Business English Conversation - Learn Best Tips and TricksJun 01, 2021
Business English Conversation
In this blog, I’m going to share some great tips about business English conversation questions that both teachers and students can use when practicing their business speaking skills. We’ve included our reasoning behind why each topic is both relevant and important in business, alongside some good conversation starter examples that you can start using immediately.
Basics of Conversation in Business English
The basics of conversation in business English are all about 3 things:
- Practicing active listening
- Acknowledging or respond to the question or statement
- Asking a relevant returning question to keep the conversation going
This is the formula I give my students when they ask me how to make small talk and keep a conversation going.
What is We Speak Business Program
We Speak Business is an English course with live speaking lessons for English learners who want speaking practice with native speakers, professional teachers, and students from around the world.
You have live speaking lessons where you can join and start speaking business English every day. There's a lesson every day and also, you can review all record lessons. There is a lot of conversation practice for each level of English (A2, B1-B2, C1). There is a calendar of scheduled lessons so you can see when lessons are and at what time you can join and start speaking.
In We Speak Business program, you have 24/7 support and also you have student chat where you can speak with other students from all around the world. Before you join our program and start speaking business English, we strongly recommend you sign up for our free seminar with Andrew Smith, where you can learn:
- What goals you need to have to get better results
- How to master business English quickly
- What are the strategies that will help you advance to a higher level
- How you can speak business English more fluently and confidently
- Free resources to help you learn business English
- Exclusive resource to improve your speech
Tips for Beginners
Learning how to start a conversation at work in English is like learning to ride a bike. You have your stabilizers on and you’re trying to work this thing that you know can offer you so much more freedom, but you just keep falling off. But what did your younger self do in this challenging situation? You got back on that bike and tried again, and again, and again until it was as easy as riding a bike!
It’s very much the same in English. You’re using your current level of knowledge to navigate a conversation in a foreign language but you make lots of mistakes (the falling off your bike). But just know that every time you stop trying, the further freedom drifts away.
So enjoy it, make plenty of mistakes, and never stop trying!
Here are 14 examples of interesting and powerful business conversation examples.
Speaking about other businesses is speaking business. Other businesses could be friends, competitors, inspirations, or anything else.
We see and use businesses every day, so it is something we can all relate to in some way or another. Some questions you could ask are:
- What are some successful businesses you know of?
- What is your idea of a “business” and why do people start them?
- What kinds of businesses are successful nowadays?
- Why do you think some kinds are more successful than others?
- Why do you think most businesses fail?
Negotiating With Others
No verb goes with the word “business” better than “negotiation.” Some could say negotiations are business. Others say that everything in life is a “negotiation”, from crossing the street to deciding whether you can eat ice-cream for breakfast or not. It’s a good topic that has students speaking about any and all kinds of negotiations both in and out of work. You could ask questions such as:
- Are you good at negotiating?
- What are some important negotiation skills you should have?
- How many negotiations do you make per day do you think?
- What are some difficult things to negotiate in life?
- Do you think great negotiators are born or made?
Job Preparation and Interviews
Unless you’ve been lucky enough to have gotten your job from a friend or family member, most people have a thing or two to say about preparing for a job and job interviews themselves. We consider them the “first date” of the business world, not to mention an important learning curve. Here are some conversation starters on job preparation and interviews:
- What was the last job interview you attended and what was the outcome?
- Are you generally good at job interviews?
- What was the most difficult or/and nerve-racking job interview you’ve attended? Why?
- What is the most ridiculous question you’ve been asked in a job interview?
- Do you think people will still attend job interviews in the future or will technology take over completely?
Working or Studying Abroad
More and more people are opening themselves up to the possibility of working or studying in a foreign country. And for good reason, as a growing number of employers state that international experience is becoming more important and relevant as the years go on. This is a great topic as it becomes more and more relevant in this day and age. Some great questions to ask, are:
- Have you ever studied or worked abroad?
- Would you ever consider studying or working abroad? Where would you go and why?
- What are some of the big challenges international students and businessmen face, do you think?
- Why do employers value international skills and knowledge so much?
- Would you say that you’re a culturally competent person?
Crises is a business topic that everyone has an opinion about. They can share their thoughts and opinions on the cause and effect of crises, as well as ways we can deal with them and how those approaches can vary depending on the individual dealing with it. Here are some good questions to ask:
- Tell me about a crisis you faced and how you fixed it.
- What is a work-place crisis you had to face? Tell us about it.
- Would you consider yourself to be a good problem-solver?
- Tell us about a crisis that wasn’t your fault but you had to resolve.
