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Conference Calls In English: Vocabulary, Tips & Examples

Now that more professionals are WFH (Working From Home) than ever before, logging on to conference calls is the most popular way to conduct work meetings. Whether you use Zoom, Skype or Microsoft Teams, the English we use for conference calls is generally the same. Let’s take a look at some useful expressions you can use to impress your colleagues on a call!

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What you will learn:

 

Setting Up

First things first, before you get chatting on a conference call, you need to get into the meeting (which can be tricky). Each platform has its own way of setting up calls, but here are some nice expressions to help you communicate clearly and effectively using your platform of choice:

  • Could you please email me the link to the Zoom call?
  • Is there a password for the Teams call on Tuesday?
  • Attached is the link for the Skype call on Thursday at 8am UK time, see you then.
  • Should you not be able to attend the meeting, please decline the invitation and I’ll try to reschedule.
  • Thanks for the invite, I’m looking forward to the webinar tomorrow.

The use of inversions (where we put the subject before the verb) are used in formal English and are a great way of making yourself sound proficient in English. Not only do they sound very professional but they are also a nice way to emphasise a statement.

  • Should you see Angela, please pass on my regards.
  • Never have I seen such poor financial results.
  • Not only is there a company gym but also a sauna.
  • Seldom have I heard such a good presentation.

 

Introductions

So, you made it onto the Teams call, now how do you introduce yourself? It’s always good to keep your introductions “short and sweet” (brief):

  • Hello, my name’s Eliza and I’m a junior copywriter for MMU.
  • Hi everyone, I’m Jennifer and I’m a sales rep at Nike.
  • Hi guys, my name’s Julio and I’m a financial consultant for a global firm. I joined this webinar to improve my business English.
  • Good afternoon, my name’s Sanjay and I am going to be hosting today’s meeting.

 

Kicking Off

Here are some good expressions to get the meeting started on your conference call:

  • As we are still missing a few people, how about we start with a quick summary of the week?
  • Let me begin with a brief breakdown of the meeting…
  • The agenda for the meeting is as follows…
  • Paul is going to start us off with a reminder of the yearly targets.
  • As a warm-up, we have a team building activity.
  • Let’s kick off with a quick introduction by each participant.

 

Asking for clarification

We all struggle to understand other people sometimes – accents, background noise and fast speech can cause us problems. When this happens, it’s always better to check for understanding before moving on. Here are some expressions to clarify meaning on a conference call:

  • Could you say that in layman’s terms (not jargon)?
  • Could you speak more slowly, please?
  • Could you say that again, please?
  • Just to clarify, are you saying that…?
  • Sorry, I didn’t catch that. Could you go over it once more, please?
  • Did everyone get that? Did I make myself clear? Are we all good on this point?

 

Resolving Technical Issues

As we all know, sometimes things just don’t go to plan. You might have got to the meeting without any issues, but then experience a problem with the sound, camera or even a faulty internet connection. Here are some useful phrases to help you resolve any tech issues ASAP:

  • I’m sorry I think we missed something, the video was stuck/frozen for a minute or two. Could you repeat what you said?
  • As I was saying before the video froze…
  • Barry, I’m having trouble hearing you, have you unmuted?
  • There seems to be a lot of background noise, Sanjay, could you repeat that?
  • As we’re experiencing a poor internet connection today, could everyone turn off their cameras so that we can hear each other better?
  • Did you raise your hand, Sarah, or is that historical?
  • Please turn your mic on!
  • I’m going to share my screen with you…can you all see my screen now?
  • Sorry about that, I got kicked out, but I’m back now.
  • Could you scroll down to show everyone the graphs please, Mike?
  • Please forgive the background noise!
As I was saying is a useful discourse marker to return to a point from earlier on, especially if you find you are interrupted when speaking or have a technical issue. E.g. As I was saying before the video cut out, I have been researching the effects of solar energy on society.

