Daily English
Cultural English
Practical English

07 Managing a Discussion

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SCRIPTS

Meeting A - Formal Meeting

Shawn: When you have a question, please raise your hand. This will allow me to call on people one at a time and avoid having people talk over each other. Also please make sure that your questions are on topic. Who would like to begin?

Chris: I need to voice my concern about how the focus groups were not asked about color or design. I think this would have….

Hannah: Please pardon my interruption, but with all due respect, Mr. Hanson, I completely disagree with you. I understand your concern, but in our experience those product characteristics pale in comparison next to “affordability” and “ease of use.” I don’t have time to address your concern fully, but most customers aren’t interested in design as much.

Alex: If I may offer my opinion, I believe Mr. Hanson has a legitimate concern and I’m glad he asked that question, but Ms. Graff may be right about the importance of listening to our customers. However, this topic is outside the scope of my expertise.

Meeting B - Informal Meeting

Shawn: Let’s get this show on the road. This is an open discussion, so who wants to start off?

Chris: Hannah, even though I’ve been knee-deep in your data for months, there’s something I have to get off my chest. Why didn’t you ask the focus groups about our product’s color and design?

Hannah: I can see your point, Chris, but based on past experience, we know that customers mostly consider “affordability” and “ease of use” when deciding which product to buy. I can’t go into this in detail now, but most customers just want reliability, and the design is secondary.

Alex: Chris, you’ve brought up an interesting point, but I think Hannah is right. Don’t take this the wrong way, Chris, but the interests of engineers and our customers aren’t the same. But of course, I’m not a marketing expert by any means.

GLOSSARY

Meeting A - Formal Meeting

to raise (one’s) hand – to put one’s hand in the air to ask for permission to speak, usually in a classroom or in a large meeting
* If you know the answer to the teacher’s question, raise your hand.

to call on – to say someone’s name and ask him or her to speak
* The Senator called on the reporter from the New York Times during the press conference.

to talk over (someone) – to speak when someone else is speaking, so that two people are speaking at the same time and it is difficult to understand
* My brother was talking over my sister and my mother couldn’t understand anything they were saying.

to make sure – to be certain; to be careful to do something in a certain way; to not forget to do something
* Please make sure that you pack your medicine for your trip next week.

on topic – related to the subject; relevant
* If your questions aren’t on topic, the speaker won’t answer them.

to voice (one’s) concern – to express one’s worry; to say what one is worried about
* Kensuke wants to voice his concern about Sheila’s drinking, but he’s worried that she’ll be mad at him.

pardon my interruption – a phrase used to apologize when one has something important to say and speaks while another person is speaking, making him or her stop talking in the middle of a sentence
* Please pardon my interruption, but I think your cell phone is ringing.

with all due respect – a phrase used when one strongly disagrees with another person, but wants to say so as respectfully and nicely as possible
* I know that you want to work for our company, but with all due respect, you don’t have enough experience yet.

to completely disagree with (someone) – to not agree with someone at all; to strongly disagree with someone
* Guillermo completely disagrees with his wife about which house they should buy.

to understand (someone’s) concern, but – a phrase used to show that one understands what another person is worried about, but disagrees with it
* I understand your concern about not getting into a good university, but I don’t think you need to worry about it because you have very good high school grades.

to pale in comparison – to be less important than something else; to not be as important as something else that it’s being compared to
* Some people think that problems of drinking and smoking pale in comparison to the problems of serious drug use.

ease of use – how easy or difficult it is to use a product
* This type of computer isn’t very fast or powerful, but many people like it because of its ease of use.

to address (something) – to deal with; to manage; to handle; to answer
* Harvey believes that the best way to address the education problem in this country is to pay teachers more.

to offer (one’s) opinion – to say what one thinks about something
* I’d like to offer my opinion about the best way to proceed with this project.

legitimate concern – a valid worry; a worry that makes sense or seems logical
* Sabrina’s father thinks that he has a legitimate concern about whether she’ll be able to make enough money while working as a full-time musician.

