Expressions using Themes (e.g. Collocations, IELTS, Business English)

How to Set an Agenda in a Meeting - Vocabulary

Every meeting should have a clear agenda - a point of discussion or a goal towards which a discussion should move. Everything should be covered within an appropriate time frame, and so the agenda should already be in place before the meeting. Otherwise, you are wasting everyone’s time.


stay on point

In this case, the ‘point’ of something is the primary focus or the reason for the discussion or meeting. On the agenda, there may be a number of different ‘points’. To ‘stay on point’ just means that you don’t move away from the item of discussion. You could also say ‘stick to the point’.

Examples

  • I hate when Marcus directs the meeting. He has a terrible habit of not staying on point.

  • We’ll talk about that at a later juncture. Right now, I’d prefer to stay on point and close off this particular item.


stick to the script

This is similar to the expression above (and you can also say ‘stick to the point’). There is no real script, just a general idea of the overall plan of action. It’s like when you tell someone to ‘get with the program’. There is no real program, just a shared idea of what you should all be doing. If you ‘go off script’, you are talking about something that isn’t relevant to the topic.

Examples

  • I know you’re nervous about chairing this meeting, but everything has been planned out, so if you just stick to the script, you’ll be fine.

  • It’s important to stick to the script in these finance meetings. The conversation can often lead you to waste time talking about things that don’t matter.


go off on a tangent

Just like ‘going off script’, if you ‘go off on a tangent’, you have probably found yourself interested in a minor detail and you have expanded on it to make it seem more important than it really is. You can also say that someone is going ‘off topic’ or ‘off point’.

Examples

  • We don’t have time for anyone going off on a tangent. We need to stay focused on the issue at hand.

  • Well, I’m going to go off on a bit of a tangent here and tell you about something I experience when I was a child.


go off-track

This is similar to ‘go off on a tangent’, where the ‘track’ in question is the item you are supposed to be discussing. The reverse of this is to say that someone should ‘keep’ or ‘stay on track’.

Examples

  • I think you’ve gone off-track there a bit. That’s not what we were talking about.

  • When you’re talking to your clients, make sure you don’t go off-track. Stick to the selling points and seal the deal.


(Let’s not) digress

When you ‘digress’, you move away from the central issue or the item brought forward for discussion. This is a nice, formal way of letting someone know that they have moved the discussion in another direction and that you would like to move it back.

  • That’s very interesting, Tom, but it’s not really what we’re here to discuss. So, please, everyone, let’s not digress. We have a lot to get through.

  • Don’t digress, please. Just try to keep to what we discussed. That way we’ll wrap up the meeting as soon as possible and everyone can go home early.


deviate from the agenda

To ‘deviate’ is to move away from the intended direction or destination. When you ‘deviate from the agenda’, you steer the conversation in a direction that was not planned. This is quite formal language, so you might not hear the word ‘deviate’ used very often.

Examples

  • Don’t deviate from the agenda. We can get back to that other matter at next week’s meeting, or you can come to my office directly to discuss it.

  • I don’t want to deviate too much from the agenda, but there’s an important issue I think we should deal with.


Park it (for now/a while)

Sometimes, there is not enough time to deal with certain issues or matters that others might want addressed or resolved. On your list of priorities, something might be considered less important, and so you might want to ‘park it for a while’, or set aside thoughts or plans to deal with an issue until a later time.

Examples

  • Regarding the matter of increasing sales commission for our senior staff, I’d like to park that for now and get back to it another time. Hopefully next week.

  • I agree that we should park that for a while. There are a lot more important issues to concern ourselves with right now.


Shelve it (for now/a while)

This is very similar in meaning to ‘park it’, but sometimes ‘to shelve something’ can mean to set it aside indefinitely (i.e. possibly permanently). You might hear someone on the news talking about negotiations or peace talks, for example, that ‘have been shelved’.

Examples

  • Our clients were not impressed by our initial proposal for the marketing strategy, so we’ve decided to shelve the proposal for now.

  • Before we go any further, I just want to make it clear that the plans for expanding our business into other areas have been shelved. We just didn’t think they would prove lucrative in the long term.


get (straight) to the point

People prefer speakers to be concise and not to waste anyone’s time. This is why it is important to ‘get to the point’, which means you should say what you want to say without providing unnecessary information. This is similar to not ‘beating around the bush’.

Examples

  • I’m going to get straight to the point. I don’t like the new marketing campaign.

  • We have a lot to cover in this meeting, so let me get straight to the point. There will be no salary increases this year.


touch on the key points (e.g. from last meeting)

To ‘touch on’ something is to briefly speak about or mention it. The ‘key points’ are the issues that are considered to be most important, or those that take priority over others. So, when you ‘touch on the key points’, you spend only a small amount of time on thatkeyinformation.

Examples

  • As we work our way through this meeting, we might touch on the key points of last week’s meeting to ensure that everyone understood the conclusions we came to.

  • In today’s meeting, we won’t have time to cover absolutely everything in the project proposal, but instead we’ll just touch on the key points so that everyone has a good idea of the core content.


(way) off base

To be ‘off base’ means to be wrong, or to be far removed from the truth or the facts, or even from the direction you are supposed to be taking. You can also say ‘go way off script’.

Examples

  • I think you’re just way off base with that idea. I can’t see it working at all!

  • I don’t think that’s right. In fact, I think you’re way off base!


(get back to) the matter at hand

If something is ‘at hand’, it needs to be dealt with or it is the thing you are talking about or dealing with right at that moment. The ‘matter at hand' is the current issue or topic of conversation.

Examples

  • Can we please get back to the matter at hand? We need to see it through and come to a conclusion.

  • We’ve gone way off base here. I think we should just get back to the matter at hand.


Don’t forget that these are just general expressions that you can use in any (generic) meeting. For more specific expressions, search our ‘Themed Expressions’ for subjects and topics of discussion.

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