Daily English
Cultural English
Practical English

08 Taking Questions

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Meeting A - Formal Meeting

Shawn: Mr. Hanson, was Ms. Graff able to allay your concern? Good. Now we have time for only two more questions. Ms. Graff?

Hannah: My question is for Mr. Hanson. I was wondering whether you could expand on the section regarding product design. Am I correct in assuming that you want to offer the product in more colors?

Chris: Let me see if I can shed better light on that. Although colors may not be as important to consumers, we are of the opinion that having more variety will increase sales….

Hannah: Is that the only reason?

Chris: Please let me finish my thought. Another reason, which may be beyond the scope of your question, is that the increase in our costs will be small. Have I answered your question?

Shawn: Yes, certainly, Chris. You’ve made it clear for all of us. And now for our final question. Mr. Aurora?

Alex: Given the growing competition, is it possible for us to drop this product and move into a different market? Can you speak to the implications this would have on our strategy?

Shawn: We did consider that option, but we quickly dismissed it. We believe that we should stick to our core competencies and improve the product we currently have.

Meeting B - Informal Meeting

Shawn: I’m afraid we’re running out of time. Let’s take two more questions.

Hannah: Let me jump in with a question for Chris. Chris, I think your memo hit the nail on the head. But let me play devil’s advocate for a minute. Our focus groups weren’t very interested in design. Why are you suggesting that we offer the product in more colors?

Chris: I can see your point, but we think that having more colors will raise sales at least a little bit. And we can do it very inexpensively.

Hannah: Oh, I see. That clears things up for me. Thanks.

Shawn: Alex, did you have your hand up?

Alex: I did. Thanks, Shawn. What I’d like to know is whether your team has thought about developing an entirely new product and entering a different market.

Shawn: Yes, we have, but we’ve ruled it out for now. We think it’s best to use our company’s strengths and improve our current product, rather than creating something new.

GLOSSARY

Meeting A - Formal Meeting

to allay – to make someone stop worrying about something; to make something stop being a problem
* Maggie’s worst fears were allayed when the doctor said that she didn’t have any serious medical problems.

I was wondering... – I would like to know; I’m curious about
* I was wondering if he went to my high school because he looks very familiar.

to expand on (something) – to provide more detail about something; to describe something in more detail or to provide more information
* Can you please expand on your reasons for believing that we need a bigger office?

Am I correct in assuming that – Is what I’m saying correct? Do I understand you correctly?
* Since you don’t eat ice cream or cheese, am I correct in assuming that you’re allergic to milk?

Let me see if I can shed better light on (something) – I am going to try to explain something better; I will try to help you understand something better
* Mr. Bale, I understand that you’re confused about your telephone bill. Let me see if I can shed better light on how the costs are calculated.

to be of the opinion that – to believe that; to think that; to have the opinion that
* We are of the opinion that families should be together during the holidays, so my brothers and sisters always travel home for Christmas.

to finish (one’s) thought – to finish talking about something; to say everything that one thinks about something without interruption
* He was telling them about his new business, but he couldn’t finish his thought because his cell phone rang.

beyond the scope of (something) – not related to something; off topic
* Calling customers is beyond the scope of her job, but she agreed to do it because the other department needed her help.

certainly – definitely; without any doubt; for sure
* I certainly don’t want to make you feel bad, but this report needs a lot of work.

given – considering; with reference to; in light of
* Given your high blood pressure, the doctor recommends eating less salt.

is it possible – can one do something; is it feasible; would one be able to do something
* Is it possible for you to take Shelly to school today? I don’t think I’ll have time.

to drop – to stop doing something; to leave something; to no longer use or produce something
* We dropped our home telephone service. We’ve decided to use only our cell phones for all of our calls.

can you speak to (something) – can you talk about something; can you address something; can you give more information or detail about something
* Mr. President, can you speak to how you’re going to change science education in our country?

implication – consequence of doing something; what will happen if one does or does not do something; what doing something will mean
* One of the implications of email is that people send fewer regular letters to each other.

option – choice; one way to do something; possibility
* You have three options: you can register for classes online, over the phone, or in the registration office.

to dismiss – to decide not to do something; to decide against something; to decide not to consider doing something
* Her proposal to improve the company’s services was dismissed as being too expensive.

to stick to (something) – to continue to do or use something; to not change what one is doing
* Flying to Hawaii is too expensive. Let’s stick to our original plan to spend our vacation closer to home this year.

core competency – something that a business is very good at doing; something that a company is known to be an expert in doing
* That company’s services are very expensive, but its core competency is quick and friendly service, so many people are willing to pay more.

