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1092 Keeping a Meeting On Track

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Complete Transcript
Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 1,092 – Keeping a Meeting on Track.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 1,086. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Go to our website at ESLPod.com. Become a member of ESL Podcast and download the Learning Guide for this episode.

This episode is a dialogue between Linda and Bruce about being in a business meeting and making sure you get done what you are supposed to get done. Let’s get started.

[start of dialogue]

Lynda: Could I say one more thing about that?

Bruce: I’m afraid we’re running short on time. Maybe we could wrap up this discussion now.

Lynda: Before we leave this topic, though, I really think we should talk about next year’s plans.

Bruce: That’s outside the scope of this meeting. We can put it on the agenda for next time.

Lynda: But we won’t meet again for a month. We should spend some time talking about our plans for next year. I think we should consider closing the Irvine office and moving it to Franklin. It would save us a lot of money.

Bruce: If we get off on a tangent, we won’t be able to get through our discussion for today. Let’s try to get back on track and discuss the main focus of today’s meeting, which is how to end this year without any more problems. I feel like we’re getting close to making some decisions.

Lynda: We can’t make any decisions when there are still so many unresolved issues. Things are still up in the air because we don’t know what will happen next year. Any decisions we make now will be moot if our assumptions are wrong.

Bruce: I’m afraid we differ on that. I think we have enough information now to forge ahead. We can come to some tentative decisions and make any adjustments later. Should we take it to a vote?

Lynda: If you insist. I still think it’s premature.

Bruce: I’ll take that as a “no” vote.

[end of dialogue]

Our dialogue begins with Linda asking something. She says, “Could I say one more thing about that?” She wants to say something at this meeting we’re at. Bruce says, however, “I’m afraid we’re running short on time.” “To run short on time” means to not have enough time to do something. You are saying that you don’t have very much time – that you have to stop whatever you are doing very soon.

Bruce says, “Maybe we could wrap up this discussion now.” “To wrap (wrap) up” something here means to finish something, to complete something, to bring something to an end. Bruce doesn’t want to allow Linda to make another comment. He wants to end the discussion right now. Linda says, however, “Before we leave this topic,” meaning before we stop talking about this, “I really think we should talk about next year’s plans.”

Bruce says, however, “That’s outside the scope of this meeting.” When we say something is “outside the scope” (scope) of something – in this case, a meeting – we are saying that it is not related to what we are doing right now or discussing right now. It is irrelevant. It is not relevant. It is not something we should be doing right now. Bruce says, “We can put it on the agenda for next time.” An “agenda” (agenda) is a written plan or list of topics that you are going to talk about in a meeting.

Linda says, “But we won’t meet again for a month.” She’s complaining that this committee or this group won’t be meeting again for at least a month. She thinks the group should talk about her topic right now. She says, “We should spend some time talking about our plans for next year. I think we should consider closing the Irvine office and moving it to Franklin. It would save us a lot of money.” So, Linda is making a proposal about closing one of the company’s offices.

Bruce is not too happy, I think, about Linda’s comment. He says, “If we get off on a tangent, we won’t be able to get through our discussion for today.” “To get off on a tangent” (tangent), or more commonly “to go off on a tangent,” means to become distracted from your main topic or your main purpose – to start talking about something else that isn’t really related to the main thing you’re supposed to be talking about.

Bruce thinks that Linda’s topic is not relevant to what the group is talking about right now, that they would go off on a tangent if they started talking about her topic. He’s worried the group won’t get through their discussion for today. “To get through” something means to finish it – to accomplish or complete it.

Bruce then says, “Let’s try to get back on track and discuss the main focus of today’s meeting.” “To get back on track” (track) means to return to what you should be talking about or to return to what you should be doing after you have done something that you shouldn’t have been doing. In other words, if you get distracted and you want to go back to what you are supposed to be doing, you are getting back on track. That’s what Bruce wants to do. He wants to talk about how to end this year without any more problems, not talk about next year.

He says, “I feel like we’re getting close to making some decisions.” Linda, however, is not giving up. She’s not quitting. She says, “We can’t make any decisions when there are still so many unresolved issues.” If an issue or a problem is “unresolved” (unresolved), it is not yet finished or not yet decided. It still needs to be addressed. It still needs to be solved or talked about. The opposite, of course, would be a “resolved” issue. A resolved issue is something that you have decided or have made a decision on or a determination about.

Linda says that there are too many unresolved issues to make any decisions. She continues, “Things are still up in the air because we don’t know what will happen next year.” If something is “up in the air,” it is unresolved. It is still not decided or still unknown. If someone asks you where you’re going on vacation this year and you say, “I don’t know, my plans are still up in the air,” you’re saying that you have not yet made a decision. You don’t know yet.

Linda says, “Any decisions we make now will be moot if our assumptions are wrong.” To say something is or will be “moot” (moot) means that it is debatable or it is too uncertain to be resolved or perhaps really to make any difference at all. To say something is, for example, a “moot point,” is to say that even if what you say is true, it’s not really important. It doesn’t have any real significance for what we’re talking about.

