You’re obviously going to be nervous when you first meet someone.
You always want to make a good impression.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re meeting a potential client, new employer or colleague.
And it doesn’t matter whether it’s at a job interview, a conference or your first day at work.
Even when you’re speaking your native language, these first encounters can be stressful.
Using English to greet people for the first time adds to the stress.
But we’re here to remedy the situation. Right now.
No more nerves, no more stress.
We’re going to make greeting someone in English feel like a piece of cake.
The key to acing (succeeding in) anything in life is confidence.
Your success is only partially about how well you speak a certain language or how much you know.
The rest is all about how confident and prepared you appear to the listener.
So here’s the first secret to giving great business English greetings. Preparation.
When you’re going to greet someone in business English for the first time at a meeting, you need to be very, very well prepared.
How to Prepare Yourself for Business English Greetings
There’s a saying “stay ready, so you don’t have to get ready.” To stay ready for business English greetings all the time, here are four things you should focus on doing as often as possible.
1. Learn All the Right Words
The first thing you need to prepare is your vocabulary.
You should know all the right vocabulary for greetings and introductions.
Right now, see if you can talk about yourself and your work for five whole minutes. Whenever you pause because you can’t think of the right words, write down which words you’re missing in a notebook. Make note of anything you can’t fully express. Later, you can look up the English words and phrases you need to talk about those things.
Try to learn as much English vocabulary as you can to describe your job and company. You can always check Google for synonyms and meanings. Sometimes it’s better to be able to describe your job in more than one way, rather than rattling off a simple, boring definition.
2. Perfect Your Pronunciation
You can always check the pronunciation of a particular word by typing it in on this HowtoPronounce website or Forvo. Whether it’s a word in your job description or on the company website, you’ll never make the mistake of mispronouncing English words now.
The easiest way to learn the best possible pronunciation is to, of course, learn from native speakers.
You can start by watching some business English videos online, paying attention to the way words are spoken—and one great resource to find these videos of native speakers is FluentU. FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language lessons.
More to the point, FluentU has an entire business category filled with authentic business-related videos covering six language levels.
An added bonus is that if you want to work on other topics later, simply use the same, familiar FluentU platform to learn with videos from other categories, such as “Science and Tech,” “Politics and Society” or mix it up with “Arts and Entertainment” or “Health and Lifestyle.”
Every spoken word is subtitled, complete with an in-context definition, image and multiple example sentences.
So not only will you encounter tons of helpful business English greetings, but you can also be sure to learn lots of other relevant, useful English words and phrases.
All you have to do is tap or click on one of the words in those subtitles to get more information. For example, if you tap on the word “brought,” you will see this:
Plus, these great videos are all accompanied by interactive features and active learning tools, like multimedia flashcards and fun games like “fill in the blank.”
You can practice with FluentU on your computer or anytime, anywhere with the mobile apps for iOS and Android.
3. Keep Practicing and Improving
Find a friend
Sure, you can always practice by yourself by making a recording or by talking to yourself in the bathroom mirror.
But it’s even better to role-play with a partner.
Before going to meet someone for the first time, visualize the scenario as clearly as possible in your head and try to practice how it will go, either by yourself in the mirror or with someone else.
If your family members and friends aren’t English speakers, you can request an online friend who will practice with you through a video call. One great place to find an online friend is Verbling. Well, “friend” might not be the right word, because you’ll have to pay the person you’re speaking with—this site is for finding private tutors and teachers.
You’ll be able to explore hundreds upon hundreds of language teachers and find exactly the one who’s right for you. When you search, you’ll get to search based on prices, availability and even the other languages they speak—so if your native language is Chinese or German, you can find a business English teacher to teach you in that language.
Build your social skills
Pay attention to body language. Even if you’re scared, you still want to give the impression of having confidence.
Dress appropriately. Most companies have a dress code and they expect you to adhere to it.
Be a good listener and keep an eye on body language—both yours and that of the person you’re speaking to.
Make eye contact. It shows that you’re engaged in the conversation.
And even if you make a mistake, don’t be afraid to apologize right away.
Above all, be humble and be polite.
How to Give Professional Yet Friendly Greetings in Business English
Until now, there’s a good chance you’ve picked up lots of English from fun things like TV shows and movies.
Watching English TV shows and movies is great for picking up general English skills and for your entertainment, but they aren’t of much use when it comes to speaking English in formal situations.