Meeting B - Informal Meeting

to run out of time – to not have very much time left to do something; to be near the end of something; to have little time remaining
* The students were running out of time to finish their assignment, so they had to stay awake all night to work on it.

to take a question – to allow people in the audience to ask a question
* The spokesperson will take only five questions from reporters today.

to jump in – to join a discussion; to begin participating in something without delay
* The professor invited all the students to jump in and give their opinions.

to hit the nail on the head – to be exactly right; to do exactly what something was supposed to do
* Mindy’s essay hit the nail on the head and the professor gave her an A+.

devil’s advocate – a person who presents an unpopular or the opposite opinion in order to make the discussion better
* It’s always a good idea to have one devil’s advocate at a business meeting because it makes everyone think about other possible opinions.

I can see your point, but... – I understand what you’re saying, but I disagree with you; I understand your opinion, but I think you need to consider something
else
* I can see your point about how owning your own business is a good idea, but I don’t have enough money to start my own business right now.

to clear things up – to make things clearer or easier to understand; to clarify
* They had a big fight, but afterwards they talked for a half hour and cleared things up.

to have (one’s) hand up – to hold one’s hand in the air showing that one wants to speak or ask a question
* Georgette has had her hand up for almost ten minutes, but the speaker still hasn’t seen her.

What I’d like to know is... – I would like to know; I want to know; Please tell me
* Dean says that he got his graduate degree in just six months, but what I’d like to know is whether it was from a real university or a school that exists only online.

to rule (something) out – to consider something as an option and then decide not to do it; to consider a list of things and decide not to use something
* We ruled out going to Alaska for vacation, because none of us like cold weather.

COMPLETE TRANSCRIPT

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

In the seventh lesson of “Business Meetings,” we learned business vocabulary for managing discussions. In this eighth lesson, we're going to learn how to take questions. That is, how to accept and answer questions from the audience.

First we’ll listen to the formal meeting at a slow speed.

[start of formal meeting script]

Shawn: Mr. Hanson, was Ms. Graff able to allay your concern? Good. Now we have time for only two more questions. Ms. Graff?

Hannah: My question is for Mr. Hanson. I was wondering whether you could expand on the section regarding product design. Am I correct in assuming that you want to offer the product in more colors?

Chris: Let me see if I can shed better light on that. Although colors may not be as important to consumers, we are of the opinion that having more variety will increase sales….

Hannah: Is that the only reason?

Chris: Please let me finish my thought. Another reason, which may be beyond the scope of your question, is that the increase in our costs will be small. Have I answered your question?

Shawn: Yes, certainly, Chris. You’ve made it clear for all of us. And now for our final question. Mr. Aurora?

Alex: Given the growing competition, is it possible for us to drop this product and move into a different market? Can you speak to the implications this would have on our strategy?

Shawn: We did consider that option, but we quickly dismissed it. We believe that we should stick to our core competencies and improve the product we currently have.

[end of formal meeting script]

This part of the meeting begins by Shawn asking Chris whether Hannah has allayed his concerns. “To allay” (allay) means to make someone stop worrying about something, or to make something stop being a problem. Shawn could have asked whether Hannah had answered Chris’s question, and that would mean the same thing as allay. When we say that you “allay” someone’s concern, we mean that the person has an answer to their question, and they are no longer worried about it. You can answer someone’s question, however, without allaying their concern; they could understand your answer but still be worried about it. So, Shawn is asking whether Chris has had his concerns allayed by Hannah. Chris nods (nods) his head, or moves his head up and down to indicate that yes, his question has been answered. We use this verb “to nod” when we are talking about saying “yes” by moving your head up and down. If you’re going to say “no,” moving your head from side to side, we would probably use the verb “shake” (shake). So he shakes his head “no,” but he nods his head “yes.” Chris is nodding his head, saying that his question has been answered and his concern has been allayed. Shawn says “Good. Now we have time for only two more questions.”

Hannah asks the first question of Chris. She says “I was wondering whether you could expand on the section regarding product design.” The phrase “I was wondering…” means I would like to know, or I’m curious about something. You might be wondering, or wanting to know, whether this is the way people really speak at business meetings, and I can tell you that yes, it is. Hannah is wondering, or wants to know, whether Chris can expand on the section regarding product design. “To expand (expand) on something” means to provide more detail about something, to describe something in more detail, or to provide more information. Hannah wants more information about product design. We could expand, for example, on this definition more – give you more information, more details, but I think you probably understand it already. Hannah asks, “Am I correct in assuming that you want to offer the product in more colors?” The phrase, “Am I correct in assuming…” means “Is what I am saying right? Is what I am saying the truth, is it correct?” It could also mean “Do I understand what you are saying correctly?” She’s repeating what she understood from what Chris had said earlier, and she’s asking Chris to say whether or not she understood him correctly; did she get the right idea from Chris’s explanation.

