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May 2, 2018

Sequencing and giving examples to clarify ideas

Hi there, welcome back to The Art of Business English. Today we are going to look at some language and techniques to help you clarify your ideas. Specifically, we will be looking at language for sequencing and giving examples.

If you have ever struggled putting your ideas into a logical order, then this lesson will definitely be for you. We are going to teach you some simple techniques that will have you speaking clearly in no time.

At the end of the today’s lesson you will be able to do the following:

  • Use expressions to gain time to allow you to think about what you are going to say
  • Use sequencing language to structure your sentences
  • Give examples to clarify your ideas

In the final part of the episode, I will give you a model example of how we can put these skills into a coherent paragraph.

So, let’s get started.


Buying time

Have you ever found yourself in a meeting where you don’t have time to think about what to say? Do you feel embarrassed when your ideas come out all wrong and mixed up? I know exactly how you feel. So, in the first part of this lesson, we are going to look at some expressions you can use to buy some time.


Buying time


That’s a good question…

That’s a good question… I need a second to answer that… Well, I think…

Hmm, that is an interesting question…

Hmm… that is an interesting question, I would say…

OK, in other words…

OK, in other words, the project is over budget.

Let me think about that…

Let me think about that, oh yes, well I agree…

I think it is also worth mentioning…

I think it is also worth mentioning that we didn’t initially accept this proposal.

Let me put that in different words…

Let me put that in different word, when I said … I was trying to say…

Let’s see,… That is not an easy question to answer…

Let’s see,… That is not an easy question to answer. I would say that…

I’m glad you asked me that question…

I’m glad you asked me that question, if it was up to me I would accept the current proposal.



Sequencing language


If you aren’t already aware, sequencing language is a super simple way for you to gain more confidence when speaking and help to structure your ideas into a logical flow. Using a combination of time buying expressions and sequencing language we can give ourselves enough time to think and put what we want to say into an easy to follow order.


Secondly, we can also use sequencing to signal to the other participants in a meeting or conference call that we have a number of points to contribute to the conversation. This can help prevent people from interrupting you.


A simple example of how this can work in practice is the following. “I would like to say 2 things in response to the question (here you are making it clear that you will be adding two points), firstly, I believe this client has some financial problems and secondly, if this is true, I believe we should consider our options before supplying any further products.


As you can see, we have said at the beginning that we will be adding 2 ideas. Then we have used sequencing language to order each point and prevent interruptions. This can be very useful on a conference call when the other person can’t actually see you. So, you are missing all of the body language queues. If you are using this techniques in a in-person meeting, then you can hold up 2 fingers to clearly demonstrate.


Let’s take a look at some sequencing language.


Sequencing language


In the first place / first / first of all

In the first place, I believe that I told you that the funding will come through next week.

In the second place / secondly / next / then / after that / afterwards

Secondly, as you are aware, we cannot take this forward until the funding is received.

NB Remember that you must use after that followed by S+V+O. After is followed by an object.

In the third place / thirdly / next / then / after that / afterwards

Next, I would like to cover sales projections for the coming month.

Finally, / in the end / lastly / last of all

Lastly, I will be looking at future developments in the sector.

In conclusion / to sum up

In conclusion, I will just wrap things up by saying…


Giving examples


Right, now that we have ordered our thoughts and can put our ideas into a logical flow, it’s time to help demonstrate what we are trying to say by giving examples. Giving examples is the fastest way to make what you’re saying seem more credible. It helps to provide evidence to support your arguments. It is no secret that when writing a thesis at university, you must provide evidence to support your arguments and backup your claims. The same is true in business. We need to show to others what we are saying is true.

So, let’s take a look at some simple expressions for providing examples.


Giving examples


For example,

For example, 2 years ago the same issue arose on another project.

For instance,

For instance, we could offer a rebate to entice the client.

If I can use an example,

If I can use an example, just the other day I came across the same problem.

I’d like to illustrate my point by adding,

I’d like to illustrate my point by adding that with a 10% reduction in capital expenditure, we could breakeven

Such as, (followed by a list)

We could contact our top 3 clients, such as Volvo, BMW & Ford.


Model answer


Let’s bring it all together and look at some model answers.

  1. “John can you please explain why sales are down 10% this quarter?”

“I’m glad you asked me that question, let me just think for a second… Well, there are two main reasons for the current drop in sales, firstly, unseasonably warm weather for this time of year. For instance, this has meant less people are buying our heaters. Secondly, due to this drop-in demand our competitors have undertaken aggressive discounting on their heaters. As you can imagine this has had a negative effect on our sales.”


  1. “I still don’t see why we should start working with your company.”

“I think it is worth mentioning that there are three main reasons why you should work with us. In the first place, we have the best distribution network of all companies in Spain. For example, we move more than 1 million products a day. In the second place, we can offer competitive pricing and scalability for your business. And finally, we have the best customer support team of any company in the sector.”


Final thoughts

So, before I wrap things up I would just like to finish by saying that sequencing and giving examples are powerful communicative tools for improving your communication skills in English.

The best way to practice these skills is by planning to use them in two ways. You can start by incorporating them into your emails. Here you will have time to think and it will be easier to implement sequencing. Secondly, and this is key, plan your next conference call and meeting. Think about the types of questions you might get asked. Prepare the technical information and think about how you can present that information in sequential order.

Finally, try practicing with your colleagues some phrases for buying time. Make a conscious effort to use at least two of them during your next encounter in English.

Well, that is all we have time for today. As always, we hope you have found this episode interesting. Please feel free to share this episode with your friends, family or colleagues and if you do have any questions then don’t hesitate to contact us or leave us a comment. We look forward to having you *next week and till them take care.