Advanced English for business communication. These business English lessons are suitable for CEFR level B2 to C2. The lessons focus on advanced English conversation and communication skills.

BEP 401 – Socializing at Work 2: Deepening the Conversation

BEP 401 LESSON - Socializing with Colleagues 2: Deepening the conversation

Welcome back to Business English Pod for today’s lesson on English for socializing with colleagues. Today we’re going to look at how to build deeper conversations with colleagues you’ve met for the first time.

When we meet a colleague for the first time, the conversation is usually pretty light. We introduce ourselves, make small talk about the weather, sports, or travel. And we try to build a bit of a connection with people. Listen to a conversation like this, and you’ll notice that people keep their comments pretty short and don’t spend too long talking about themselves.

Once you’ve established that initial connection, you have an opportunity to build rapport by deepening the conversation. While you might talk a bit more personally than the initial conversation, it’s still important to keep it light. And you need to continue with the back and forth dance of a skilled conversationalist.

In this deepening conversation, you might make comments about the place you’re in or the location. Another easy way to get someone talking is to ask them a number-based question, like how long they’ve lived in a certain place, for example. Skilled people also know how to turn the conversation back to the other person and find similarities to build rapport. And once you have some rapport, you’ll be able to contradict or disagree with people politely.

In today’s dialog, we’ll rejoin a pair of colleagues – Jen and Ryan – who’ve just met at a company retreat. In our last lesson, we heard their very first conversation. Now they’re getting to know each other a bit better during a company social event at a bowling alley.

Listening Questions

1. What number-based question does Jen ask Ryan to get him talking?
2. What similarity in background or family situation does Ryan point out?
3. What point does Jen make that Ryan disagrees with near the end of the dialog?

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BEP 400 – Socializing with Colleagues 1: Meeting New People

BEP 400 LESSON - English for Socializing with Colleagues 1: Meeting New People

Welcome back to Business English Pod for today’s lesson on English for socializing with your colleagues. In this lesson we’re going to learn how to socialize with colleagues you’re meeting in-person for the first time.

What do you talk about when you meet someone new or see your colleagues socially? Some outgoing people apparently never have to think about it. They’re just natural socializers and feel comfortable with small talk. For most of us though, making small talk with new people or co-workers feels uncomfortable at best, or painful at worst. But it doesn’t have to be.

We call it “small talk” because it’s light, simple, and informal conversation. It’s not serious, deep, or overly formal. Small talk is often about personal matters, but not too personal if it’s at work. We often talk about places or things that are safe and avoid controversial topics. And there’s a flow to small talk that can be tricky to master. Your comments can’t be too short, or you’ll seem rude. But if they’re too long, people will lose interest.

So what can you talk about if you’re meeting colleagues for the first time at say a conference or a company retreat? Well, some key topics include your name and job, of course, but also places and travel. And key strategies include building on other people’s comments, making guesses or inferences, and using unfinished sentences to invite other people to speak. With a handle on these approaches, you can comfortably chat socially with your colleagues.

In today’s dialog, we’ll hear a conversation at a company retreat. People from a large company are gathering for meetings and team-building. We’ll hear Michelle, Jen, and Ryan meet each other for the first time. In their conversation, you’ll hear the topics and strategies that I just mentioned.

Listening Questions

1. What information does Jen give in her short personal introduction?
2. What comment or fact given by Michelle does Jen build on with a further comment?
3. What does Jen ask Ryan about once he has introduced himself?

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BEP 396 – Strategic Decision-Making (2)

BEP 396 LESSON - Strategic Decision-Making 2

Welcome back to Business English Pod for today’s lesson on making strategic decisions. This is the second of a pair of lessons on business strategy.

According to the old saying, good ideas are a dime a dozen. There’s no shortage of possibilities in business. But not all those ideas and possibilities are equal. You have to be able to sort out which ones are the right fit for your business. Given limited time, resources, and capacity, you can’t chase after every shiny new thing that comes along.