Chris responds to Hannah by saying, “Let me see if I can shed better light on that.” The phrase “Let me see if I can shed (shed) better light on something”
means “I’m going to try to explain something better,” or “I will try to help you understand something better.” That is to “shed more light,” or “better light” on
something. In this case, it means that Chris is going to offer another explanation of what he said earlier, using more detail and, perhaps, different words. Chris says, “Although colors may not be as important to consumers, we are of the opinion that having more variety will increase sales.” “To be of the opinion that…” is a very formal phrase that means to believe, to think, or to have an opinion that something is true. Chris could simply say “we think that having more variety will increase sales,” and it would be the same thing – the same meaning, but it’s more formal to say “we are of the opinion that having more variety will increase sales.”

Hannah interrupts Chris by saying, “Is that the only reason?” before he finishes speaking. So, Hannah is interrupting, or talking, while Chris is trying to talk. Of course, Chris doesn’t like being interrupted, so he says politely back to Hannah, “Please let me finish my thought.” “To finish your thought” means to finish talking about something, or to say everything that you think about something without interruption – without someone else speaking while you are speaking. When Chris says “Please let me finish my thought,” then, he means “Please let me continue and finish what I am saying.” Chris goes on to say that another reason, which may be beyond the scope of Hannah’s question, is that the increase in costs will be small. The expression “beyond the scope” (scope) is a little bit like the expression “off topic,” which was discussed in an earlier lesson. “Beyond the scope of something” means not related to what is being discussed. Portuguese vocabulary, for example, is beyond the scope of this lesson, because it’s about English vocabulary. Chris means that one of his reasons for wanting to offer the product in more colors is that it will not increase costs very much, but he thinks that cost reduction isn’t related to Hannah’s original question, so he says it’s “beyond the scope” of her question. Then he asks, “Have I answered your question?” This is a polite thing to ask after answering a difficult question, because it lets the other person ask for more information – ask additional questions if he or she wants to.

Shawn speaks next by saying “Yes, certainly, Chris.” “Certainly” (certainly) means definitely, without any doubt, for sure. Shawn is saying that Chris entirely, or completely, answered Hannah’s questions. I certainly hope that you understand what this new word “certainly” means – for sure, without any doubt, definitely. Shawn says that Chris has made the subject clear, or understandable, for everyone. He calls on Alex for the final question, meaning he sees Alex’s
hand raised and gives Alex permission to speak.

So Alex says, “Given the growing competition….” The word “given” (given) in this case means considering, with reference to, we might also say “in light of.” “Given the growing competition” – when we think about, or when we consider the growing competition. Given the possibility that it might rain, you should bring an umbrella. That’s like saying if you think about, if you consider the fact that it might rain, then you should bring an umbrella so you don’t get wet. Alex says, “Given the growing competition (or the increasing amount of competition), is it possible for us to drop this product and move into a different market?” The phrase, “Is it possible?” means, “Can we do this?” – “Is it feasible?” (feasible). To be “feasible” means you can do it. In other words, Shawn is asking, “Can we drop this product?” The verb “to drop” (drop), here, means to stop doing something, to leave something, or to no longer use or produce something. Alex wants to know whether the company can stop making this product and move into a different market, meaning produce or make a new product. At the university, for example, you might drop a course, meaning that you stop taking the class, or you might drop your membership to a local gym or health club. “To drop,” then, means to stop doing or stop using something.

Alex then asks, “Can you speak to the implications this (that is, making a new product) would have on our strategy?” “Can you speak to the implications this would have on our strategy?” The phrase, “Can you speak to something?” means “Can you talk about this thing?”, “Can you address this issue?”, “Can you give us more information about it?” Alex wants someone to talk about the implications that changing products would have on the company’s strategy, or its plans for the future. An “implication” (implication) is a consequence or result of doing something. It’s what something will mean, or what will happen if you do something. What are implications of us not getting gas for our car? The implication would be that you will run out of gas and you will not be able to use your car. That’s a consequence or result of something. So, Alex is asking what will happen if the company starts making a new product.

