Executive English: 4 Business English Lesson Plans That Turn Students into Influencers
Building confidence in business is a lifelong gift you can give your students.
Never again will they clam up when coworkers make chit-chat.
No longer will their voices lose power during interviews and meetings.
Taking your ESL students to the next level in their careers is rewarding for not only your students, but for you as well. It gives you, their ever enthusiastic teacher, a great sense of accomplishment.
You will see your business English students blossom, get promoted, develop confidence and take on different professional personas—ones loaded with strength and self-assurance.
Crafting exceptional and informative business English lesson plans is the first step to your students’ success.
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The Cornerstones of Business English Lessons
If this is your very first time developing plans for business English classes, we have you covered here.
One of the most essential aspects in developing ESL business English lesson plans is to get to know your students and find out the information needed to make the lesson practical for them.
If you have a student working in corporate marketing, then a business English lesson pertaining to accounting would be almost useless. Knowing your students, their careers and needs will help you connect with them in an informative, concise way. Your lessons will be useful to them outside of the classroom, building more confidence on their professional paths, whatever those might be.
So, you should know the following about every student:
- Where they work
- What their job responsibilities are
- What they do on a normal day at the office
- When and how are they exposed to English at work (email, meetings, calls, conferences, etc.)
These questions are essential to building a lesson plan your students will enjoy!
Give your students a survey on the first day of class that asks these questions and more like them, then save the completed surveys in your teaching binder or folder.
Take the following lesson plans, combined with the specific information about your students, to create targeted lesson plans students can use in their everyday professional lives and to better their career prospects.
4 Business English Lesson Plans That Promote Rapid Career Growth
Each of these lesson plans is built on the PPP (Presentation, Practice, Production) method of creating plans for language lessons. You can learn more about how this works (and how to create your own from scratch) here!
If you’re after an easy and informative way to introduce the business world to your students, then be sure to check out FluentU.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language lessons.
1. Breaking the Ice
In your students’ business lives, breaking the ice in their native tongue is terrifying enough at times.
Imagine the anxiety and stress having to break the ice in English must induce.
This does not need to be the norm. You can give your students the essential ESL skills they need to feel confident and to succeed. After all, speaking English and speaking (any language) at work is mostly about confidence, and the role of psychology is almost as important as knowing the right words and grammar to use in these situations.
This English lesson plan focuses on starting a conversation, ending a conversation and general role playing for students to hone what they have learned. Let’s take a look at what this lesson will contain and how to present your business English lesson plan material.
This lesson plan’s presentation will consist of useful phrases. You will present to your class the essential knowledge they will need to make ample English small talk in any and all business situations.
An excellent place to start is with the actual phrase “breaking the ice.” What do they think this phrase means? What are some examples of “breaking the ice” with coworkers? You will elicit answers from your students and discuss some ways they think they can “break the ice” in a business situation—or examples of when they have done this in the past.
You will also discuss other important phrases, useful for opening a business conversation in English.
Here are a few example phrases you can use in your lesson:
- Hello, my name is ______, are you enjoying your evening?
- Where are you from?
- What company do you represent?
- How long have you worked here/there?
- Which department do you work in?
- How do you like your job?
- Did you catch the morning lecture?
- Do you mind if I join your group?
After you share and discuss these quick little door openers, you can move on to excellent ways to end a business conversation in English. Many of your students use these in their native language already, so, in my experience, they will catch on fast.
Here are a few conversation closers you will share with your students in the presentation:
- It was nice to talk to you, I must excuse myself.
- Great to meet you, do you have a card? (or, here is my card).
- I must be going, I see my boss signaling toward me.
- Thank you, it was nice to meet you and we should discuss this further later.
- Do you have LinkedIn? Let’s connect there to continue our conversation.
These conversational wrap-ups are great for your students and will eliminate those awkward moments of saying goodbye in business settings.
When your students have listened and understand the phrases, you can move into this practicing stage.