If, for example, you spend all of your time planning on how you’re going to spend a million dollars that you hope to win from a lottery, really the discussion is “moot” unless you actually win the lottery. It doesn’t have any significance. It has no practical meaning or practical application. Linda is saying that they can’t make any decisions now because “the decisions will be moot if our assumptions are wrong.” Your “assumptions” are your beliefs about something in the future or about what is true. You don’t necessarily have any evidence or proof, but you think it’s true.

We often use the verb “to make” with “assumption.” “I’m going to make some assumptions.” I’m going to think about certain situations and believe them to be true, or perhaps pretend that they are true in order to make some decision or to take some action. Linda is saying that if the assumptions of the company are wrong, if what they think is true is not true, then all of the decisions they make will be moot. They’ll have no importance because they’ll have to make new decisions or make new plans in the future.

Bruce says, “I’m afraid we differ on that.” “To differ” (differ) means to have different beliefs or opinions about something, or simply to be different in some way from something else. My brother and I differ on which professional baseball team is the best in California. He thinks it’s the San Francisco Giants. I think it’s the Los Angeles Dodgers. We differ. Of course, I’m right, but I’m just giving a possible example there.

Bruce says, “I think we have enough information now to forge ahead.” “To forge (forge) ahead” means to move forward, to continue on. Bruce says, “We can come to some tentative decisions and make any adjustments later.” A “tentative” (tentative) – sometimes pronounced without the second “T,” as “tentative” – means to be provisional, to be temporary. In this case, it means not final. A tentative decision is a decision you’re making now, but you might change it in the future.

Bruce says that they can make some tentative decisions now “and make any adjustments later.” An “adjustment” is a change or adaptation of something. Bruce says, “Should we take it to a vote?” meaning “Should we vote on it?” Should each person say whether they like this idea or not?

Linda says, “If you insist,” meaning if you are demanding very strongly that we do that. “I still think it’s premature,” she says. When something is “premature” (premature), it happens before it should, or it happens too early. When we talk about a premature birth or a premature baby, we’re talking about a baby who is born earlier than would be expected (and this, of course, can sometimes lead to health complications in the baby). Linda thinks it’s premature to make a decision.

Bruce says, “I’ll take that as a ‘no’ vote.” He means that Linda is saying that she does not want to vote on the matter right now. She thinks they should continue talking about it. And if you have ever been in a committee meeting, a meeting of a group of people trying to make a decision, you know how difficult it can be to keep the meeting on track, to keep everyone from going off on a tangent.

Now let’s listen to the dialogue, this time at a normal speed.

[start of dialogue]

Lynda: Could I say one more thing about that?

Bruce: I’m afraid we’re running short on time. Maybe we could wrap up this discussion now.

Lynda: Before we leave this topic, though, I really think we should talk about next year’s plans.

Bruce: That’s outside the scope of this meeting. We can put it on the agenda for next time.

Lynda: But we won’t meet again for a month. We should spend some time talking about our plans for next year. I think we should consider closing the Irvine office and moving it to Franklin. It would save us a lot of money.

Bruce: If we get off on a tangent, we won’t be able to get through our discussion for today. Let’s try to get back on track and discuss the main focus of today’s meeting, which is how to end this year without any more problems. I feel like we’re getting close to making some decisions.

Lynda: We can’t make any decisions when there are still so many unresolved issues. Things are still up in the air because we don’t know what will happen next year. Any decisions we make now will be moot if our assumptions are wrong.

Bruce: I’m afraid we differ on that. I think we have enough information now to forge ahead. We can come to some tentative decisions and make any adjustments later. Should we take it to a vote?

Lynda: If you insist. I still think it’s premature.

Bruce: I’ll take that as a “no” vote.

[end of dialogue]

We need to wrap this episode up, but before we do, I want to thank our wonderful scriptwriter, Dr. Lucy Tse, for her wonderful scripts.

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to us again right here on ESL Podcast.

English as a Second Language Podcast was written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan. Copyright 2015 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
scheduled, with something taking more time than one thought it would

* The nurses are always running short on time and can’t finish their paperwork each day. Don’t you think it’s time to hire more nurses?

to wrap up – to finish something; to complete the final pieces of something; to bring something to an end

* We just need a few more figures from the sales department and then we can wrap up these financial reports.

outside the scope – beyond what is relevant; not related to what is currently being discussed or considered; irrelevant

* Those topics are outside the scope of this introductory class. I recommend signing up for our intermediate and advanced classes.

agenda – a written plan of which topics will be discussed during a meeting and perhaps how much time will be spent on each topic

* If you have things that should be discussed in our next meeting, please let me know by Wednesday so that I can add them to the agenda.

to get off on a tangent – to become distracted from the main topic and begin discussing something else that is less important or irrelevant

* The teacher was talking about daily life in ancient Greece, but then he got off on a tangent and started talking about the spread of democracy.

to get back on track – to return to the main topic; to return to what one should have been saying or doing after a temporary detour or distraction