Shawn answers Alex’s question by saying that the team did consider that option, but quickly dismissed it. An “option” (option) is a choice, a possibility, one way to do something. When you fly on a plane, for example, they may give you two options for dinner: chicken or beef. The Vision Corporation team had three options: to change the product, to continue to sell the same product, or to begin to make a different product. Shawn says that the team did consider the option of making a different product, but quickly dismissed it. “To dismiss (dismiss) something” means to decide not to do something, to decide against something, or to decide not to consider doing something. Shawn’s team considered the option of making other products, but then they dismissed it, or decided that it was not a good idea. For example, you might consider the idea of going to the state of Alaska for your winter vacation, but after looking at the temperature in Alaska during the wintertime, you dismiss that idea – you decide not to do it.

Finally, Shawn says, “We believe that we should stick to our core competencies and improve the product we currently have.” “To stick (stick) to something” means to continue to do something or to use something. “To stick to something” means not to change what you are doing. For example, you might stick to the same kind of toothpaste for many years, meaning that you continue to use that one kind of toothpaste – you don’t change. Shawn wants to stick to, or to continue to use, the company’s core competencies. A “core (core) competency (competency)” is something that your company or business does very well, or something that the company is known to be an expert in. One of Vision Corporation’s core competencies is producing, or making, this product – that’s what they’re good at. That’s why Shawn thinks that the company should stick to, or continue to make, the current product, improving the product instead of deciding to make a new one.

Let’s listen to these questions and answers at the formal meeting again, this time
at a faster rate of speech.

[start of formal meeting script]

Shawn: Mr. Hanson, was Ms. Graff able to allay your concern? Good. Now we have time for only two more questions. Ms. Graff?

Hannah: My question is for Mr. Hanson. I was wondering whether you could expand on the section regarding product design. Am I correct in assuming that you want to offer the product in more colors?

Chris: Let me see if I can shed better light on that. Although colors may not be as important to consumers, we are of the opinion that having more variety will increase sales….

Hannah: Is that the only reason?

Chris: Please let me finish my thought. Another reason, which may be beyond the scope of your question, is that the increase in our costs will be small. Have I answered your question?

Shawn: Yes, certainly, Chris. You’ve made it clear for all of us. And now for our final question. Mr. Aurora?

Alex: Given the growing competition, is it possible for us to drop this product and move into a different market? Can you speak to the implications this would have on our strategy?

Shawn: We did consider that option, but we quickly dismissed it. We believe that we should stick to our core competencies and improve the product we currently have.

[end of formal meeting script]

As you can see, there are a lot of opinions at this meeting and everyone wants to get as much information as they can. Now that we’ve heard how they speak at a formal meeting, let’s listen to the same conversation at an informal business meeting.

[start of informal meeting script]

Shawn: I’m afraid we’re running out of time. Let’s take two more questions.

Hannah: Let me jump in with a question for Chris. Chris, I think your memo hit the nail on the head. But let me play devil’s advocate for a minute. Our focus groups weren’t very interested in design. Why are you suggesting that we offer the product in more colors?

Chris: I can see your point, but we think that having more colors will raise sales at least a little bit. And we can do it very inexpensively.

Hannah: Oh, I see. That clears things up for me. Thanks.

Shawn: Alex, did you have your hand up?

Alex: I did. Thanks, Shawn. What I’d like to know is whether your team has thought about developing an entirely new product and entering a different market.

Shawn: Yes, we have, but we’ve ruled it out for now. We think it’s best to use our company’s strengths and improve our current product, rather than creating something new.

[end of informal meeting script]

Shawn begins this part of the meeting by saying, “I’m afraid we’re running out of time.” “To run out of time” means not to have very much time left to do something, to be near the end of something, or to have very little time remaining. Shawn is apologizing that they are almost at the end of the meeting and there isn’t very much time left for more questions. Because there’s so little time left, Shawn says that he can take only two more questions. “To take a question” means to allow people who are at the meeting to ask a question. After most speeches or lectures, the speaker often takes questions from the audience.

Hannah takes the first question by saying “Let me jump in with a question for Chris.” “To jump in” means to join a discussion, or to begin participating in something right away, without delaying. Hannah means that she has a question for Chris and she wants to ask it right now. We also use this expression, “to jump in,” when two other people or a group of people are talking and you want to ask a question or make a comment, you might say “Let me jump in here.” Or, “Can I jump in here and ask a question?” Hannah is telling Chris that she thinks his memo hit the nail on the head. A “nail” (nail) is a long, thin piece of metal that has a point on one end – it’s sharp on one end – and you use it to hold together two pieces of wood together. You usually use a hammer to hit the nail into the wood. The “head” of the nail is the flat part on top that you hit with the hammer. Literally, “to hit the nail on the head” means to move the hammer so that it hits the top of the head of the nail and pushes it into the wood. But here, we’re using this expression to mean that Chris is exactly correct, or is doing something exactly the way it should be done. Hannah means that Chris’s memo said exactly what it should have said. It “hit the nail on the head” – it addressed or talked about the issues that it should have talked about and addressed. In other words, Hannah liked the memo. But, she says, she wants to play the devil’s advocate for a minute.

