Workplace English Podcasts

BEP32: Small Talk Before a Business Meeting

07 Aug 2017

“Results depend on relationships. That’s what Don Petersen says. He is the ex-CEO of America’s Ford Motor Company. You will find that being able to make small talk—especially before a business meeting—will help build good relationships. And, good business relationships will help you get the results you want. Think of small talk as an engraved business card: small but impressive. Impressive, that is, if you do it well.

SITUATION 1

Listen now to small talk used by Dan, who is about to make a presentation featuring his leadership training firm. He especially wants to win approval from Susan Lynch, head of employee relations for a multinational firm. Pay attention to Dan’s manner and manners as well.

 

BEP 82: Small Talk - Discussing a Colleague

09 Jul 2017

small_talk

Introduction

Small talk is essential in business. Whether you’re speaking to a colleague, a client or a customer, a little social chat will help to strengthen the relationship you have with them.

Small talk doesn’t need to be limited to informal situations such as over lunch or dinner. It is most effectively used when meeting someone for the first time, before and after formal meetings and even at the start of business telephone conversations. In these situations, the main purpose of the small talk is to break the ice and help create a more relaxed atmosphere.

In this podcast lesson, you’re going to hear a rather informal conversation between colleagues. The conversation never gets too informal, like it would between close friends; however, the language used is quite colloquial at times. Later on, we’ll look at some of the more informal language and show you how to use it in different contexts.

Situation 

Richard Bent and Cristine Keen are work colleagues. They are having lunch near their office and are discussing the situation related to the new accountant in their department.

 

BEP 74: Giving and Receiving Verbal Instructions

18 Jun 2017

podcommunication

Introduction

The ability to understand verbal instructions is a necessary requirement in most workplaces across all industries. Giving verbal instructions is often the quickest and most effective way to communicate ideas. Having said this, verbal communication can often leave room for error and confusion.

In this podcast lesson, we’re going to look at a number of basic techniques to help you to deliver spoken instructions in a manner which will help minimise any error and confusion.

Situation

Kevin, the Head Receptionist at Biometrics, is training a new receptionist, Jenny, on her first day at work. Listen in and decide when Jenny doesn’t understand, when she clarifies, i.e. checks what Kevin means, and when she understands. Consider what techniques Kevin uses to ensure his instructions are given clearly and concisely.

 

BEP 48: Sales - Pitching New Offers

06 Jun 2017

Introduction

When you call a customer on the telephone to makes a sales pitch, you are essentially cold calling, and the customer is not likely to know what your call is about until you explain why you are calling. It is important to explain and ask for the customer’s permission to continue with your pitch, but also to present the information in such a way that the customer agrees to hear you out. In this podcast lesson, we will look at a few ways to present your sales pitch in a manner that will help you to keep the customer’s attention and get a positive response.

Remember that the key to a successful sales pitch is to be persuasive in a way that does not sound aggressive. To do this, you should ensure that your tone is pleasant and conversational, but also informative. Asking relevant questions and paying attention to what the customer says can help you while making your sales pitch.

Situation

You’re now going to listen to a dialogue between Michael, a customer service executive at an electronics store, and Sarah, a customer who has purchased a computer from the store. Michael is calling Sarah to pitch a new offer for an extended warranty on her purchase.

 

BEP 62: Handling Serious Disagreement

10 May 2017

 Internal disputes may arise in your workplace when two people are hostile toward each other’s opinions, or if they cannot work out a disagreement. When handling a serious disagreement between two people, you should ensure that you listen to each person’s point of view, and try to arrive at a consensus that will be agreeable to both of them. You can do this by using sympathetic language that shows them both that you are respectful of their points of view. Try to find a consensus of opinion that is agreeable to both parties, and which shows them how to work out a compromise. Stress the fact that it is important to work out the dispute in a harmonious way so that their work does not suffer.

 

  SITUATION 1

You will now listen to a conversation in which James, a vice-president at an investment consultancy, tries to work out a dispute between Jack and Eliza, two project managers.

 

 

BEP 65: Discussing Someone's Performance

08 May 2017

 

Discussing someone’s performance refers to analysing their strengths and weaknesses. Managers often have to discuss the performance of those in their team. This is usually because a manager’s appraisal goes on an employee’s record and also helps to identify if an employee is ready for a promotion. When discussing someone’s performance, remember to keep the conversation professional. Focus on the person’s work-related skills, and not on his or her personal details or habits. Give reasons and examples to support your opinions, so that others know that you are not biased.

You may also have to discuss someone’s performance face-to-face with that person. In such a situation, you need to be a little more tactful and polite when talking about their skills, especially their weaknesses and the areas in which they need to improve. Even if you have something negative to say, you can put it across in positive terms. The second dialogue in today’s lesson will show you how you can do that.

