67 episodios

Business English Skills 360 podcast lessons provide essential tips and language for communicating in English. Free transcripts and PDF downloads are available on the website: https://www.BusinessEnglishPod.com

Business English Skills 360 www.BusinessEnglishPod.com

    • Aprendizaje de idiomas
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Business English Skills 360 podcast lessons provide essential tips and language for communicating in English. Free transcripts and PDF downloads are available on the website: https://www.BusinessEnglishPod.com

    Skills 360 – Leading Group Decision-Making Meetings (1)

    Skills 360 – Leading Group Decision-Making Meetings (1)

    Free Resources: Lesson Module | Quiz & Vocab | PDF Transcript







    Hello and welcome back to the Skills 360 Podcast . I’m your host, Tim Simmons, and today I want to look at how you can lead a group to a decision.



    In fact, it might be better to say we’re talking about how to lead groups to good decisions. After all, any meeting chairperson can push for a quick decision, or call a vote before matters have been fully discussed. But that’s not the kind of leadership I’m talking about. And that doesn’t necessarily produce good decisions. A good decision is one that people buy into, and one that has a strong rationale behind it. Achieving these two things can’t be done quickly, or forcefully.



    So how can we go about leading a group to a decision? Well, right at the start of the meeting, you need to set the stage for a good discussion, and a good decision.



    Setting the stage involves a couple of important things. Firstly, you need to be very clear about the purpose. If you’re meeting to make a decision, make sure everyone knows it. Also make sure they’re clear on the decision-making process. Does it have to be unanimous? Are you striving for consensus? Will you put it to a vote? These are not issues to be left to the middle of a heated discussion.



    Now, it’s often a good idea to have a bit of a process to a decision-making meeting. And that process typically goes like this: start with information-sharing, then run through or brainstorm different options, then evaluate those options through discussion, and finally make a decision.



    Notice that generating ideas and evaluating ideas are separate steps. That helps prevent people feeling criticized or getting defensive. Of course, people will bounce around a bit. You’ll be evaluating options, and someone will bring up an important piece of information they neglected to mention earlier. That’s fine, and unavoidable. But overall, it’s a good idea to follow this rough process.



    Within this process, leading group decisions is all about facilitating good discussion. And the magic of good facilitation is making everyone in the room feel listened to and emotionally validated. That can seem easy for the outgoing people who like to think out loud and are comfortable jumping into the middle of conversation. But the deep thinkers need more time to articulate their thoughts. For this reason, when you think discussion has stalled on a particular topic, just wait. You’ll be surprised what emerges after a minute of uncomfortable silence.



    Overall, you need to make sure that everyone has had a chance to speak and express themselves. Sometimes this means calling on people directly. Or it might simply mean staying attuned to how those weaker voices attempt to join the discussion. If you’re perceptive, you’ll be able to see when someone wants to say something. Maybe they lean forward and open their mouth slightly. Or they make gestures with their hands. Your job is to help these voices be heard.



    One thing you should be doing throughout the discussion is checking back with the participants for a variety of purposes. For one, you might confirm agreement by saying something like “Okay, is everyone on board with this plan?

    • 7 min
    Skills 360 – Making your Ideas Stick (2)

    Skills 360 – Making your Ideas Stick (2)

    Free Resources: Lesson Module | Quiz & Vocab | PDF Transcript



    Hello and welcome back to the Business English Skills 360 podcast. I'm your host, Tim Simmons, and today I want to look at making your ideas stick.



    Have you ever been in a meeting or listened to a presentation where someone talks about their big idea? And then, forty PowerPoint slides later, you're still not quite sure what they're talking about, or why their idea is so great? Well, there might be a good idea somewhere behind it all, but for some reason it didn't stick.



    On the flip side, there are ideas that you couldn't forget if you wanted to. For whatever reason, people understand them, they remember them, and they get behind them. The ones that stick are the exceptions. Business history is littered with ideas - for products or business models - that never became popular.



    So what's the difference? Why do some ideas stick while others die a sad death? In our last lesson, I talked about keeping it real and keeping it relevant. Those are two important ways of increasing stickiness. Today I want to focus on keeping it simple and keeping it dynamic.