* When Shivan lost his job, we had a hard time paying our bills, but now that he has a new job, we’re back on track and we should be able to start saving again.

unresolved – not yet finished or decided; pending; still needing to be addressed and dealt with

* They still have a lot of unresolved issues in their marriage, but they’ve decided to stay together and try to address them with the help of a marriage counselor.

up in the air – unresolved; still unknown; not yet decided

* The dates of our vacation are still up in the air, depending on when Ellie can take time off from work.

moot – debatable; without any real significance or importance because something is too uncertain; not yet resolved, decided, or finalized

* The selection of paint colors will be moot if we don’t fix that hole in the roof first.

assumption – something that one believes to be true, even though one doesn’t have proof or evidence; something that one pretends will happen in order to make predictions or calculations or to draw conclusions

* According to our calculations, opening a new office should be profitable, but if our assumptions are incorrect, we might actually lose money.

to differ – to have different beliefs or opinions about something; to be different in some way

* How does life in the big city differ from life in a small, rural town?

to forge ahead – to move forward and proceed, especially with a lot of energy and determination even if there are many obstacles or challenges

* The contract hasn’t been signed yet, but we’re forging ahead with the project anyway.

tentative – hesitant; done as a temporary solution, but might change; not fixed

* He asked Marija if she had plans for the weekend as a tentative attempt to find out if she might want to go on a date with him.

adjustment – a slight change, adaptation, or tweak to something to make it a better fit or to meet one’s needs

* A slight downward adjustment to the thermostat could save you hundreds of dollars in heating costs.

to take (something) to a vote – to have a group of people vote on something, so that each person expresses his or her opinion about whether something should happen, and the option with the greatest number of supporters is selected

* After hours of discussion, they realized they wouldn’t be able to reach unanimous agreement, so they decided to take it to a vote.

to insist – to be very persistent and not accept ‘no’ or disagreement from someone; to demand something very strongly and forcefully

* Let me pay for the meal. I insist.

premature – happening before something should, without sufficient preparation; too early

* Choosing a wedding date now would be premature. They’ve known each other for only three weeks.

Comprehension Questions
1. What does Bruce mean when he says, “Let’s try to get back on track”?
a) He wants to talk about a train project.
b) He wants to return to the main topic.
c) He wants to be the only one who is allowed to talk.

2. What does Bruce mean when he asks, “Should we take it to a vote?”
a) He wants it to be on the ballot during the upcoming elections.
b) He wants the meeting’s participants to vote on Lynda’s idea.
c) He wants to extend the meeting so they can keep talking about it.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
up in the air

The phrase “up in the air,” in this podcast, means unresolved, still unknown, and not yet decided: “Our ability to buy a home is still up in the air. It depends whether the bank will give us a mortgage loan.” The phrase “to put on airs” is a slightly old-fashioned phrase meaning to behave as if one is more important than one really is: “Ever since Hank got that promotion, he has been putting on airs.” The phrase “to be walking on air” means to be very happy: “Ever since Brittany met her new boyfriend, she has been walking on air.” Finally, the phrase “to clear the air” means to do something to end an argument or unpleasant situation so that people can think clearly and return to normal: “Let’s tell each other what we really think and clear the air, so we can move ahead.”

to forge ahead

In this podcast, the phrase “to forge ahead” means to move forward and proceed, especially with a lot of energy and determination even if there are many obstacles or challenges: “Shelby is forging ahead with her college applications and hopes to hear back from the universities within a few months.” The phrase “to forge a relationship with (someone)” means to develop a stronger, more formal relationship with a country or entity: “The two nonprofit organizations have forged a relationship to increase their impact within the community.” Finally, the verb “to forge” means to criminally falsify a document, especially by signing someone else’s name: “Who forged my signature on these checks?” Or, “The students get in trouble if they are caught forging their parent’s signature on their report cards.”

Culture Note
Town Meetings

A “town meeting” is a “public” (with anyone allowed to attend and participate) meeting where the “residents” (people who live somewhere) of a small city or town can “come together” (meet; be present in the same place with the same purpose) to “discuss” (talk about) issues that affect the community. Town meetings are an important part of “democracy” (a form of government in which everyone has an equal voice for decision-making), because they allow people to share information and opinions while participating in decision-making.

In the early history of the United States, town meetings became common in “New England” (the northeastern part of the United States) beginning in the 1600s. In the past, people “convened” (met) in order to vote on important issues and decide how the community should invest its resources. In modern times, town meetings are more commonly used simply to discuss issues, with or without voting on them.

Many “politicians” (people who work in government and are elected to their jobs) hold town meetings as an opportunity to meet people in a local community. The people who come to the meetings are allowed to ask questions and learn more about the “platform” (promises and opinions on the most important issues) of the “candidate” (a person who wants to be elected to a government office). The candidates often use photographs of these town meetings in their “campaign” (the effort to increase name recognition and win votes) materials, showing how they interact with “the common people” (ordinary people who aren’t famous or very wealthy).

Comprehension Answers
1 - b

2 - b