There are a number of different situations where you want to introduce a topic, theme or idea to the person or people you are speaking to. In this article we will explore some of these situations and also look at the most appropriate expressions you can use.
In an informal conversation, you can switch to a new topic by using the expression by the way:
By the way, I saw Latif last week. He’s working at New Century Investments now.
Note that we often use by the way to introduce a difficult or awkward topic or to talk about something that’s really important to us but to make it sound spontaneous or random:
Oh, by the way, you know that book on Strategic Management I Ient you six months ago, well, er, I wonder if you’ve finished it?
(Translation for non-British people: Give me back my book – NOW!)
You can also use the words listen or look, especially if you want to talk about something that’s very important or to make a suggestion or invitation:
Listen, there are going to be some important changes made here and I want you to know about these first.
Look, why don’t you read my report and give me some feedback when you’ve got time?
For more ways of making suggestions or proposals, see this Big Business English article.
More formal situations
In a formal situation, such as a meeting or a presentation, you can introduce a topic by using phrases which signal to other people that you are about to say something interesting or significant. You can also use these expressions when you are doing a presentation:
I’d like to discuss
OK, now I’d like to discuss the next item on our agenda, which is the question of reorganising resources.
Let’s turn to
Right, well we’ve covered all the issues relating to Canada. Let’s turn now to our other North American markets and I’d like to start with Mexico.
(Mexico is in North America, by the way, as my Mexican students in London always pointed out. Never refer to Mexico as a South American country – at least when you’re talking to Mexican colleagues or clients.)
Let’s look at
Let’s look at the customer data for the period between March and July.
In a discussion where people are expressing their opinions you can expand or stretch the topic by using expressions which suggest there are other questions that need to be answered:
We’ve discussed the situation in general, but we haven’t really looked at the underlying factors. I really think we should address those now.
What you’re saying about top female executives is really interesting, but I think we’ve overlooked the fact that there’s still a huge pay gap between men and women in many sectors.
We still need to analyse why there is resistance to change.
We haven’t really addressed the issue of net neutrality.
Sometimes you want to introduce a new aspect of something you have already talked about or considered:
Let’s look at this from the other side
Let’s turn this round and look at it from the point of view of the manufacturers.
Put yourself in Terry’s position. Why would you accept less money for doing the same job?
Big Business English tip: in most business situations (and, in fact, in life generally) native speakers select from a repertoire of existing phrases and sentence patterns, which they customise and adapt according to the situation and the person they’re speaking to. You can can do the same! Spend some time reading and learning the key phrases (highlighted in bold type like this) on this website – and use them in your job and your life!