You will have all the phrases you discussed cut into two parts a set for each pair of students. Once your students are paired up, you will distribute the mixed up parts of the phrases and they will work together trying to piece each phrase back together.
This jigsaw of sorts will allow your students to communicate and discuss which section goes with which, further creating the phrase in their mind. For example, one piece of paper will contain “Did you catch… ” and your students will try to match it with ” …the morning lecture?”
Go over which combinations are correct and take questions, then have the students copy down the correct phrases in their notebooks for future reference.
Once all pairs have matched and discussed the jigsaw business English phrases, they are ready for a more practical exercise.
Each student will be given a card you have made with their occupation, company, the lecture they attended and a few family/hobby details. Students will then be paired up. The pairs will change every five minutes and the students will have an opportunity to break the ice, discuss a few topics and end the conversation.
You can float around the room and make sure the conversations are on track, while answering any questions which may arise.
All in all, this is a wonderful business English lesson plan with communication, collaboration, vocabulary and self-expression at the core.
2. Involvement in Meetings
Business meetings are an essential part of business and there are often several meetings held within an average work week.
Participation in business meetings can be another daunting engagement your students may currently try to avoid. Your students need to be prepared and have the business English skills necessary to participate with confidence and increase their chances for recognition, responsibility and promotion.
This business English lesson plan can help them understand the importance of meeting involvement while gaining the ESL skills they need to be successful in all areas of life.
Yup, one extra P is here!
For this business lesson, you will need to craft a well-organized worksheet to help guide your students in the right direction.
The worksheet will contain two parts. Part one will have useful words, phrases and lead-in sentences commonly found in business meetings, while part two of the worksheet will have two different role playing scenarios your students will use in their mock meetings.
Your first objective will be to ask your students about business meetings they have been involved in or their concepts of a normal business meeting.
Many of your students will have had some type of meeting experience, but maybe not in English. You should draw from their previous experiences and allow them to describe it and discuss it in English. Next, you will discuss several business English phrases used in meetings. You can get more great phrases to introduce from this post.
Here are a few great examples to put into your presentation and worksheet:
- Could you please clarify what you mean?
- Can you please speak up a bit, I can’t hear you very well?
- Go on.
- Please continue, I apologize for interrupting.
- What if we… ?
- What would you think about…?
You and your class will discuss these phrases as a class and you will give examples of how each could be used.
In this step of your business English lesson plan, you will organize the class into small groups. The size of each group depends on your class size, of course.
Then you will hand out the worksheet and allow your students to practice using the new business meeting phrases with one another. Give them time to discuss the phrases amongst themselves and ask you any questions they may have.
Once all practice has been enthusiastically carried out, it is time to let the role playing commence!
Part two of the worksheet will be the guide to a specific business meeting scenario. For example, if you want your students to brainstorm a few marketing strategies for a certain product, you will give them a product to discuss in a meeting scenario.
“The meeting will be centered around new marketing strategies for Starbucks coffee.
What can you and your team come up with during this meeting?
Take notes, deliver concise ideas and support each idea with why you think this idea is effective.”
Let your students loose to collaborate and participate in a mock meeting using the new business English phrases discussed in the presentation and practice stages of your lesson plan. This activity will give your students key business meeting phrases, collaboration, English expression of ideas and also allow them to gain more confidence for practical use.
3. Questions in Negotiation Situations
Negotiations are another key aspect of business English.
Many business English students shy away from their native language style of negotiating when it comes down to trying to negotiate in English. Developing confidence is essential in negotiations and, if your students possess this key element, they will have more success at the negotiating table.
This business English lesson plan will give your students the four steps of negotiation and how to embody each step when at the office.
In order to ask the right questions in negotiation, your students must first know the cycle of a negotiation. You will present each step and discuss them as a class, giving examples or answering important questions.
These are the steps of negotiation to cover in your lesson plan:
1. Exploration. This is when two parties explore what each offers, expects and hopes to obtain in the negotiation.
2. Bidding. The bidding stage is when exploration is complete and one of two parties offers and exchange for goods or money.
