Being able to contribute effectively in meetings is an important skill in business. There are a range of skills required depending on your role, whether it be as a chairperson, minute-taker or participant. If you are the chairperson your role will be to open and close the meeting, ensure it sticks to the agenda and timing and ensure all participants get a chance to contribute. If you are a participant you will need to be able to state your opinions clearly, make suggestions, interrupt politely, agree and disagree diplomatically and clarify your understanding.
Let us start by looking at how to interrupt politely. This may be because you want to state your own views or clarify what the other speaker is saying. There are a variety of ways of doing this:-
Can I come in here?
Can I just…..?
Excuse me, may I just…?
I’m sorry to interrupt……
Of course, if you are the speaker and you are interrupted in the middle of making an important point you may wish to continue. Here are some phrases for this situation:-
If you could let me continue.
No, wait a moment.
May I just finish?
Both rely on a sensitive use of intonation and volume, so you do not sound too abrupt.
Another area where you need to be sensitive is when you wish to disagree in a meeting. Before you do, it is important to acknowledge the point that is being made by the other speaker. For example,
That’s a good point, but………………..
I can see your point of view, but…………………..
You may be right, but.......
Another way of ensuring that you are not disagreeing too abruptly is by the use of word might and/or won’t........? So, for example, if we take the phrase “That would be time-consuming” which might come across as too direct in a meeting, one could say: -
That might be time-consuming
Won’t that be time-consuming?
On occasion you may want to state a strong disagreement. In that case, you can use the following
I totally disagree.
I’m sorry, but I couldn’t disagree more.
You must be joking!! (only to be used with colleagues in an informal gathering)
Just disagreeing in a meeting is, of course, not very positive and will not enable the meeting to arrive at any positive conclusion. You will need to be able to state your own views in a clear and effective way. First you should introduce them: -
I tend to feel that
It seems to me that
My view is that........
You should also ensure that you get the opinions of the other participants in the meeting. This is to both to check their views, but also it may be necessary to gain support for your position.
What’s your reaction to that, Peter?
How do you feel about that, John?
Simon? (your voice should rise)
After opinions have been expressed you need to arrive at some suggestions and recommendations.
Why don’t we
The only alternative is........
Next week we will take a look at the difficult role of chairing a meeting.
Guy Perring is Director, Professional Development Unit (PDU), at the British Council Malaysia. The PDU offers a wide range of learning opportunities from management and communications skills training to developing English skills. Contact the British Council in Kuala Lumpur at Tel: 03-2723 7900 or Penang at Tel: 04-263 0330 or visit www.britishcouncil.org.my