diverse countries).
1. Practice the meeting
Help the client to re-create the atmosphere of the meeting and go through all the motions, checking that pronunciation is clear. Correct and replace words with their synonyms where the pronunciation is not clear or can be confused with other words that sometimes sound similar in their L1. Record (if possible & use mobile phone apps) the whole practice session in video format and then watch it over with the client; sometimes seeing or hearing themselves is a very quick way to overcome any apprehension in speaking an L2.
2. Pre-meeting report writing
There are many examples of report writing within computer office programs or online. Assist the client in completing the report in all its areas for at least one topic. Then allow the client to continue the completion of the report without sensitive data, then check for grammatical clarity. Remind your client to accurately use industry terminology, where possible assist the client in resourcing those terms.
3. Use of slides or digital presentation
The client may feel comfortable with using slides or other types of digital presentation but may not be aware of the format to use, so it would be ideal for the client to make a list of the needs and limitations of the meeting prior to actually creating presentations. Clients should create clear and brief slides with relevant information. Helpful is also the review of body language used in meetings.
4. Fit for purpose
There are many types of meetings, from the weekly team meeting to the HR meeting to the informal employee meetings. In fact, the higher up the chain the managers are that clients need to report to, the more likely it is that rapid and brief meetings will take place. Prepare for the meeting in relation to the audience and purpose of the meeting.
5. Use of productive apps & software
Ask the client to investigate and assess productive apps that can benefit the client to better prepare for meetings. Those would include tools such as Evernote, Google Keep, Trello, Asana, Salesforce, etc.; virtual online environments for meetings such as Skype for Business, Hangouts, Adobe connect, GoTo Meeting, etc.; or Cloud storage solutions.