I’m glad (someone) asked that question – a phrase used to thank someone for asking a question; a phrase used to show appreciation for someone’s participation
* I’m glad you asked that question because it’s something our team hadn’t thought about before.

to make a good point – to present a good idea during a meeting; to say something that makes the discussion better
* Ida made a good point about the need to find a good designer for our website.

outside the scope of (one’s) expertise – something that one doesn’t know very much about; something that is not related to one’s education or experience
* Questions about art are outside the scope of May’s experience because she studied science.

Meeting B - Informal Meeting

Let’s get this show on the road – a phrase used to begin something, such as a meeting, project, or trip
* The client has decided to use our services, so let’s get this show on the road.

to be knee-deep in (something) – to be very involved in something; to be surrounded by something
* Our accountant is knee-deep in tax forms every March because her clients’ taxes must be paid by April 15.

to get (something) off (one’s) chest – to talk about something that has been bothering or worrying one for a long time
* Phil asked to meet with me alone. I think he wants to get something important off his chest.

to see (one’s) point – to understand what someone is saying
* I think I see your point about why it’s important to read the newspaper every day if I want to become a journalist one day.

to go into (something) in detail – to discuss or talk about something with a lot of detail or depth
* I wish you wouldn’t go into your medical problems in detail with people you don’t know very well.

secondary – less important than something else
* Where we go on vacation is secondary to the amount of time we’ll be able to take for our vacation.

to bring up (something) – to raise a topic; to introduce something into discussion or conversation
* I like working with Tabitha because she always brings up ideas that no one else is thinking about.

to take (something) the wrong way – to be offended or insulted by something that someone says
* I hope you won’t take this the wrong way, but I don’t think that dress looks very good on you.

by any means – at all; in any way
* Juliana isn’t the most beautiful woman in the world, but she isn’t ugly by any means.

COMPLETE TRANSCRIPT

Welcome to ESLPod.com's “Business Meetings" course: lesson seven. I'm your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development, in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

In the sixth lesson of “Business Meetings,” we learned business vocabulary for ending presentations at formal and informal meetings. In this seventh lesson, we're going to learn how to manage a discussion.

When we ended lesson six, Shawn was asked to be the moderator, or the person who leads a discussion. Let's listen to Shawn managing the discussion at the formal business meeting.

[start of formal meeting script]

Shawn: When you have a question, please raise your hand. This will allow me to call on people one at a time and avoid having people talk over each other. Also please make sure that your questions are on topic. Who would like to begin?

Chris: I need to voice my concern about how the focus groups were not asked about color or design. I think this would have….

Hannah: Please pardon my interruption, but with all due respect, Mr. Hanson, I completely disagree with you. I understand your concern, but in our experience those product characteristics pale in comparison next to “affordability” and “ease of use.” I don’t have time to address your concern fully, but most customers aren’t interested in design as much.

Alex: If I may offer my opinion, I believe Mr. Hanson has a legitimate concern and I’m glad he asked that question, but Ms. Graff may be right about the importance of listening to our customers. However, this topic is outside the scope of my expertise.

[end of formal meeting script]

As the moderator, Shawn begins the discussion by asking people to please raise their hands when they have a question. To “raise one’s hand” means to put one’s hand in the air to ask for permission to speak, usually in a classroom or in a large meeting. In the United States, it is often considered rude (or not polite) to speak without first raising your hand and asking permission, especially if you are at a meeting or in a classroom.

Shawn says that if people raise their hands, he’ll be able to “call on” people one at a time. To “call on someone” means to say someone’s name and ask him or her to speak. In a classroom, the teacher calls on students to answer questions, and in this business meeting Shawn is going to call on the people who want to share their ideas. Shawn says that this will help to avoid having people talk over each other. To “talk over” someone means to speak when someone else is speaking, so that two people are speaking at the same time, which makes it difficult to understand. In the United States, in a business setting, you should always try to let the other person finish speaking before you begin speaking, because talking over another person is considered impolite, or rude.

Shawn asks people to make sure that their questions are on topic. To “make sure“ (sure) means to be certain of something, or to be careful to do something in a certain way. You might ask your wife to be sure, or to not forget, to go to the store on her way home from work. “On topic” (topic) means relevant, or related to the subject. A question that is “on topic” is related to the discussion. The opposite would be called “off topic“; that would be a question that is not related to the subject. For example, if I'm speaking about U.S. history and you ask a question about Japanese Sumo wrestling, your question would be off topic. But if you ask about President Abraham Lincoln, your questions would be on topic. Shawn is asking everyone to please make sure, or be careful, that their questions are on topic, or related to the Vision Corporation product or marketing strategy. Then Shawn asks who would like to begin the discussion.