 

Chairing or hosting a meeting

If you are chairing a meeting, here are some excellent expressions to help it go smoothly:

  • As chair of today’s meeting, I’d like to introduce myself…
  • I’d like to record this session so it is accessible to members who couldn’t participate today. Is that okay with everyone?
  • If you have any questions, please select the ‘raised hand’ button.
  • Thank you for your contribution Mike, I particularly enjoyed your thoughts on project.
  • Moving on to our next item on the agenda, Finance…
  • Do you have anything to add to that, Mr. Wong?
  • Could I ask you to voice your opinions in the chat box, please?
  • That’s a great idea/question. Hold that thought and I’ll get back to it in just a moment.
  • I’m going to give you all a fifteen minute tea break. Let’s reconvene at 11.15. Don’t forget to turn your cameras off and unmute!

 

Actively participating in a Zoom call

Here are a few essential phrases for when you are participating in a meeting:

  • Sorry to interrupt but may I ask a quick question?
  • I’m afraid I can’t see/hear you.
  • Could I ask a quick question related to … before we move on?
  • I have nothing further to add to that at the moment.
  • Bear with me for a moment while I find the correct file.
  • Please come back to me, I need to mute for a second.
  • Sorry that raised hand is historical.

The raised hand on Microsoft Teams signals a wish to talk. It’s easy to forget to deselect the hand when you’ve finished talking. In this case, we refer to it as a ‘historical hand’. E.g. Simon would you like to add something or is that hand historical?

 

How to end a conference call

At the end of a call, it’s a good idea to do a quick recap (summary) of the meeting. It’s also a nice gesture to thank everyone for their efforts. Let’s have a look at some key phrases:

  • Just to recap…
  • We’re running out of time so let’s wrap up and close the call.
  • Thank you for joining today, I hope you all have a good week!
  • We got a lot done today. Thank you all for your time and patience.
  • I just want to say thanks everyone for an informative meeting!
  • Thanks very much, I really learned a lot today.
  • I wish you all a great weekend. See you all next week!
  • Have a great rest of your day, goodbye!

 

Conference call sample conversations

Take a look at these dialogues to see how we use the above vocabulary in live conference calls:

A. Informal Meeting: Kicking off a Zoom call

Steven: Hello everyone, glad to see some familiar faces here today.

As we are still missing a few people, how about we start with a quick recap of last week? Would anyone like to remind us what was discussed at our previous meeting? I can see Roberto has a hand raised.

Roberto, I can see you’re talking, but can’t hear you. Have you unmuted?

Roberto: Sorry about that! Last week we looked at company performance and possible areas for improvement.

Steven: That’s correct, thanks Roberto. As a warm-up I’m going to post a few questions in the chat box. I’d like you all to reply as quickly as possible.

I can see Maria has her hand raised?

Maria: I just wanted to ask if it’s possible to record this session so that I can watch it again later?

Steven: I’ll put that to the rest of the class, if anyone is against me recording the lesson, please say so now in the chat box.

B. Semi-formal Meeting: Agenda for a Zoom call

Bill: Let’s kick off with a quick run-down of today’s agenda. I believe Gerry is going to do this for us.

Gerry: Yes, thank you. I can take over from here. The agenda for the meeting is as follows: first off, we’ll hear Sam give us the numbers for last week, then we’ll move onto Beth who’s going to tell us about an exciting new client, and lastly, we’ll have an open chat about the upcoming conference in Glasgow. If you have any questions, please select the ‘raised hand’ button. Is there anything I’ve missed, Carla?

Carla: I have nothing to add to that at the moment, thanks.

Bill: Sorry to interrupt but may I ask a quick question? Are we going to hear from Sam regarding the new cycle-to-work scheme?

Sam: Not today, I’m afraid, as we are still waiting on some government advice, but we should have it by next week.

Bill: Thanks, that’s all.

