BEP 359 – Virtual Teams 1: Video Conference Meetings

Business English BEP 359 - Virtual Teams 1: Video Conference Meetings

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

The business world has seen an explosion in video conferencing in English. With tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, more and more people are working from home. And more and more meetings are happening virtually instead of in-person. Staff meetings, client meetings, project meetings, even social functions are happening online.

This shift in how we work in virtual teams brings many new challenges. And if you’re leading a team, or managing a group, or facilitating a meeting, you need a new set of skills in addition to the ones you already have. You have to manage the group in different ways, and manage the technology effectively.

This all begins with establishing ground rules at the start of a meeting. You’ll also want to provide clear advice on how to use different meeting software. And you might also have to interrupt the meeting to deal with sound or video problems.

Interacting in virtual meetings feels different. It doesn’t flow the same as a face-to-face meeting, so you might find yourself asking people to take turns, or trying to facilitate open discussion.

In today’s dialog, we’ll listen to a weekly check-in meeting at a business consulting firm. The meeting is being led by Heather, a skilled and experienced manager. We’ll also hear Dave, Cathy, and Adam, three members of her team. During the check-in, Heather has to juggle the technology and the people.

Listening Questions

1. What ground rules does Heather establish at the beginning of the meeting?
2. What does Heather do when there is some background noise?
3. How does Heather get an open discussion going at the end of the conversation?

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BEP 338 – Teleconference English: Participating in Online Meetings

Business English Pod 338 - Conference Calls in English: Online Meetings

Welcome back to Business English Pod for today’s lesson on participating in online meetings and teleconference calls in English.

It’s hard to overstate just how important the phone and laptop are to 21st century business. Can you imagine your work life without these tools? Probably not. If you’re like most people, the majority of your English work conversations happen with the help of technology. And this includes meetings. More often than not, people don’t get together in person, but virtually.

But when you can’t see the people in a meeting, it’s suddenly more difficult to get your voice heard. You can’t lean forward or raise your hand to show you want to speak. Instead, you need to find verbal ways of jumping into the conversation. In many cases, this also means identifying yourself so others know who is talking.

In an online meeting in English, you have to be very clear about what you’re talking about. That might mean skipping back to a comment from earlier in the conversation. And you have to be clear who you’re talking to, by directing a comment at a specific individual. And finally, because technology never seems to be perfectly reliable, you might find yourself apologizing for technical difficulties.

In today’s dialog, we’ll hear a manager named Gabi leading a teleconference with salespeople from across the U.S. They’re having an online meeting to plan a sales conference. The participants will use different strategies to participate effectively.

Listening Questions

1. Why does Heather apologize during the meeting?
2. Why does Manuel say “Manuel here in KC” at the start of a comment?
3. When Heather rejoins the conversation, what earlier topic does she want to talk about again?

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BEP 337 – Teleconference English: Running Online Meetings

BEP 337 - Conference Call English: Running Online Meetings

Welcome back to Business English Pod for today’s lesson on teleconferences and running online meetings and conference calls in English.

With today’s technology, people don’t have to be in the same room to have a meeting. We can connect with people around the world by phone or video chat apps like Skype. Amazing, isn’t it? Until it suddenly isn’t amazing, because people don’t know who’s saying what, others are having technical difficulties, and people are leaving and joining the meeting without anyone knowing.

A good conference call requires a good facilitator. Someone to make sure everyone knows who’s in the meeting and gives everyone the chance to speak. That means facilitating introductions at the start of the meeting and encouraging quiet people to share their ideas. After all, it’s pretty easy to hide or be ignored during an online meeting.

Sometimes there are technical problems that can get the meeting off track. At those times, it’s best to ask someone else to try to solve the problem so you can continue running the meeting. And just like any meeting, the facilitator should be encouraging input from everyone, including those who join late. It’s your job to integrate those latecomers into the meeting so they can participate too.

In today’s dialog, we’ll hear an English teleconference led by Gabi. People from across the U.S. are joining the call to plan their company’s upcoming sales conference.

Listening Questions

1. What does Gabi ask people to include in their short self-introduction?
2. What problem does Gabi ask someone to help solve?
3. What does Gabi do when someone joins the meeting late?

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BEP 334 – Project Management English 10: Internal Debrief Meeting

BEP 334 Lesson Module - Project Management English 10: Debrief Meeting

Welcome back to Business English Pod for today’s lesson on project management English for debriefing a project with your team.

Project management can be a messy business. You can plan, but you can’t really predict all the challenges and obstacles that will come up. So on every project, and especially in agile project management, you have to learn and adapt as you go along. And at the end, it’s a good idea to discuss what you’ve learned in a project debrief meeting. If you’re following an agile approach, you might also hold sprint retrospectives, which are like mini-debriefs at the end of each sprint. Whether it’s a project debrief or one of these sprint retrospectives, you’ll cover similar topics.

A project debrief meeting might start out with a review of the project goals. You want to look back and see what you set out to do in the first place. Then you can talk about successes during the project. What did you do well? What would you do again? From there, you can move on to discuss mistakes, and what you’d like to change in the future. And finally, you’ll want to summarize everything that you’ve learned. The whole idea, of course, is that you’ll be able to do things better next time.

In today’s dialog, we’ll hear a project manager named Martin, who’s running a debrief meeting at the end of a software development project. We’ll also hear Jill and Sumita, two of the engineers who’ve worked on the project. Together, the group is discussing the work they’ve done and what they’ve learned.

Listening Questions

1. After discussing the project goals, what does Martin ask about?
2. The discussion of mistakes leads Martin to ask a related question about what topic?
3. What does Martin do at the end of the meeting?

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BEP 327 – Expressing Opinions in English

BEP 327 - Expressing Opinions in Business English

Welcome back to Business English Pod for today’s lesson on expressing opinions in English.

Imagine you’re in a difficult meeting where everyone is disagreeing. Tension is high. And the boss turns to you and says “so what do you think?” In this situation, you need to express your opinion. But giving an opinion isn’t always easy, as you surely know. You’ve got to say it the right way.

But the right way has changed a bit. Ten to fifteen years ago business meetings were often quite formal. But many business English meetings today tend to be more informal. And you can see this change in the different ways of expressing your opinion in English. Sometimes we need to be cautious, while at other times we might want to be more direct or stronger. And there’s still a difference between giving opinions in a group setting and speaking informally.

When we want to be informal, we are often more direct. We say exactly what we think. But when we’re being formal or cautious, we tend to add words and expressions to soften our opinions. We also use words like “might” and “could” instead of “must” and “should.” Overall, we try not to sound too strong or direct.

In today’s dialog, we’ll hear a conversation between Kerry, Nick, Gregory, and Lola. Their company hired a freelance writer to do some work, but the writer hasn’t communicated with them lately. Kerry is asking the group for their opinions about what they should do.

Listening Questions

1. How does Kerry ask Vincent for his opinion near the start of the meeting?
2. What expression does Gregory use to introduce his strong opinion?
3. What is one expression that Lola uses to make her opinion careful or cautious?

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