Most business situations need formal English.
As a non-native English speaker, you might not be able to perceive (see) much of a difference between speaking in casual English or speaking in formal English. After all, the words we use are practically the same. There are just some subtle differences in the nuances of the language. To be formal, we use slightly different words and phrases, as well as slightly more polite and polished grammar.
Plus, all of our vocabulary and grammar must be correct in formal English—in casual English, we sometimes use less correct language and play around with grammar.
So, how do you go about speaking more formally for your business greetings?
1. Always start with “hello” and the person’s name
We don’t use “hey” or “hi” in formal English—these are more casual.
Start your greeting with “hello” instead. Simple! This small change makes a big difference.
Here’s an example:
You: Hello, Mr. Brown
Mr. Brown: Hello.
For a business greeting, you could also use “good morning, “good afternoon” or “good evening” depending on the time of day.
Just keep in mind that “good night” is only used while saying goodbye at night.
You: Good morning, Mr. Brown.
Mr. Brown: Good morning, Mr. Jones.
You can either stop at “hello,” or go on to introduce yourself fully if you need to provide more information about yourself:
You: Hello. I’m Mr. Jones, your new Project Coordinator.
If you don’t know their name, you can add, “I don’t believe we’ve met yet,” or “I don’t believe we’ve been introduced.”
You: Hello. I’m Mr. Jones, your new Project Coordinator. I don’t believe we’ve met yet.
This will prompt the other person to give you their name or tell you about themselves.
Sometimes, the “hello” may be followed by a “how are you?” or “how do you do?”, especially when you’re talking to Americans.
In such cases, it’s always best to reply politely and positively like this.
You: Good evening, Mr. Brown.
Mr. Brown: Good evening. How are you?
You: I’m fine, thank you. How are you?
You must, under no circumstances, be tempted to say something on the lines of “what’s up?” or “how ya doin’?”
That’s a strict no-no. These phrases are so casual that they create a bad impression. However, feel free to shake hands with the person who you’re meeting.
2. Keep it brief and positive
Once the initial greetings are done, you may be asked to introduce yourself to a group or to another person in particular. Don’t go into your life story or summarizing your CV. Just say one or two sentences about who you are and your position or why you’re here.
Mr. Brown: Hello, Mr. Jones. We’re so glad you could make it and look forward having you on the team.
You: Pleased to meet you, Mr. Jones.
Mr. Brown: Good morning. I’m Mr. Brown and I’d like to welcome you to the team.
You: It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Brown.
Mr. Brown: Here’s our latest recruit. Why don’t you introduce yourself, Mr. Jones?
You: Thank you, Mr. Brown. Hello, everyone. I’m Mr. Jones and I’ve just joined as a Project Coordinator. I look forward to working with you all.
Of course, depending on the scenario, you can go in for a slightly longer introduction, mentioning where you come from or why/how you came across the job.
Then, always add the fact that you’re excited to be working with everything. That’s where “I look forward to working with you all” comes in handy.
In short, give the impression of someone who’s an extrovert and loves team work—but don’t overdo it to the point where you’re not being honest with people.
3. Continue the conversation
If you feel there’s a pause or an awkward gap in the conversation, don’t be afraid to take the initiative and keep the conversation going.
Employers love proactive employees. You can ask simple things about their job profile, how long they’ve been working at the place or general company information.
Initially, limit the topics to professional ones that are relevant to you all.
Once you’ve known them enough or if someone else brings it up, you can talk about other topics such as the news, weather, pop culture and so on.
Just stay clear of sensitive issues like religion and politics, as you may unintentionally offend someone by stating your personal views. Even if somebody brings these more personal topics up in a conversation, it’s best to stay neutral and impersonal about them.
Mr. Brown: Hello, Mr. Jones.
You: It’s a pleasure. So what do you at Jackville Consulting?
Mr. Brown: I’m the Business Manager.
You: That’s lovely. So how long have you been working here?
Mr. Brown: Two years this November. Is this your first job out of college?
You: Yes, I got an offer through my university. I did an internship here in my third semester of college.
There you go!
With regular practice and dedication, you’ll be able to master business English in no time and boost your professional career.
Archita Mittra is a freelance writer, artist, ideator and a self-taught Italian speaker. Contact her at email@example.com for business inquiries.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn English with real-world videos.