Workplace English Podcasts

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.

 

BEP 40: Negotiating - Kicking Off and Outlining Your Position

03 Jan 2017

Making successful negotiations is an important part of working in a professional context. It is important to remember that you should define your position clearly before you enter a negotiation. In order to define your position, you need to be sure about the following aspects of your position: 

  • What you are negotiating for, or what you want;
  • What compromises you are willing to make;
  • What you are willing to lose; and
  • What your bottom line is, that is, the least that you are willing to negotiate for.

Remember, a successful negotiation is usually one that starts well. So the initial discussions are critical in terms of how you and your business associates create favorable impressions of each other.

In this podcast lesson, you’re going to listen to two dialogues. In the first dialogue the participants set the scene for the negotiation by both sides outlining their positions. In the second dialogue, the participants clarify each other positions. At no point during these two initial stages does any actual negotiation occur.

 

 

BEP32: Small Talk Before a Business Meeting

22 Dec 2016

“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 95: Speculating About the Present

03 Dec 2016

podcommunication

Introduction

Speculating means guessing. When we make a guess about something, we may have some additional information which helps us to guess more accurately and with some degree of certainty. On the other hand, we may not have this information and in such cases our guess will be more uncertain.

Modal verbs allow us to speculate about past, present and future events. The modal verb you use depends upon how certain or uncertain you are. In this review we shall focus on speculating about present situations. When speculating, you should consider carefully the grammatical structures used. A review of the language focus page is recommended.

In this podcast lesson we shall focus on speculating about present or current situations using modal verbs.

Situation

You’re now going to listen to a conversation between Ben and Jenny. Ben wants to talk to Jenny about her job and her future in the company.

 

BEP 69: Making Future Plans

26 Nov 2016

Introduction

In this podcast lesson, we’re going to listen in on a business meeting where colleagues are making plans for the future.

We’re going to focus on three main areas of language in this lesson. First, we show you how to ask for and give opinions and we’ll point out the difference between opinions and suggestions, which are often confused. Second, we’ll show you how to make simple suggestions using common functional expressions. And finally, we’ll show you how to make plans using the future simple tense ‘will’ and ‘going to.’ ‘Will’ and ‘going to’ are also often confused. They have similar, yet slightly different uses. We’ll make the differences between these two future forms clear.

Situation 1

You're now going to listen to two colleagues, Liz and Sam, having a short business meeting. They are meeting to discuss the details of a new company newsletter. Here they discuss the aim of the newsletter and possible content.

 

BEP 54: Resolving Internal Conflicts

11 Nov 2016

Internal conflicts can arise in the workplace about commonplace issues when employees feel that their expectations are not being met. There may be many reasons for an employee feeling dissatisfied or unhappy, and if such issues are not resolved, they can create a bad atmosphere in the workplace. Communication is an important aspect of expressing and identifying needs, and of resolving them before they grow into larger problems.

Clear communication regarding conflict in the workplace is a two-way process in which both parties express their concerns and pay attention to each other’s points of view to ensure that they communicate efficiently. The key to effective communication in the resolution of conflicts in the workplace is to keep emotions out of the zone of communication as far as possible, and to focus on the practical aspects of the conflict in order to resolve it successfully.

It’s always important to consider the point of view of the other party and to ensure that you communicate to the other person that you are able to appreciate their point of view on the situation.

Keep in mind also that conflict can often be resolved in informal situations such as a conversation during a coffee break, and not necessarily during a meeting.

In this lesson, we will focus on three key areas of conflict resolution: empathizing with the other person’s concerns, clarifying their position, and making practical suggestions to work out the problem.

You will now listen to a dialogue between Jack and his manager Anna, who are making small talk before a business meeting. During the course of the conversation, Jack asks Anna about the status of his application for a transfer to a different city.

 

BEP30: Being Assertive and Standing your Ground

03 Nov 2016

Although it’s not the same in all business cultures, standing up for yourself, or being assertive, is an important communication skill in Western business culture. You’re more likely to get respect from your colleagues and superiors if you stand up for what you believe in, especially if you can back up your argument or request with real facts and figures.

Being overly assertive or inflexible can cause problems, however, so learning how to achieve a balance is important. Each situation you encounter needs careful thought and planning. Don’t rush into situations where you could weaken your relationship with others or weaken your position within the company.

The following two dialogues demonstrate how standing your ground can work—and how it can sometimes backfire.

SITUATION 1

Conflicts at work can occur for many different reasons. Sometimes, more senior members of staff expect newer members of staff to treat them with respect, even when the newer members may be more talented or skilled than they are. This is the basic theme of the first dialogue.

Let’s now listen in as Nancy, a senior stock trader, talks to Jason, a recently-employed junior trader. It seems that Nancy and her colleagues are not very happy with Jason’s attitude towards them.

 
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