Situation 1

You will now listen to a conversation between two managers, Jennifer and Andrew, who are discussing the performance of their team members Carolyn and Ling. They need to make a decision on which one to promote.

 

BEP 86: Telephone Communication Problems Part 2: An Unclear Message

03 Apr 2017

telephoning

Introduction

We’ve become creatures of telephone habits. Having made and received thousands of telephone calls in our lifetimes, it is easy to assume that we have reasonable telephone skills. Most people do not even think there are any special challenges of telephone communication.

When all parts of the communications process work effectively together, telephone communication is clear and useful. Sometimes, however, even a well-practiced communication process can go wrong. Problems can occur in any of the following four parts of sending a message:

  • Trouble sending: The sender doesn't speak clearly, speaks in a heavy accent or speaks too quickly. What happens to the message? Will it be received?
  • Trouble with the message content: The message is confusing, disorganized or irrational. Is it likely that the receiver will understand what is being communicated?
  • Trouble with the channel: There is background noise or a bad line. Will the message be transmitted effectively? Will it be received?
  • Trouble with the receiver: The receiver is not listening closely, has fallen asleep or is distracted. Will the message be understood?

In this podcast lesson, we’re going to focus on trouble with the message content, that is, the message is unclear and needs clarifying.

Situation

You’re now going to listen to Beatrice from Sterling Associates answer a call from Bill Rock, a colleague working in an overseas office of the company.

 

BEP 88: Accepting and Refusing Business Invitations

25 Mar 2017

podcommunication

Introduction

Accepting an invitation is easy. Refusing an invitation is more difficult. In business situations, it’s particularly important to know how to refuse an invitation politely so you don’t cause offence to the person who is inviting you.

In this podcast lesson you’re going to learn how to make, accept and refuse invitations in a business setting.

Situation

You’re now going to listen to a short dialogue. Mary and David have just met each other at a business conference. During the conversation, Mary invites David to dinner.

 

BEP 85: Telephone Communication Problems Part 1 - A Bad Line

16 Mar 2017

telephoning

Introduction

We’ve become creatures of telephone habits. Having made and received thousands of telephone calls in our lifetimes, it is easy to assume that we have reasonable telephone skills. Most people do not even think there are any special challenges of telephone communication.

When all parts of the communications process work effectively together, telephone communication is clear and useful. Sometimes, however, even a well-practiced communication process can go wrong. Problems can occur in any of the following four parts of sending a message:

  • Trouble sending: The sender doesn't speak clearly, speaks in a heavy accent or speaks too quickly. What happens to the message? Will it be received?
  • Trouble with the message content: The message is confusing, disorganized or irrational. Is it likely that the receiver will understand what is being communicated?
  • Trouble with the channel: There is background noise or a bad line. Will the message be transmitted effectively? Will it be received?
  • Trouble with the receiver: The receiver is not listening closely, has fallen asleep or is distracted. Will the message be understood?

In this podcast lesson, we’re going to focus on trouble with the channel, where because of background noise or a temporary loss of signal, the message is sometimes lost or cannot be heard clearly.

Situation

You’re now going to listen to Beatrice, from Sterling Associates, take a call from a client, Dan Tomkins. Dan wants Beatrice to reschedule a meeting for him.

 

BEP 78: Introducing Yourself at Work

10 Mar 2017

podcommunication

Introduction

Introducing yourself to a stranger for the first time can be difficult for some people. For outgoing people, starting a conversation with someone they have never met is usually easy. On the other hand, most people find it hard.

When you introduce yourself to someone at work for the first time, you have an advantage. You both work for the same company. You have something in common: something to talk about! And you’ve probably already seen each other around the place before.

There are a number of ways of making a self introduction. It usually needs to be on a case by case basis; however, here’s some basic advice to get someone’s attention and finally make an acquaintance.

• The direct approach works for most people who have the confidence to do so. Simply go up to the person whom you want to introduce yourself to. Say “hello,” offer a handshake and tell them your name. If, however, it is a group you are approaching, politely ask if you can join them.

• Giving a compliment is also a good tactic. Remember to give a compliment that you really mean. Sincerity is the key here. You can start the conversation with a statement like, “I like your shirt” or “You have a nice watch”. The other party can reply with a, “Thank you”. From that point, be prepared to talk about the object you are complimenting on to prove that you really admire it. After a minute or two, or when appropriate, start introducing yourself.

• Make a comment to someone about the situation you’re in or the environment. Once they’ve responded, introduce yourself.

• If the person you want to introduce yourself to is speaking to someone you already know, then take it as a chance to get acquainted. Walk towards them and say hello to your friend or the person you knew. An introduction can then follow naturally.

• If you want to introduce yourself to a person you only know by name, you can start a conversation by confirming their name - “Mr Reynolds?” Once you get their attention, continue by stating how you know about them and then introduce yourself.

With the right introduction, a good attitude, and confidence, you can find yourself creating a good impression and friendly relationships.

