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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BEP 368 – Scenario Planning 2: Discussing Possible Scenarios

BEP368 - Planning Meeting English 2 - Discussing Scenarios

Welcome back to Business English Pod for today’s lesson on discussing future scenarios in a planning meeting in English.

Business planning doesn’t look like it used to. The world today holds so many surprises and so much uncertainty. There is constant and unrelenting change, and sometimes it feels like we’re just trying to keep up.

In these circumstances, it’s a good idea to map out possible future scenarios. This type of exercise is often built on several key uncertainties that you’ve already identified. Mapping out the different scenarios is necessary before you can begin to develop strategies to respond to these possible future situations.

One thing you’ll do when you discuss scenarios is make predictions. In some cases, you’ll be able to make predictions with a great degree of certainty. In others, you’ll have to check whether you’re more certain than you should be. In particular, you might be affected by availability bias, where the available information leads you to make predictions with too much certainty.

Because we can’t always be certain, we find ourselves discussing the likelihood of certain events, or how probably they are. It can be tempting at this point to begin evaluating possible strategies, but it’s best to resist this and focus on the scenarios first. And throughout, you should watch out for assumptions that might cloud your thinking, or make you think unclearly.

In today’s dialog, we’ll rejoin a discussion at a large retail firm. Natasha and Daniel are executives discussing their country’s situation with Gwen, who is based in the U.S. The group is mapping out scenarios based on the situation they’ve already discussed.

Listening Questions

1. What does Natasha predict with certainty?
2. According to Daniel, how likely is it that sales will go down 30%?
3. What assumption does Natasha call Daniel out on?

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BEP 367 – Scenario Planning 1: Exploring the Situation

BEP 367 - Scenario Planning Meetings 1: Exploring the Situation

Welcome back to Business English Pod for today’s lesson on scenario planning meetings.

How do we plan for a future that’s so uncertain? On a global scale, we’re faced with a pandemic, climate change, social unrest, and political instability. On a local level, your business could be dealing with another set of challenges. So how can we plan for what might happen in the future?

One of the approaches that organizations take in uncertain times is scenario planning. In a nutshell, scenario planning involves discussing different possible future situations, and planning for each possibility. This kind of planning typically starts with exploring the situation.

Exploring the situation often involves a lot of speculation, as you discuss what might happen in the future. This helps you identify the key uncertainties you’re contending with. Of course, circumstances differ from place to place, so you may find yourself explaining contextual differences when you plan for different scenarios.

These discussions can be quite complex, so it’s often a good idea to ask for a summary of the issues. One more very important aspect of scenario planning is using evidence to guide the discussion. In some cases, you will need to use this evidence to counter other people’s optimism about the future.

In today’s dialog, we’ll listen to a scenario planning discussion in a large retail firm. Gwen is in a leadership position in the company’s US headquarters. She’s talking with Natasha and Daniel, two executives based in another country. The company is faced with the enormous challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic presents. And in this discussion, they’re exploring the entire situation.

Listening Questions

1. At the start of the conversation, what government relief program does Natasha speculate about?
2. What does Daniel say is one of the biggest uncertainties they’re facing?
3. What possible change does Daniel believe might happen but Natasha doesn’t?

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BEP 361 – Virtual Teams 3: Video Conference with Clients

BEP 361 - Business English Video Conference Meetings 3

Welcome back to Business English Pod for today’s lesson on English for video conference meetings with clients.

In the past, meeting with clients often meant you had to travel. That might mean across town, or it might mean across the country or overseas. But with modern video conferencing tools, you can now meet with your clients without ever leaving your office.

But running a virtual meeting in English doesn’t look exactly the same as an in-person meeting. While you use a lot of the same skills, those skills will sound a bit different in action. And there are some new skills you’ll need to develop, as you have to manage not only a group of people, but also the technology.

At the start of a meeting, you’ll probably get things going with a semi-formal welcome, before giving a rough outline for the meeting. At some point, you’ll have to ask for people’s patience while you take care of a technical issue, like sharing your screen or admitting new people to the meeting room.

One big difference between in-person and virtual meetings is how you deal with questions. Yes, you’ll have to call on people that you can see have a question, but you may also need to deal with questions or comments that come through the chat function.

In today’s dialog, we’ll listen to a meeting being run by Adam and Cathy, two business consultants. They’re talking with a group of managers, including Sophie and Fareed, at Healthwise, a chain of health food stores that is trying to improve their online sales. You will hear Adam and Cathy demonstrate the skills you need to run a client meeting by video conference.

Listening Questions

1. What is the rough outline for the meeting that Adam provides?
2. Adam asks for his clients’ patience while he deals with what technical matter?
3. How does Adam know that Sophie has a question?

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BEP 360 – Virtual Teams 2: Managing Remotely

BEP 360 - Video Conference English Meetings

Welcome back to Business English Pod for today’s lesson on managing remotely by video conference in English.

Managers today have to juggle lots of different communication channels, even more so with the rise of remote teams and virtual meetings. It’s not all face-to-face anymore, with so many teams working remotely and videoconferencing with apps like Zoom becoming a daily occurrence. And this means managers need a new set of approaches and skills to manage their teams. One situation where we see these skills come into play is in virtual meetings and one-on-one chats with your team members.

When you’re holding a video conference in English with a team member, you’ll typically start with a bit of small talk before switching to the main topic. With remote work, people may have more anxiety, and as a manager part of your job is to relieve that anxiety. Emotional leadership and building trust may also require you to show vulnerability.

At the same time, supporting your staff will involve outlining very clearly your expectations about communication. After all, we have so many more options in today’s business world. For example, if you’re using Zoom or another video conferencing tool, you’ll find yourself sending resources through the chat function, rather than handing someone a document or sending a link through email. And as people adapt to new ways of communicating, you will have to give solid technical or logistical advice.

In today’s dialog, we’ll listen to a conversation between Heather, a manager in a consulting firm, and her employee Adam. Adam is a junior consultant preparing for a meeting with an important client. Heather is demonstrating her skills in managing her team remotely.

Listening Questions

1. What does Heather say to show her vulnerability?
2. What expectations does Heather emphasize about communicating with clients?
3. What bit of technical advice does Heather give Adam?

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