It's Wednesday morning again and you have another team meeting in English. You know how it goes - it's the same every week. The strong English speakers seem interested and are all involved, sharing their opinions and responding to each other about the latest projects and ideas. The rest sit still, listen and blend in to the background.
In this article, we share six steps you can take to build your meeting confidence with English.
1. Remind yourself that you're not the only one
It's easy to feel alone in situations where you feel insecure or embarrassed about your abilities. But remember that there are many people just like you who are dealing with the same challenges and difficulties. There are also many who have overcome them - and if they managed to do it, you can do it too!
2. Get support from your workmates
Be open with your workmates about your situation. Tell them that you're working on improving your English skills and ask them to have patience while you develop. Everyone is a learner at some point and there's no reason to be ashamed of this. You may be surprised by how supportive your colleagues can be when you share with them the challenges you are facing - everyone knows what it's like to go through stages of learning.
Here are some phrases you could use to get your colleagues' support:
- "I'm currently working on developing my English skills"
- "I might find it hard to keep up, so please bear with me" (I may be slow to understand, so please have patience).
3. Break the ice
Part of language learning is about being brave enough to open your mouth and start a conversation. Everyone feels some level of discomfort when doing this in a second language (or even a first!) and people who are naturally outgoing may find this less difficult than people who are naturally reserved. However, no matter what kind of personality you have - we all must recognise that it's impossible to improve our language skills without practice.
When you walk into the meeting room, try to say something in English to someone within the first 15 seconds! If possible, turn this into a casual conversation by asking a question. Having a conversation early on will give you a confidence boost for the rest of the meeting and you'll feel much more willing to take part later.
Not sure what to say? No problem! Practise and memorise these phrases, which you can use to break the ice:
- Hey, how's it going?
- So, what have you been up to lately?
Or, if there's someone you don't know, be the first to introduce yourself by walking up to them with confidence and a smile. You could use these phrases:
- Hi there, I don't think we've met! I'm (your name).
- Hi, have we met yet? My name's (your name).
4. Listen and take notes (in English)
Even if you don't feel ready to say something, attending a meeting in English should never be a passive experience. Use this as an opportunity to actively listen for the main points of the meeting, useful language that people use and any questions that are asked to you directly.
On one page, take notes (in English, if possible) of the main points discussed, any important details and any tasks that need to be done. You can use this after the meeting to help you remember the key points.
On another page (perhaps at the back of your notebook?), use this space to write your 'steal list' - a list of language you want to 'steal' from the other speakers in the room. If you hear any words or phrases that you find particularly interesting or useful, add these to your steal list. You can look these up in a dictionary later to check their meanings and find examples of how the language is used.
5. Speak when you're ready
If you are attending regular meetings and have been doing a good job of breaking the ice, actively listening, writing steal lists and learning from your steal lists, you'll soon feel comfortable enough to give your opinion or ask a question yourself. You could use some of these phrases:
- Excuse me, could I just say something? (interrupt another speaker to say something)
- In my opinion, I think we should ... (give your opinion)
- That's a great idea! (respond to someone you agree with)
- I'm not sure about that (respond to someone you disagree with)
6. Prepare for your next meeting
So, you've finished one meeting. Now it's time to prepare for the next. You have a page of notes to remind you about the key points of the meeting itself and a list of English words and phrases you want to 'steal'.
Later, you'll practise the English list and try really hard at the next meeting to use one or two of these yourself while breaking the ice or in the meeting itself.
You could also try to find out what will be discussed in the next meeting before the meeting happens. If you know the general topics, then prepare yourself by thinking of common words related to each topic and looking up any you don't know the English for in a dictionary.
If you're interested in developing your English skills further, you may want to consider taking a course. In our next article, 'What Kind of Course is Right for Me?', we help you understand all of the different options available for you.