How to Participate in a Meeting in English

At some point in your life, you will probably have to participate in a meeting in English (if you haven’t already).

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For some people, meetings are a daily occurrence that feels natural and familiar. For others, meetings can be a source of stress. This is especially true for non-native English speakers who need to participate in a meeting conducted in English.

So, how should you prepare for English meetings? What are some methods of effective participation in meetings? Finally, how can you overcome meeting anxiety and the fear of speaking publicly in English?

Prefer to watch this lesson on video? Here’s our full length tutorial on ‘How to Participate in a Meeting in English’:

Participate in a Meeting in English Part 1:

Participate in a Meeting in English Part 2:

How to Contribute Effectively in Meetings

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While anyone can experience anxiety during a meeting, non-native speakers face obstacles that native English speakers don’t.

After all, it takes a lot of courage to speak up in a meeting if you don’t feel confident about your English skills. Thankfully, there are a number of ways that you can overcome your fears and learn how to be a good meeting attendee:

Go into the meeting with a strategy

Whenever possible, you should try to think about what you would like to say before the meeting starts. In most business or educational settings, meetings have a clear purpose or focus.

With that in mind, it’s easy to brainstorm (come up with ideas) about how you’d like to contribute to the meeting.

For example, let’s say that you work in the sales department of a large company.

Your boss schedules a meeting about improving sales numbers for the next month. While this is not a lot of information to go on, it’s enough to get started. Here are a few ways that you could participate in the meeting:

  • Propose your own idea(s)
    • Example: We could try to generate leads with other local businesses.
  • Ask questions related to the topic
    • Example: How quickly do you want to implement these changes?
  • Comment on other people’s statements
    • Example: I think it could work, but we would need to consider how it will affect the budget.

Unfortunately, you won’t always know what a meeting will be about beforehand.

When you need to go into a meeting unprepared, you’ll have much less time to think about how you can contribute. For this reason, you must also consider how to contribute to meetings in general.

When you don’t have a strategy, ask relevant questions

Thankfully, the methods above can all work for meetings on a wide range of topics.

Talking about your own ideas, asking questions, and raising objections or clarifications of other people’s statements are all great ways to contribute to the conversation and participate in a meeting. That said, asking questions is particularly useful when you want to contribute but feel unready to speak at length.

However, you shouldn’t just start asking random questions. The questions should always be relevant to the topic at hand. Try to ask questions that you think other people might ask. This way, you are contributing by seeking out important information for the entire group.

While you should always aim to ask insightful questions, you may not be able to think of anything in the moment.

If this happens, you can always ask questions to clarify information. Here are a few examples:

  • When you said that you wanted to take things “to the next level,” what did you mean?
  • When will you need those numbers?
  • Just to clarify, how would you like us to proceed until the new system has been implemented?

So far, we’ve covered ways that you can contribute to a team or group meeting. While one-on-one meetings are significantly different, they require a similar approach.

If you find yourself lacking things to say in a one-on-one meeting, asking questions for clarity can help you avoid awkward silences while also continuing the conversation!

Only participate in a meeting when it’s appropriate

Not every meeting requires participation from the whole group.

In fact, some situations don’t call for group participation at all. For example, if someone is giving a business presentation and informs everyone that they will not have time to take any questions, then you should probably just listen and remain quiet.

Participating in meetings can help boost your confidence, learn new information, and improve your position at your job. However, speaking at the wrong time can have the opposite effect. Here are a few instances when you should probably stay quiet or wait to speak:

  • Someone else is speaking (you don’t want to be rude)
  • An authority figure or primary speaker is giving a presentation (you don’t want to be disrespectful)
  • There is an expert on a given topic present (you don’t want to appear overconfident)
  • You’ve already spoken extensively in the same meeting (you don’t want to ramble or dominate the conversation)

If you’re unsure whether or not you should speak, wait and see how other people are participating in the meeting.

Are attendees commenting freely?

Is the meeting centered around a presentation?

Has anyone opened the meeting to questions or comments?

Evaluating the general tone and format of the meeting will help you decide if and when to contribute.

Make others feel comfortable

Making friendly conversation and promoting a positive environment are both great ways to make others feel comfortable. Not only does this help keep the meeting respectful, but it will also help lessen your own anxiety by easing tension and encouraging others to speak freely.

So, how can you make others feel more comfortable? Here are a few tips to help keep things light, without seeming unprofessional:

  • Rather than thinking of it as a meeting, think of it as a normal interaction. How would you make your friends or family feel comfortable during a conversation?
  • If you attend the meeting in person, make eye contact whenever you’re speaking directly to an individual.
  • Maintain open body language. Try to avoid crossing your arms or leaning away from other people.
  • Keep criticism or objections to a minimum. If you do need to disagree with someone or make a critique during a meeting, try to use constructive criticism or preface your statement with a compliment.
  • Don’t forget to smile!

We hope you found this guide helpful! Participating in a meeting doesn’t have to be stressful. In fact, with the right preparation and mindset, you can easily make a great impression at your next meeting! To learn more about making effective contributions in meetings, feel free to consult the following videos:

If you’d like to find out more about how to participate in a meeting in English, visit Magoosh Speaking today!

Matthew Jones

Matthew Jones

Matthew Jones is a freelance writer with a B.A. in Film and Philosophy from the University of Georgia. It was during his time in school that he published his first written work. After serving as a casting director in the Atlanta film industry for two years, Matthew acquired TEFL certification and began teaching English abroad. In 2017, Matthew started writing for dozens of different brands across various industries. During this time, Matthew also built an online following through his film blog. If you’d like to learn more about Matthew, you can connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn!
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