Chris says that he needs to voice his concern. To “voice one’s concern" means to say what you are worried about. You might need to voice your concern with your boss about not being able to finish a project on time. Chris is voicing a

concern, or saying that he is worried, about how the focus groups weren’t asked about the product’s color or design. Chris begins to say, “I think this would have…,” but he is interrupted by Hannah, meaning that she begins speaking before he is finished. This is normally not considered a polite thing to do, but
notice what Hannah says next.

Hannah says, “Please pardon (pardon) my interruption.” The phrase “please pardon my interruption,” or you could also say, “forgive my interruption,” is used to apologize when one person has something important to say and starts speaking while another person is speaking. It’s a way of excusing yourself, to talk when someone else is talking – to interrupt them. Usually this is something that you will do if what you have is very important, so important that you need to stop the other person talking. So, Hannah is saying “sorry” to Chris for having interrupted him. If two people are talking, you might say, “Please pardon my interruption, sir, but you have a telephone call”; that would be considered something that would be okay to interrupt someone for.

Hannah says, “With all due respect, Mr. Hanson, I completely disagree with you.” The phrase “with all due (due) respect,” is used when one strongly disagrees with another person, but wants to say it so it is respectful – to say it as nicely as possible so that you are not impolite. If you disagree with someone, especially who is higher in the organization than you are – your boss, for example – you might want to say “with all due respect” before explaining why you disagree with him or her. Hannah says that she completely disagrees with Chris. To “completely disagree” with someone means not to agree with someone at all, or to very strongly disagree with someone. If your friend, for example, says that cats are the best pets, you may say, “I completely disagree with you, because dogs are much better pets.” Or fish!

Hannah says, “I understand your concern, but….” The phrase “to understand someone’s concern, but….” is used to show that one understands what the other person is worried about, but that you disagree with it. It’s a polite way to show that you have heard and understood another person’s concern; you’ve thought about it, but still disagree with it. For example, a wife might be worried that going to Hawaii is too expensive for a vacation, and her husband may say, “I understand your concern, but I think we should go on a nice vacation.”

Next Hannah says that in her experience the product characteristics of color and design pale in comparison next to “affordability” and “ease of use.” To “pale (pale) in comparison to,” or “in comparison with” something means to be less important than something else, or is of less value than something else. The amount of money you would spend to rent a car for one day pales in comparison with the cost of buying a new car and driving it only one day. The two things are not equal; one is greater, or more important, than the other.

In this case, Hannah is saying that design and color are much less important than affordability and ease of use. “Ease (ease) of use” means how easy or difficult it is to use something – to use, in this case, Vision Corporation’s product. For example, most companies try to design their website so they have good ease of use, meaning it is easy for people to find the things they’re interested in.

Hannah says that she doesn’t have time to address Chris’s concern fully, but that most customers aren’t interested in design. To “address“ something, here,
means to manage, to handle, to answer, or to deal with something. You might address the problem of not having enough money by getting a second job.
When Hannah says that she doesn’t have time to address Chris’s concern fully, she means that she doesn’t have enough time to completely answer Chris’s
questions and worries right now in the meeting.

Next Alex begins to speak and says, “If I may offer my opinion, I believe Mr. Hanson has a legitimate concern.” To “offer one’s opinion” means to say what you think about something. You can offer your opinion about an idea or a project, for example. Alex’s opinion is that Mr. Hanson has a legitimate concern. A “legitimate (legitimate) concern” is a valid worry, or a worry that makes sense, or seems reasonable or logical. In other words, Alex is saying that Chris brought up an important point – a legitimate concern. A parent may have a legitimate concern about their son or daughter’s eating habits – if they are eating healthy food.

Alex says that he’s glad that Chris asked his question. The phrase “I’m glad you asked that question” is used to thank someone for asking a question and to show appreciation or gratitude for someone’s participation. If someone asks a very interesting question that creates a lot of discussion or makes you think about something you hadn’t considered before, you should say, “I’m glad you asked that question.”