3. Bargaining. This is an essential stage, when both parties negotiate until a satisfactory term is met.
4. Settling. Settling is essentially the finalized agreement. This is the handshake and signing of contracts stage.
Each stage is important and knowing the right questions to ask in each stage is also very important for your students to understand.
After the stages are discussed and fully understood, you can partner your students up and have them brainstorm questions that would be useful in each stage. For example:
“What warranty or guarantee does your company offer on this particular product?”
This question is a perfect Exploration question used to get the facts and details out on the table. Your students will brainstorm essential questions for each stage of negotiation together. This will create collaboration and develop ideas useful for the practice stage.
You could even craft a worksheet about the above stages, along with useful questions and answers, to help guide your students during the lesson.
With your students still in pairs, they will be given a role-play scenario in which one is the buyer and the other is the seller. Your example role-play will look something like this:
Seller: You are the representative for a groundbreaking MP3 player similar to the iPod. You must convince your buyer to sell your product and not the others.
Buyer: You see potential in the new music product, but you are still uncertain about making the switch in products and need to get more information.
This role playing scenario will follow the four stages of negotiation and your students will use the questions they brainstormed while practicing to have a successful negotiation which may or may not lead to a successful Settling stage agreement.
4. Meeting management
Meeting management in business is another important task your students may need more confidence and ESL skills to perform.
This practical exercise is the next step up from getting involved in a meeting, since your students will now plan and guide a business meeting in class.
This business English lesson plan will allow your students to practice emailing, collaboration and build confidence to guide and keep other members of a meeting on track.
Your students will need the key aspects of email structure to allow them to email colleagues effectively and efficiently to get the meeting time, date and location set.
Before introducing any new material, ask your students to write a short email inviting a colleague to join a meeting. Afterwards, have each student read theirs aloud. You can use their emails as a guide to introduce the proper email language necessary for landing a business meeting.
Here are the essential aspects of a well-developed email for planning a business meeting:
- Project details and objectives
- Q & A about the project
- Brainstorming and collaboration to make project a success
- Important points to note
This short and concise email format will be a great template not only for the lesson, but for them to also use in a more practical business situation. You can also give great examples on the board or in a slideshow to really allow your students to soak up the new information.
Once your students have crafted their own emails without any instruction on proper language, and have then watched your presentation of relevant words, phrases and grammar, they are ready to do some more serious email drafting.
Put them into small groups and let them discuss, collaborate and craft their new business meeting emails to one another in the group.
Each student will write an email using the business meeting email format, addressing it to another student in their group. The receiving student will then write a reply to the email as well.
Your students have crafted emails and invited others to their meetings. Next, they will each take turns running the meeting and keeping everyone on task.
You will give each student a meeting topic and let them present the project details and objectives before opening the floor up for Q & A from other meeting members. For example:
“Introduce a new MP3 player which rivals the iPod to your meeting members. It costs less, holds more music, comes with better headphones and also has an interactive touch screen. Your team must brainstorm new ideas to market this product.”
Each student will have an opportunity to introduce a new product and run the meeting accordingly. They will learn valuable communication skills, writing, leadership skills and also develop more confidence when taking charge in a business meeting scenario.
So, as you can now see, business English lesson plans are excellent to have in your teaching arsenal.
They are perfect for your pre-intermediate to advanced level students who have a career (or are preparing for a future career) in the corporate world.
These lesson plans are simply essential for ESL students looking to make a shift and move into the business sector of employment, seeking promotion within their company or generally wanting to build more confidence when speaking to foreign clients and colleagues.
These business English lessons will give your students the important resources needed to be successful in their career and beyond.
Plan those lessons well, with their needs in mind, and hand them the keys to success!
Stephen Seifert is a writer, editor, professor of English and adventurer. With over 7 years of teaching experience to students worldwide, he enjoys the many aspects of culture and traditions different from his own. Stephen continues his search for writing inspiration, boldly enjoying life to the fullest.
Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)