    Let's start with keeping it simple. That deck of 40 PowerPoint slides? There are probably just four or five in there that convey the core of your idea. The rest is fluff. Now, you might be thinking that you need details and explanation to support your idea. That's true. But you need to prioritize those points. Combine them. Support your idea with three smaller ideas, not 39.



    Ideally, you should be able to express your idea in a single sentence. The founder of Uber once described his idea like this: "You push a button and in five minutes a Mercedes picks you up and takes you where you want to go." The company later simplified that even more to "Tap a button, get a ride."



    You'll notice that there's no buzzwords there. There's no talk of "platform" or "users" or even "app." It's just a simple description of a great idea. So use simple sentences and simple words



    Sometimes it helps to use common reference points in your one-sentence idea. For example, a new dating app called Stitch is touted as "Tinder for seniors." Everyone knows Tinder, so Stitch can use that knowledge to make their idea clear.



    Besides keeping it simple, you need to keep it dynamic. What do I mean by dynamic? I mean make it surprising and fresh. And engage multiple senses or emotions. This is especially true for presentations. You can't use the same template for every purpose. Getting your new idea to stick isn't the same as making sure a team of managers understands the sales figures from the first quarter.



    When you're presenting information, you might follow the standard pattern of "tell them what you're going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you've told them." That might work for some purposes, but it's not a really sticky format.



    You've got to get people's attention, then keep it. Start by saying something that's never been said before. Wake your listeners up with a shocking fact, a mystery, or a bit of humor. Appeal not just to their rational brains, but their hearts. And give them a visual that enhances the shock, or the mystery, or the humor.



    Think of music. A good song has changes in volume and intensity. It includes some repetition - just think of the chorus and the melody - but i...

    • 7 min
    Skills 360 – Making your Ideas Stick (1)

    Skills 360 – Making your Ideas Stick (1)

    Free Resources: Lesson Module | Quiz & Vocab | PDF Transcript



    Hello and welcome back to the Business English Skills 360 podcast. I'm your host, Tim Simmons, and today I want to look at how you can make your ideas stick.



    Just the other day one of my co-workers came to me and said: "I've got a killer idea for a new app." Then he went on to say that… well, I don't remember exactly what he said. There was something about productivity and something about scheduling… I think.



    Let's face it: ideas are a dime a dozen. And just having a great idea doesn't mean a thing if you can't get other people to believe in it. And before you can get anyone to believe in it, you need to help them remember it. You need to make it stick.



    So today I want to share a couple of tips for helping your ideas stick. It doesn't matter if you're giving a presentation, proposing something in a meeting, or pitching to investors. The secrets to stickiness are the same.



    The first thing you need to do is to keep it real. For one thing, that means avoiding abstract nouns. Think about the word "solution." It means zip if you don't tell people exactly what the problem is and how you're solving it. And don't try to awe people with the word "innovation." Impress them by describing what it is that's actually innovative about your idea. And for Pete's sake don't say that your tool will "enhance predictive capabilities" when you can say it will help you "predict the future better."



    That last example shows you something important: verbs have much more power and clarity than nouns. I mean, why say that the new regulations "led to the destruction of" the industry, when you can just say they "destroyed" the industry? Why say "make a decision" when you can just say "decide?" That may seem like a small difference, but when you start piling on all those abstract or academic words, people's eyes will glaze over. They'll stop listening. And your idea will have no chance of sticking.



    To test whether you're keeping it real, ask yourself: am I talking about people? Or about ideas? People are real. The things they do are real. And most people are interested in themselves and other people. For example, think about this statement: "The executive announcement of spending cuts provoked a strongly negative reaction." Where are the people in that statement? It's much stickier to say, "When the CEO announced spending cuts, people reacted poorly." Better yet, be more specific and say "people complained angrily." Can you feel the difference?



    There's one more part of keeping it real that I want to tell you about. Remember back at the start of this lesson, when I talked about my co-worker with the forgettable mobile app idea? Yes, well, it turns out that stories help ideas stick. Telling stories helps us focus on people, rather than ideas. It forces us into concrete reality, and away from that abstract hocus-pocus of "innovation," "efficiency," and "optimization." Stories are an amazing way to transmit information. People have been doing it for thousands of years. And as I explained in a previous lesson, stories help you connect with your listeners.



