English for business

Here you can find a wide range of full lesson plans to use in your business English classroom. All of our lessons are designed around functional skills for business learners and can be used to complement your course curriculum, giving students an opportunity to develop their English language and skills in motivating and enjoyable ways. Written by business English language teaching experts from around the world, our lesson plans are easy to use and aim to give your students the skills and confidence they need to enjoy learning English.

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Getting down to business

Meetings 1: Getting down to business

The beginning of a meeting presents a major dilemma: is it better to get straight down to business, or is it important to allow or even encourage small talk? The texts in this lesson present arguments from opposing viewpoints, which may help students to question their own assumptions. The lesson goes on to introduce useful language for both small talk and getting down to business, with practice in the form of role-plays.

Negotiations 1: Building relationships

When we think of negotiations, we tend to focus on the hard negotiating skills connected with bargaining. In fact, many professional negotiators will confirm that the most important skill is effective relationship building.

Socialising 1: Breaking the ice

For many people, the idea of walking into a room full of strangers and trying to socialise with them can be terrifying, especially if you have to use a foreign language. The barriers to ‘breaking the ice’ in a situation like this are just as much psychological as linguistic, which is why this lesson aims to get students thinking about the situation (through a quiz-based discussion and jigsaw reading) as much as speaking and practicing the skill of starting conversations with strangers.

Meetings 2: Getting involved in meetings

Many learners of English worry about their mistakes and allow their insecurities to prevent them from participating in meetings fully. This lesson provides reassurance that such insecurities are very common and normal. It also presents some strategies for increasing their confidence and ability to participate actively in meetings in English. The lesson also warns students that they themselves are responsible for overcoming this barrier to communication. There is also some guidance for learners with the opposite problem: overconfidence and dominance. It is suitable for a wide range of professional contexts, not just businesspeople.

Socialising 2: Keeping conversations going

After struggling to break the ice, the next obstacle is to keep the conversation going beyond the initial conversation. For this reason, this lesson aims to provide students with a bank of around 15 questions that they would feel comfortable asking in a conversation with a new acquaintance. They will also learn more general techniques involving different types of questions and the skill of turn-taking. Finally, they will practise all the skills from the lesson in a role-play game.

Meetings 3: Managing a meeting

This lesson focuses on two important aspects of managing a meeting: setting up the meeting with a series of emails, and keep the meeting under control. Two other important parts of managing a meeting, introducing the meeting and closing the meeting, are covered in lessons 1 and 5.

Negotiations 2: Positions and interests

The key to successful negotiation is preparation and research. This means finding out exactly what you want from the negotiation, and why you want it. This lesson includes a discussion, vocabulary input, a reading activity, useful language for negotiation, team problem solving and a role play in pairs.

Meetings 4: Brainstorming and evaluating

Since its development in the 1950s, brainstorming has become one of the most common techniques used in meetings to generate ideas. However, despite its clear benefits, the technique has its faults and many improvements have been suggested and analysed. This lesson aims to provide practice of brainstorming at the same time as exploring possible improvements. The second half of the lesson focuses on the necessary follow-up to brainstorming: evaluating ideas. This means the lesson covers two of the key language functions of meetings: making suggestions and agreeing/disagreeing.

Negotiations 3: Questioning and clarifying

In a negotiation, it’s very important to know when to speak, when to ask and when to shut up and listen. In this lesson students rank and discuss the stages of negotiation, do a reading activity and look at negotiations vocabulary, examine question types, then finish with a role play to practise clarifying, summarising and responding.

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