Alex then says that Hannah may be right about the importance of listening to the customers, meaning she might be correct. Then Alex says that the topic is outside the scope of his expertise. To say something is “outside the scope (scope) of one’s expertise” is used to show that one doesn’t know very much about the topic, or that the topic is not related to your education or experience. “That’s outside my scope of expertise.” “Expertise” (expertise) is knowledge of something. Someone who knows a lot about a topic is called an “expert”
(expert). By saying that this topic is outside the scope of his expertise, Alex is showing people that he’s going to rely on the opinions of the expert; in this case, the expert is Hannah.

Let’s listen to this interesting discussion between Chris, Hannah, and Alex again, this time at a native rate of speech.

[start of formal meeting script]

Shawn: When you have a question, please raise your hand. This will allow me to call on people one at a time and avoid having people talk over each other. Also please make sure that your questions are on topic. Who would like to begin?

Chris: I need to voice my concern about how the focus groups were not asked about color or design. I think this would have….

Hannah: Please pardon my interruption, but with all due respect, Mr. Hanson, I completely disagree with you. I understand your concern, but in our experience those product characteristics pale in comparison next to “affordability” and “ease of use.” I don’t have time to address your concern fully, but most customers aren’t interested in design as much.

Alex: If I may offer my opinion, I believe Mr. Hanson has a legitimate concern and I’m glad he asked that question, but Ms. Graff may be right about the importance of listening to our customers. However, this topic is outside the scope of my expertise.

[end of formal meeting script]

Now let’s turn to the informal meeting, where Chris, Hannah, and Alex are having
the same discussion, but in a more relaxed manner.

[start of informal meeting script]

Shawn: Let’s get this show on the road. This is an open discussion, so who wants to start off?

Chris: Hannah, even though I’ve been knee-deep in your data for months, there’s something I have to get off my chest. Why didn’t you ask the focus groups about our product’s color and design?

Hannah: I can see your point, Chris, but based on past experience, we know that customers mostly consider “affordability” and “ease of use” when deciding which product to buy. I can’t go into this in detail now, but most customers just want reliability, and the design is secondary.

Alex: Chris, you’ve brought up an interesting point, but I think Hannah is right. Don’t take this the wrong way, Chris, but the interests of engineers and our customers aren’t the same. But of course, I’m not a marketing expert by any means.

[end of informal meeting script]

Shawn, the moderator, begins by saying “Let’s get this show on the road.” The phrase “Let’s get this show on the road” (road) is very informal and is used to begin something, such as a meeting, or a trip. “Let’s get this show on the road” is sometimes used to express impatience (that you want things to move faster or to begin right away). Here, Shawn is just using it as a way of starting the discussion. The phrase tries to give you more energy and make people excited about what they’re going to do next.

Shawn says that this is an open discussion and asks who wants to begin. An “open discussion” is a discussion where anyone can participate, without raising their hand first. In normal meetings, if you want to talk, you normally will put your hand up in the air so that the person who is leading, or running, the meeting can call on you – can say, “Okay, you can go next.” But in open discussion, people can usually talk and participate without raising their hands first.

Chris begins by talking to Hannah, saying that he has been knee-deep in her data for months. The expression to “be knee (knee) -deep (deep)” in something means to be very involved in something or to be surrounded by something. In this case, Chris has been working with Hannah’s data for months and is very familiar with it. You might also use this expression, “knee-deep,” in talking about a project that you are doing at work that you have been working on for a long time and that is a lot of work. Or you might be knee-deep in emails (you have lots and lots of emails).

Chris says that there’s something he has to get off his chest (chest). The expression “to get something off your chest” means to talk about something that has been bothering you or worrying you for a long time. If your friend has been, for example, borrowing money from you for weeks but has not given the money back to you – has not paid you back – you might say to him, “I have to get something off my chest, because it really bothers me that you are taking my money without paying it back.” Of course, you have to be a pretty good friend to say something like that, but it’s a way of saying I am now going to tell you something that may be uncomfortable, or that you may not like, but that has been bothering me.