    Now, besides keeping it real, I've got another related bit of advice for you: keep it relevant. Last week on a business trip I was hanging out in the lobby of my hotel. And I got to talking with a guy from England.

    • 9 min
    Skills 360 – Using English Metaphors (2)

    Skills 360 – Using English Metaphors (2)

    Free Resources: Lesson Module | Quiz & Vocab | PDF Transcript



    Hello and welcome back to Business English Skills 360 podcast. I’m your host Tim Simmons, and today I want to give you some more tips for using metaphors in English.



    If you tuned in last time, you’ll remember that a metaphor is when you compare something you’re talking about to another idea. A classic example of a metaphor is “time is money.” But, if you really want to use metaphors to take your English to the next level, you’ll need to learn to think outside the box.



    Whoa, wait a second. What did I just say? “Take it to the next level” and “think outside the box?” Well, those expressions are idioms, which is one kind of metaphor. But haven’t you heard those expressions a bit too much? I sure have. And that’s why I suggest avoiding these kinds of extremely common metaphors, or clichés. A cliché is an expression that is used so much that people don’t really think about its meaning any more. And if you use clichés, you won’t make a good impression on people.



    So don’t just memorize extremely common metaphors. Instead, make new ones. But about what? Well, in business we cook up metaphors from many interesting topics. Take sports, for example, which are easy to compare with business. This is why you might talk about “performance,” or “scoring a goal,” or “coaching.” And that’s why we use expressions like “drop the ball” and “down to the wire” and “slam dunk.”



    Sports aren’t the only source of metaphors. Other great topics are food, war, games, gardening, and mechanics. But really, the list of topics is endless. The important thing is that you use metaphors that connect with your audience and your purpose.



    So which topic might be useful if you’re trying to motivate your team before taking another company to court? Well, then you might pull out the war metaphors and talk about “doing battle” and “sharpening your swords” and “attacking the enemy.” Or if you’re giving a presentation to engineers about teamwork, you might draw on mechanics. For example, you might talk about “interlocking gears” and “a well-oiled machine.”



    These kinds of metaphors are very direct. We are saying that one thing is another thing. But sometimes we rely on longer comparisons between two things to show how they’re parallel. For example, I’ll always remember when I heard a speaker compare a business to a plant. To paraphrase, he said something like “a business is like a plant, in that it’s either growing or dying. There’s nothing in between.” He went on to explain how helping a plant grow and taking care of a business are very similar. It stuck with me because it really made sense. He could have expressed all the same ideas about business without talking about plants. But the comparison really helped explain the ideas.



    We call this kind of comparison an analogy. It’s similar to a metaphor, but it’s less direct. We compare two things and show how they’re similar in many different ways. Analogy helps people understand and remember. It gives them a way to think about something that makes sense to them.



    One great example of analogy comes from the world of computers. It’s an analogy that helped transform computers from big mysterious machines to everyday tools for the home and office....

    • 8 min
    Skills 360 – Using English Metaphors (1)

    Skills 360 – Using English Metaphors (1)

    Free Resources: Lesson Module | Quiz & Vocab | PDF Transcript



    Hello and welcome back to the Business English Skills 360 podcast. I’m your host Tim Simmons, and today I want to give you some tips for using metaphors to make your speech more powerful.



    Have you ever heard of Alfred Sloan? He was the head of General Motors during the Great Depression. He once gave a speech where he talked about GM at the time as a “great ship in a fierce storm.” From that description, you get a sense of danger, of a big boat getting tossed around in the unpredictable ocean waves. And you can imagine that everyone on that ship has to work hard to get through the storm which, like all storms, would one day end.



    Alfred Sloan was using a metaphor. GM isn’t really a ship. And the economy isn’t really an ocean. He could have talked about how the company needed to improve its balance sheet during a time of economic uncertainty. But a ship in a storm is a much more memorable and impactful way of describing the situation. And if you read or listen to speeches by great leaders, you’ll see they are full of interesting comparisons like this.



    So what exactly is a metaphor? Well, a metaphor is when you compare something you’re talking about to another idea, for example: “time is money.” This comparison helps us understand, or see something from a new perspective. Just as “time is money” helps us see time as very valuable. Or, as Alfred Sloan said, GM is like a ship. And the Great Depression is a storm. And metaphors aren’t reserved just for big speeches by famous people. Metaphors are everywhere in our language.