Situation 1

Peter Harvey and Sarah Rogers, who both work for the same multinational company in London, meet for the first time in the staff restaurant. Let’s hear how Peter first makes contact and then introduces himself to Sarah.

 

BEP 63: Business Presentations - Referring to Visual Aids

21 Feb 2017

It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and this is certainly true of business presentations in which a graph, table or image can present a clear picture of what you want to say. Many people find it easier to understand information when it is presented visually, and visual aids are essential to most business presentations.

To create an effective presentation, it is important to strike the right balance between text and graphics. Text should be brief, and organised into bullet points for easier reading. You should use a combination of different kinds of graphics, such as images, graphs and pie diagrams, to keep your audience’s attention.

Every image or graph should be relevant to your topic. Never use an image just to brighten up your presentation.

You should also familiarise yourself with the operating system and projector well before your presentation, so that you do not have any technical difficulties during your presentation.

In this lesson, we will listen to two presentations where the speakers use visual aids to enhance the effect of what they are saying.

Situation 1

You will now listen to a presentation on product training made by Susan, who works as a trainer at an insurance company. Susan makes use of several visual aids during her talk on training needs assessments for a new product that is to be launched by her company.

 

BEP 29: Cold Calling: Arranging Meetings

13 Feb 2017

Introduction

There are a number of ways in which cold calls can be effective. One is for the selling organization to start with a high quality, up-to-date database consisting of qualified potential clients that have an interest in the product being sold. Another is to use cold calls as a "step in the door". Rather than using the call to try to close a sale, it is used as the initial contact in a long-term relationship. This has the effect of removing the sales pressure from calls and making the goal of the call to build trust.

Situation

Salesman Kyle Brant calls two different companies for the first time to try to set up a sales meeting. Notice how he introduces himself. Notice also how he find his “way in,” his connection to make what he’s selling more appealing to the potential customer.

 

BEP 50: Business Meetings - Discussing Business Proposals

03 Feb 2017

A meeting to discuss a business proposal is usually an integral part of creating a business plan. While it is common for the proposal to be written by one person, it is also common for team members or prospective clients to be available during such meetings to give their opinions and input on what they feel should be changed or included. The person who has written the proposal should be prepared to answer questions on the content and should be open to the revisions that may be necessary.

The functional language involved in such a discussion focuses around two key areas. Firstly, we often find the conditional tense being used in such discussions, since the proposal has not been accepted yet. Secondly, auxiliary and modal verbs (also known as helping verbs) are commonly used along with words and phrases indicating personal opinions and suggestions as the speakers speculate about the future.  

An unsolicited proposal is one that is created by a small company or charitable organization that wants to collaborate with a larger firm to increase the scale of its activities, and that approaches larger firms independently with its proposed course of business.

In this dialogue, you will hear a conversation that two members of a non-governmental organization (NGO) have with a prospective charitable donor. Joyce has written the proposal and is discussing the details with her colleague, Nicholas, and the prospective donor, Michelle.

Before moving on to the listening exercise, read the outline of the proposal below.

 

BEP 59: Giving a Verbal Report

23 Jan 2017

Giving a verbal report is often an urgent task that comes up when your manager cannot wait for a written report. A verbal report may need to be prepared quickly since it is usually related to issues that are urgent and need to be resolved as soon as possible.

In a verbal report, keep in mind that the results or findings are usually presented first, and suggestions and recommendations are given later. A verbal report is less formal than a presentation, and the listener may often interrupt you to ask for clarifications or for your opinion or suggestions.

A verbal report is usually a combination of a mini-presentation and a question and answer session. You should be sure of your facts and be prepared to answer questions clearly and informatively. You should also be able to offer solutions and recommendations for the issue you’re reporting on.

Situation 1

You will now listen to a dialogue between Jason, a supervising executive at an engineering site, and his manager Liz. Liz has asked Jason to give her a verbal report on a complaint made by a client.

 

BEP 81: Telephoning - Making a Cancellation

18 Jan 2017

telephoning

Introduction

Often in business things don’t go according to plan. Sales fall, meetings are rescheduled, budgets are cut, orders are cancelled, flights are delayed. So just how do we inform our colleagues or customers about bad news? How should we apologise and how should we react to an apology?

In this podcast lesson, we’re going to use a telephone conversation between a buyer and a supplier to illustrate some of the common language used when giving and reacting to bad news.

Situation 

Andrea Suchy, a clothes buyer for a large shop in London, is calling one of her suppliers, Prebdel Manufacturing in Hong Kong, to cancel a recently placed order.

Because the company has recently declared a profit warning, the purchasing department is being required to reduce its purchases by 25%. However, the order with Prebdel was placed one week before this and it might be too late to cancel.

You’re now going to listen to Andrea as she tries to cancel her order without damaging her business relationship with Prebdel.

 
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