Business Meetings in English

Understanding Corporate Culture

By:Debra Thorsen

Culture: n 1. natural phenomenon that is created whenever a group of people come together to collaborate; 2. foundation for all decisions and actions within an organization; 3. the way things are around here.

Every time people come together with a shared purpose, culture is created. This group of people could be a family, neighborhood, project team, or company. Culture is automatically created out of the combined thoughts, energies, and attitudes of the people in the group.

I often compare culture to electricity. Culture is an energy force that becomes woven through the thinking, behavior, and identity of those within the group. Culture is powerful and invisible and its manifestations are far reaching. Culture determines a company’s dress code, work environment, work hours, rules for getting ahead and getting promoted, how the business world is viewed, what is valued, who is valued, and much more.

Culture shows up in both visible and invisible ways. Some manifestations of this energy field called "culture" are easy to observe. You can see the dress code, work environment, perks, and titles in a company. This is the surface layer of culture. These are only some of the visible manifestations of a culture.

The far more powerful aspects of culture are invisible. The cultural core is composed of the beliefs, values, standards, paradigms, worldviews, moods, internal conversations, and private conversations of the people that are part of the group. This is the foundation for all actions and decisions within a team, department, or organization.

Visible Manifestations of Culture
·Dress Code
·Work Environment
·Work/Life Balance
·Titles & Job Descriptions
·Organizational Structure

Invisible Manifestations of Culture
·Private Conversations (with self or confidants)
·Invisible Rules
·Moods and Emotions
·Unconscious Interpretations

Business leaders often assume that their company's vision, values, and strategic priorities are synonymous with their company's culture. Unfortunately, too often, the vision, values, and strategic priorities may only be words hanging on a plaque on the wall.

In a thriving profitable company, employees will embody the values, vision, and strategic priorities of their company. What creates this embodiment (or lack of embodiment) is the culture that permeates the employees' psyches, bodies, conversations, and actions.

The energy fields that make up a group's culture are dynamic and change continuously. Culture is created and constantly reinforced on a daily basis through conversations, symbols, rituals, written materials, and body language. It is the small, mundane actions and behaviors that create a culture and can shift a culture.

Creating and sustaining a healthy, vibrant culture requires reinforcement of the culture through daily and proactive conversations and communications. The failure to discuss the values, purpose, and rules within a group often leads to a culture that is at cross purposes with the stated intention of the group. Poor communication creates a lot of confusion and often a crisis of meaninglessness.

Since a culture is created every time a group of people come together to form a team, a company will have many sub-cultures that exist within its main culture. For example, the marketing and technology teams may have different worldviews, jargon, work hours, and ways to do things. A big challenge for today's company is to create a strong, cohesive corporate culture that pulls all of the sub-cultures together and ensures that they can work as a unified team.

Most companies try to "fix" perceived problems by addressing the parts of the corporate culture that are easy to see. Some quick-fixes include holding Friday beer bashes and company picnics or adding fringe benefits and perks. None of these actions will have a powerful or lasting effect on a company's culture.

So, if the powerful part of culture is invisible, how can you affect it? Through conversation. Conversations have the power to make the invisible visible. Language is not merely descriptive, it is generative. Language and conversations have the power to generate a new, powerful future and to create a cultural energy field that will support and sustain this future.

The CEO and leadership team of a company have a powerful impact on culture through their conversations and behaviors. Business leaders can pro-actively create a thriving culture by understanding what culture is (and is not) and learning how to have fundamental business conversations.

Unfortunately, most business leaders receive little to no education on how to have powerful conversations that generate culture and actions. Culture building can be learned, but it takes an honest commitment from the leadership team of an organization.

Find out how to shift your corporate culture to increase profits and retain employees. Visit for free articles and white papers on corporate culture.


Tips for Effective English Business Meetings

In Hong Kong, English is used extensively in the workplace. More and more meetings are being held in English and especially teleconferences with foreigh brach offices or headquarters. Business meetings conducted in English are either formal or informal. The informal variety may involve only a couple of people and take place in the managers, or your own, office. For this type there may not be a set time or agenda.
Formal meetings usually involve larger numbers of people and are often held in a conference room. There will be an agenda and minutes (detailed notes) are taken to record what happened in the meeting.
An agenda lists out the time and place of the meeting and also the points that will have to be covered. Quite often there is also a section of time allocated to “Any other business” (AOB) where ideas that are not listed on the agenda may be brought up for discussion.
Formal meetings may involve a business presentation (sales presentation or otherwise) being given, and details on how to conduct
effective presentations are covered elsewhere on this site. It is good to familiarize yourself with the venue and understand how all of the projection and audio eupiment works. However, should you be asked to present something ad-hoc a white board or flip chart is all that you need.
As in all communication, body language is very important. Don’t smile too much but again don’t look totally bored. Holding a pencil in both hands shows that you are paying attention. Sitting at the corner of a conference table can sometimes give you superiority.
The actual language used in English business meetings is detailed below but is not exclusive. Conceding or partially conceding is a good way to negotiate your point of view into being accepted whereas totally disagreeing, or raising your voice is likely to induce hostility and end up with your standpoint being overturned.
As with written communication such as English emails and reports it is important that you organise the structure of your spoken contributions. Remember to prepare for the meeting in advance and have your notes prepared. Don't fall into the trap of reading out a pre-prepared speech, however, or you may bore your fellow participants.
Meetings – Language
Many thanks for coming, shall we start?
Introducing the subject
We need to discuss..
Asking for an opinion
Any views on this? What do you think about..?
I agree. I totally agree!
I don't agree
Conceding a point
Yes, you are right there.
Partially conceding
I can see your point but...
Making a proposal
I think we should...
Suggesting an alternative
Why don't we..instead?
Making an opinion
In my opinion.
Asking for participation
Would you mind giving us your views on this,
Presenting alternatives
We can either .. or ..
Bringing back the focus of the discussion
We are drifting away from the subject. Can we concentrate on the main points?
Many thanks for your participation. Its been a productive meeting.

English Business Meetings

Business meetings conducted in English are either formal or informal. The informal variety may involve only a couple of people and take place in the managers, or your own, office. For this type there may not be a set time or agenda.

Formal meetings usually involve larger numbers of people and are often held in a conference room. There will be an agenda and minutes (detailed notes) are taken to record what happened in the meeting. The actual language you use is the same, and this article will explain the proper use of these business English language functions.

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