    One of the most common kinds of metaphor we use are idioms. For example, we often say “climb the corporate ladder” to mean try to attain higher positions in a company. But saying “climb the corporate ladder” is more evocative. That is, it has more emotional power.



    When you’re tired, you can say you’re “running on empty,” like a car with no fuel. When you don’t have all the right information, you can say you’re “missing a piece of the puzzle.” And when you’re waiting for someone else to make a decision, you can say “the ball in his court.” You may have learned some of these idioms, but you may not have known they’re all a kind of metaphor.



    To harness the power of metaphors, you don’t have to just learn some idioms. You can create your own metaphors to make what you say more impactful. You might be making a speech, or giving a presentation. Or you might be negotiating, selling something, or trying to convince your colleagues to support your idea. In all these situations, metaphors can be effective.



    What exactly do I mean by “effective?” Well, for starters, metaphors can help to simplify a complex idea. Think again of the idea of a ship in a fierce storm. There are a lot of complex ideas behind the situation of a large company in an economic recession. But the metaphor helps people understand quickly and simply.



    Metaphors can also appeal to our emotions and imagination. Consider Tropicana, the company that makes orange juice. They could have described the health benefits of their juice and hope that people make a logical decision to buy their product. But instead, they called their orange juice “your daily ray of sunshine.” That has emotional power. Who wouldn’t want a ray of sunshine in the morning?



    The Tropicana example is a good one,

    • 7 min
    Skills 360 – Getting the Most out of a Conference (2)

    Skills 360 – Getting the Most out of a Conference (2)

    Free Resources: Lesson Module | Quiz & Vocab | PDF Transcript



    Hello and welcome back to the Business English Skills 360 podcast. I’m your host Tim Simmons, and today I want to give you some more tips for getting the most out of a conference.



    Some people see conferences as a way to get away from the office for a few days and take a break. And sure, it’s helpful to step back from the daily grind and learn something, or reflect on your work and business. But if you really want to get the most out of a conference, you should look at it as more than just a learning opportunity. I mean, if you’ve got hundreds or even thousands of people in one place looking to connect with others, it’s a golden opportunity for networking.



    In our last lesson, I talked about conference preparation and gave you a list of things you should do during the conference. Today I want to give you some tips for after the conference, and share some “don’ts,” or things to avoid, during the conference.



    My first tip is to not attend every session. Don’t feel like you’re missing out if you linger in the lobby or the hallways while others are in a workshop. Some of the best conversations happen outside the meeting rooms, when you’ve got some space and quiet time for really good discussion.



    And this ties in with another thing to avoid: rushing. Any time you’re in a hurry, you’re closed to networking. So if you’re having a great conversation with a potential customer and you realize the presentation on “Soft Selling” is about to start, don’t dash off. Skip the presentation and focus on the opportunity at hand.



    Now, I realize that conferences can be intimidating. We’ve all had that experience of walking into lunch on the first day and scanning the crowd for someone we know. Like a colleague or coworker. Someone safe and familiar. But safe and familiar is why we go home at night, not why we attend conferences. So don’t glom on to one person or your colleagues. That’s a waste. You need to spread yourself around. So at lunchtime, don’t look for familiar people. And don’t park yourself with a fellow wallflower. Instead, look for interesting, outgoing, or influential people. Ask them if you can join them, and get involved in the conversation.



    After all, getting involved is what it’s all about. You need to appear “open for business,” so to speak. And to do that, there are a couple of other things you should avoid. For one, don’t spend too much time on your phone checking email or calling the office to see if the photocopier has been fixed yet. That’s not why you’re there. I realize it’s tempting to pull out your mobile any time you have a spare minute. But here’s a challenge for you: every time you want to look at your phone, talk to someone new instead.



    This is not to say that your phone is useless. In fact, I’m about to tell you how you should use it. But first, here’s another don’t: don’t focus too much on business cards. I know that sometimes you judge your networking success by how many cards you got. But quality is more important than quantity. Besides, you can easily lose business cards. And then what do you have besides the memory of a face? So, if you’ve made a good connection, ask instead for the person’s mobile number or email and plug it directly into your phone. You might be thinking that you like to be able to write notes on the back of business cards.

    • 7 min

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