A “devil’s (devil’s) advocate (advocate)” is a person who presents an unpopular or opposing opinion in order to make the discussion better. The “devil” is, in Christian belief, the spirit or the force that causes evil or bad things in the world. The “devil’s advocate” would be the lawyer for the devil. An “advocate” is someone who is in favor of a certain position; a lawyer is an example of an advocate. So, the “devil’s advocate” is someone who tries to present another view – an opposite view. If you’re at a meeting, for example, and everyone agrees about something, one person may say, “Let me play (or be) the devil’s advocate and give a different opinion.” This helps people discuss the ideas and give the idea more consideration. When playing the devil’s advocate – and notice we use the verb “to play” with this expression – in playing the devil’s advocate, Hannah says that her focus groups weren’t very interested in design and asks Chris why he is suggesting that the company offer the product in more colors.

Chris responds, or answers her by saying, “I can see your point, but we think that having more colors will raise sales at least a little bit.” The phrase, “I can see your point, but…” is used to mean, “I understand what you’re saying, but I disagree with you,” or “I understand your opinion, but I think you need to consider (or think about) something else.” Chris means that he has heard and understood what Hannah said, but he has a different opinion: he thinks that having more colors will raise, or increase, sales. Chris also says that the company can offer the product in more colors without raising cost, meaning it would not cost the company more money.

Hannah then says, “Oh, I see,” meaning “I understand.” She says, “That clears things up for me. Thanks.” “To clear things up” means to clarify, to make things easier to understand. I hope that I’m clearing things up by talking about the vocabulary used in this meeting.

Next Shawn speaks and says, “Alex, did you have your hand up?” “To have one’s hand up” means to hold your hand in the air showing that you want to speak or ask a question. When you have a question in class, in a school, you normally raise your hand. When the teacher sees that you have your hand up, he or she might call on you, saying your name and giving you permission to ask your question.

Alex says that yes, he did have his hand up. He says, “What I’d like to know is whether your team has thought about developing an entirely new product and entering a different market.” The phrase “What I’d like to know is…” means “I would like to know…”, “I want to know…”, or “Please tell me….” Alex would like to know, or wants to know, whether the team considered the option, or the possibility, of having Vision Corporation start making a different type of product.

Shawn replies by saying yes, the team considered that option, but it has ruled it out. “To rule (rule) something out” means to consider something – to think about something – as a possibility, as an option, but then to decide not to do it, or to consider a list of things and decide not to use one of those things. We ruled it out; we decided we weren’t going to do it. Shawn’s team began with a list of options and one of the ones that they decided not to use was to make a new product. Why? Because the team thinks it’s best to use the company’s strengths, or core competencies, to improve the product it already has rather than, or instead of creating a new product. If you get sick when you see blood, for example, you might rule out being a doctor as your career – as what you want to do in your life because as a doctor, you have to see a lot of blood.

Now let’s listen to the informal meeting again, this time when they’re speaking at a normal speed.

[start of informal meeting script]

Shawn: I’m afraid we’re running out of time. Let’s take two more questions.

Hannah: Let me jump in with a question for Chris. Chris, I think your memo hit the nail on the head. But let me play devil’s advocate for a minute. Our focus groups weren’t very interested in design. Why are you suggesting that we offer the product in more colors?

Chris: I can see your point, but we think that having more colors will raise sales at least a little bit. And we can do it very inexpensively.

Hannah: Oh, I see. That clears things up for me. Thanks.

Shawn: Alex, did you have your hand up?

Alex: I did. Thanks, Shawn. What I’d like to know is whether your team has thought about developing an entirely new product and entering a different market.

Shawn: Yes, we have, but we’ve ruled it out for now. We think it’s best to use our company’s strengths and improve our current product, rather than creating something new.

[end of informal meeting script]

I hope that this lesson has helped you understand how to take questions at a formal and informal business meeting. In our next lesson, number nine, we’re going to study the business vocabulary for ending a topic and planning for the future at both formal and informal meetings.

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.