This is where strategy comes in. Strategy helps you separate the excellent business opportunities from all the merely good ideas. Strategy allows you to say yes to the right ones, and no to the rest. Without a strategic perspective, companies are doomed to go the way of Blockbuster.

Strategic decision-making involves asking whether your company is the right company to pursue the idea. That means assessing whether it plays to your strengths and fits with your brand. It also means discussing the opportunity costs, or the things you’ll be giving up to pursue the new idea. And any new opportunity has to have long-term potential. It can’t just be a flash in the pan.

In today’s dialog, we’ll rejoin Paolo, Adrian, and Michelle, who work for a solar panel company. The company has traditionally focused on commercial projects. Now they’re discussing whether it’s a good idea – strategically speaking – to get into the residential market.

Listening Questions

1. Why is Adrian concerned about the opinions of residential customers?
2. What does Adrian say is the focus of their company’s brand?
3. What is Michelle’s concern about the idea of providing energy audit services?

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BEP 395 – Strategic Decision-Making (1)

BEP 395 LESSON - Making Strategic Decisions 1

Welcome back to Business English Pod for today’s lesson on strategic decision-making. This is the first of a pair of lessons on business strategy.

Every day, business leaders face tough decisions that involve difficult trade-offs. Should we put our time and money into a new opportunity or build capacity in our current operations? Should we partner with company X or company Y? Should we expand east or west?

These decisions are often informed by an overall corporate strategic plan. But that plan can’t account for all possible futures. Big picture plans don’t make the decisions but rather support decision-making. And when the world seems more uncertain, complex, and volatile than ever, the stakes are high for every decision.

There’s lots to consider when making a strategic decision. For starters, we need to think about how the decision aligns with our main goals. For new opportunities, we need to think about growth potential, costs, and profit margins. And we need to be sure we have the right competitive advantage to pursue the opportunity.

In today’s dialog, we’ll listen to a conversation between Paolo, Adrian, and Michelle. They work for a solar panel company that has focused on commercial projects and corporate clients. Now they’re debating the strategic merits of a possible move into the residential market.

Listening Questions

1. After talking about overall goals, what does Paolo get very excited about?
2. What topic does Adrian have many questions about?
3. At the end of the conversation, why does Paolo believe they will be successful in the residential market?

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BEP 369 – Scenario Planning 3: Discussing Strategic Responses

BEP 369 - Scenario Planning Meetings English 3: Discussing Strategic Responses

Welcome back to Business English Pod for today’s lesson on talking about strategic responses during a scenario planning meeting in English.

It’s impossible to predict the future exactly. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t bother trying. After all, we don’t create business strategies based only on today’s realities. We need to think about what will or might happen and how we will respond to these possible events.

So if we’ve done the work of laying out future scenarios, then how exactly do we plan our strategic responses? To start, you’ll need to choose an overall strategic posture. Are you going to take the lead in your industry? Or will you sit back and respond to things as they happen?

Your strategic posture depends in part on the possible impacts of future events and your choice of strategies. You need to discuss these impacts in order to choose the best course of action out of several possibilities. So this means you’ll be doing a lot of discussing alternative strategies.

In strategic planning, we often say that you can have anything you want, but you can’t have everything you want. For this reason, you will have to ask your team to prioritize, or decide which strategies are most important. And to make those decisions about priorities, you’ll need to discuss hypothetical results of different actions.

In today’s dialog, we’ll rejoin a meeting of executives at a large retail firm. Gwen is based in the US headquarters. She’s discussing strategies with Natasha and Daniel, who head up the firm’s operations in another country. The group is discussing strategic responses to future scenarios they’ve already mapped out.

Listening Questions

1. What strategy does Daniel suggest for their larger urban stores?
2. What does Natasha suggest instead of making big cuts to their operations?
3. What does Gwen say could be the ultimate result of the changes they’re discussing?

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