Chris asks Hannah why she didn’t ask the focus groups about the product’s color and design. This is what Chris has wanted to get off his chest; he wanted to ask that question of Hannah. Hannah answers his question by saying, “I can see your point, Chris.” To “see someone’s point” means to understand what someone is saying. If your sister thinks that a television show is bad and you agree with her, you might say, “I see your point.” But you can also use this
expression even if you don’t agree with the other person, but you understand what they are saying.

Even though Hannah understands why Chris is asking the question, she doesn’t agree with him. She says, “Based on past experience (meaning her past experience, or the past experience with the company), we know that customers mostly consider ‘affordability’ and ‘ease of use’” to decide which product to buy. She says to Chris, “I can’t go into this in detail now.” To “go into something in detail” (detail) means to discuss or talk about something – talking about all the specific issues or problems, to talk about it in a lot of detail. Right now, in this lesson, we’re going into detail about the meaning of the new vocabulary words used at informal meetings. We’re talking about it a lot; we’re giving all of the specifics. When Hannah says she can’t go into detail now, she means that she doesn’t have time to explain things in detail, specifically, at this moment.

Finally, Hannah says that most customers want reliability, meaning they want the product to work, and that the design is secondary. If we say that something is “secondary” (secondary), we mean that something is less important than another thing. If you look at the word “secondary,” you can see the word “second,” meaning number two, so something that is secondary is less important. Something that would be number one – that would be most important – we would call “primary” (primary). In this case, design is less important than reliability – it’s secondary; reliability is primary. You might also say that being able to write in English is secondary if you have to speak it at your job, meaning it’s more important for you to be able to speak English than to write in English, for example.

Next Alex begins to speak and says that Chris has brought up an interesting point. To “bring up“ something means to raise a topic or to introduce something into your discussion or your conversation. For example, teachers like it when students bring up interesting questions in class. But even though Chris brings up
an interesting point, or presents an interesting idea, Alex thinks that Hannah is right, or correct. He says, “Don’t take this the wrong way, Chris.” The phrase to “take something the wrong way” means to be offended, to be mad, to be insulted by something that someone says. Alex is saying, “Don’t take this the wrong way,” because he is going to say something to Chris that he may not like, that may make him angry or mad. So he’s saying, “I don’t want you to be mad about what I am going to tell you right now.” He doesn’t want Chris to be offended or upset by what he’s going to say, which is that engineers and customers don’t always have the same interests.

Alex finishes by saying, “But of course, I’m not a marketing expert by any means.” The phrase “by any means” (means) is used to mean at all, or in any way. Alex means that there’s no way that anyone could consider him to be a marketing expert, and Alex agrees with that assessment; he’s not a marketing expert. I might say, I am not an expert in German linguistics by any means,” meaning I don’t have any knowledge in that area, or I am not an expert at all. This is similar to Alex’s statement that marketing was outside the scope of his expertise in the formal meeting; it has the same effect. You might say also, for example, you’re a good musician, but not professional by any means. This would mean that you enjoy music, you’re good at playing music, but you aren’t
good enough to be paid for it – to get a full-time job doing it.

That covers the new vocabulary in the informal meeting. Let’s listen to the discussion again, this time when the conversation is a little faster.

[start of informal meeting script]

Shawn: Let’s get this show on the road. This is an open discussion, so who wants to start off?

Chris: Hannah, even though I’ve been knee-deep in your data for months, there’s something I have to get off my chest. Why didn’t you ask the focus groups about our product’s color and design?

Hannah: I can see your point, Chris, but based on past experience, we know that customers mostly consider “affordability” and “ease of use” when deciding which product to buy. I can’t go into this in detail now, but most customers just want reliability, and the design is secondary.

Alex: Chris, you’ve brought up an interesting point, but I think Hannah is right. Don’t take this the wrong way, Chris, but the interests of engineers and our customers aren’t the same. But of course, I’m not a marketing expert by any means.

[end of informal meeting script]

Now you understand the vocabulary needed to participate in discussions at formal and informal meetings. In our next episode, number eight, we’re going to study the vocabulary for taking questions, or accepting and answering questions from other people at a meeting.

This course has been a production of the Center for Educational Development, in beautiful Los Angeles, California. Visit our web site at eslpod.com.

This course was produced by Dr. Jeff McQuillan and Dr. Lucy Tse. Copyright 2007.