Workplace English Podcasts

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 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 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.

 

 

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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