Leading and Leaders
Leaders lead. Your students probably look up to numerous leaders both in and outside of business, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that this is a topic with plenty of potential for great discussion. You can talk about what makes a leader and why some leaders really stand out among the rest. Other good questions to ask are:
- Who is your favorite leader and why?
- Name a famous leader in your country and explain why they’re famous.
- How do we become a leader?
- Are leaders made or born?
- Which leaders in the world have made the greatest advancements or the most achievements in your opinion?
Presentations and Public Speeches
Modern technology has contributed to the amount of presentations we give at work. Chances are, your students do (or have) give presentations or public speeches as part of their everyday job. So some good conversation questions to ask them about this broad topic are:
- Why do some people hate giving a presentation?
- Have you ever had to give a presentation in English? What happened and what was it about?
- How might one overcome their nerves before giving a presentation?
- How important is feedback in a presentation?
- How can we engage the audience in a presentation?
Meetings and Conference Calls
One of the most common topics in business is meetings or conference calls. These (alongside presentations) are the functions that dominate people’s business lives. It’s a topic everyone has an opinion on, so here are some great conversation starters to use on the topic of meetings and conference calls:
- What are some different types of meetings you attend at work?
- Do you prefer face to face meetings or conference calls? Explain your position.
- What is the future of meetings?
- What are some problems or challenges people have when participating in a meeting?
- What do you think is the most difficult part of a meeting in English?
Termination and Dismissal
Ever been dumped by a girlfriend or boyfriend? Ever been told you’re just “not what they were looking for”? Termination and dismissal is the “getting dumped” experience of the workplace. It’s something we dread and hope never happens to us. Nevertheless, it is a common and important part of work and business. Here are some good questions to ask about this topic:
- Have you ever been fired before? Do you know anyone who has been fired? What happened?
- How might it feel to be dismissed by your company?
- How can you avoid termination?
- How might you tell a new employer that your contract was terminated by your previous one?
- If we are fired does it mean that we are worthless? Explain your position.
Bosses and Managers
Different from leaders, managers are something that everybody has an opinion on. Hate them or love them, they’re an integral subject to speak about in business and at work. Maybe some of your students are managers themselves. You might ask:
- What do you think about your manager(s) and what about your previous ones?
- What qualities do you think make a good manager?
- How does your manager spend their time on a daily basis?
- How could a manager motivate their employees?
- What are your thoughts on micromanagers?
Small Businesses and Startups
Small businesses and startups are cool. It’s a topic that everyone has an opinion on, especially the younger students who have probably thought about their own startup at some point! Some good questions to ask about this subject are:
- Are startups common in your country?
- What are the biggest challenges small businesses and startups face?
- Is it easy to start a small business in your country/city?
- What are some ideas you have about a startup?
- Why do a lot of small businesses and startups fail, do you think?
Appraisals and Feedback
Appraisals are used to help improve the quality of an employee’s work and performance and are an integral part of the business. To learn more about this common topic, you could ask questions like:
- Do you generally look forward to or dread appraisals at work?
- Have you ever had to give an appraisal?
- How well do you take criticism?
- How important is feedback to you and why?
- What are some countries and cultures where giving feedback might be different?
Retirement plans are such a great topic for business conversation because at some point or another, we’ve probably thought about and pondered the possibilities of how we can spend our time once we are retired and no longer have to work. Some good conversation starters could be:
- Are you looking forward to retirement? Why/why not?
- What are some retirement plans you have?
- What is the age of retirement in your country?
- Should men and women have the same retirement age?
Overtime and Flexible Working
As a teacher, this is hands down one of the most requested business speaking topics we get from students all around the world. Everyone is obsessed with overtime and “work-life balance” since different countries and different types of companies all have their own system. Some good questions to ask about this popular topic are:
- Do you do a lot of overtime? Why/why not?
- Why is doing a lot of overtime bad for us?
- Do you think you have flexible working where you currently are?
- Is work-life balance important to you? Explain your position.
- Should staff always be paid extra for their overtime hours? Defend your position.
So there you have it, an extensive list of topics that will get even the most introverted speaker speaking!
If speaking and conversation are not the main focus of your lesson, you can always use these conversation starters/questions at the beginning of a lesson to break the ice. Or try asking one of them in the water-cooler room. They’re also a great way to get people speaking about themselves more and a way for them to open up about their likes and dislikes.
If you are looking to improve your speaking skills at work, then we have an exclusive free seminar where I teach you how to speak better business in 30 days. Sign up by clicking the button below!