Gerry: Okay, I’ll hand over to Sam who’ll fill us in on the numbers…

LEARNING PHRASAL VERBS can be a great way to improve your fluency in English. Fill in is an example of a phrasal verb with more than one meaning, and is often used in business English.
  • Fill in something (complete) e.g. You should fill in the form with your details.
  • Fill someone in (inform) e.g. The Mayor is going to fill us in on the current situation.
  • Fill in for someone (replace) e.g. Bill is going to fill in for Nina on the nightshift as she is unwell.
C. Formal Meeting: Technical issues on a Zoom call

Chair: Thank you for your contribution, Rachel. I particularly enjoyed your thoughts on the new hiring procedure. Moving on to our next item on the agenda: Finance. I’d like to say a special thanks to Mrs. Patel for joining us today. We’re looking forward to learning more about the Gateway Initiative

Mrs Patel: (frozen video)

Chair: I’m sorry I think we missed something there, the video was stuck/frozen for a minute or two. Could you repeat what you said, please?

Mrs Patel: Can you all see and hear me now?

Chair: Yes, the video’s fine now. However, as we seem to be experiencing a poor internet connection today, could I ask everyone turn off their video so that we can hear each other better? That’s great, I’ll hand over to Mrs Patel now.

Mrs Patel: Great, thank you for that, Adrian. I’m going to share my screen with you all, can you all see my screen?

 

English conference calls: Exercises

Exercise A: Connect the expression on the left with the correct meaning on the right.

  1. Let’s kick off                                            a. A short outline
  2. Should you not be able to attend …         b. If you can’t make it
  3. Just to recap                                           c. Go over what was said
  4. Please decline the invitation                     d. Say no to the invitation
  5. A quick summary                                    e. Get started

Exercise B: Fill in the blanks with the correct word below.

  1. Could you say that in ______________  terms?
  2. Let me begin with a _________ breakdown of the meeting.
  3. I’m ___________ I can’t see/hear you.
  4. As I was saying before the video ________, …
  5. Did you _______your hand, Sarah, or is that historical?
  6. We’re ___________out of time so let’s wrap up and close the call.
  7. ___________ on to our next item on the agenda, Finance.
  8. Let’s ______ off with a quick introduction by each participant.
  9. Please come back to me, I need to ______ for a second.
  10. If you have any questions, please select the ‘_________ hand’ button.
  1. mute
  2. raise
  3. brief
  4. froze
  5. running
  6. kick
  7. layman’s
  8. moving
  9. raised
  10. afraid

Exercise C: Select the most appropriate sentence a-c.

  1. You are chairing the meeting and you want to make a recording.
    a. As chair of today’s meeting, I’d like to introduce myself.
    b. Bear with me for a moment while I find the correct file.
    c. I’d like to record this session, is that okay with everyone?
  2. You want to ask a question before the meeting moves on
    a. Sorry to interrupt but can I ask a quick question?
    b. Sorry about that, I got kicked out.
    c. I have nothing to add to that at the moment.
  3. You need to ask your team to wait while you look for a document.
    a. Please forgive the background noise.
    b. Moving on to our next item on the agenda…
    c. Bear with me for a moment while I find the correct file.
  4. The Postman has come to the door when it is your turn to speak.
    a. We’re running out of time so let’s wrap up and close the call.
    b. Please come back to me, I need to mute for a second.
    c. Bear with me for a moment while I fix my webcam.
  5. You are a participant and want to thank the chair of the meeting.
    a. We’re running out of time so let’s wrap up and close the call.
    b. We got a lot done today. Thank you all for your time and patience.
    c. I just want to say many thanks for an informative meeting!
Answers:

Exercise A = 1 e, 2 b, 3 c, 4 d, 5 a
Exercise B = 1 a, 2 b, 3 c, 4 d, 5 e, 6 f, 7 g, 8 h, 9 i, 10 j
Exercise C = 1 c, 2 a, 3 c, 4 b, 5 c

Click here to download this post via our mobile website!
Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)

Jennifer G.
— ESL Tutor.
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