Business Talk

ESL Business Talk: Small Talk

In this post, the discussion will be about small talk.

  • When do you do small talk?
  • When do you avoid small talk?
  • How do you feel about small talk?
  • How much time do you spend doing small talks?
  • Do you think small talk is important? Why (not)?
  • Do you use the same questions with everyone?
  • What is your challenge with small talk?
  • Which is better, asking questions or answering questions?
  • How do you introduce yourself?
  • How do you handle awkward silence?
  • How do you know if this is a person you will continue a relationship with?
  • When and how do you exchange personal information?
  • How do you back out of a conversation?
  • How do you transition the conversation from small talk to actual business?

Small Talk Questions:

  • Do you think asking about the weather is good? Why (not)?
  • Do you think asking about someone’s job is good? Why (not)?
  • What is your favorite question to ask? Why?
  • What is your back pocket question?
  • How do you break the ice?

What are opened ended questions to ask to keep the conversation going? Examples:

  • Describe for me…
  • Tell me about….
  • How did you…
  • What was that like for you?
  • What brought you to…
  • Why?/How come?

How would you respond to these questions?

Business Related:

  • Describe a typical day at the job.
  • What got you interested in your job?
  • What do you enjoy most about your profession?
  • What do you see at the coming trends in your business?
  • What was the best job you ever did? The worst?

Social Related:

  • Tell me about the best vacation you ever taken?
  • What’s your favorite thing to do on a rainy day?
  • If you could replay any moment in your life, what would it be?
  • Tell me about your kids/family.
  • Describe a memorable teacher you had.
  • What’s the origin/history of your last name?
  • Why were you named _____?
  • Tell me something most people would never guess about you.
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ESL Business Talk: The Impact of Corporate Turnover

In this post, the discussion will be about corporate turnover.

  • What is corporate turnover?
  • What are 5 causes of corporate turnover? Why?
  • Do you think it causes a chain reaction? Why (not)?
  • What is the impact of turnover on a business?
    • See graph below for asking for additional questions and why.
  • How can you determine when turnover is occurring in large companies?
  • How can a business prevent turnover? At least 3 ideas. Explain why for each.
  • How can companies be more proactive? At least 3 ideas. Explain why.
  • What is the cost of corporate turnover (some say it averages about 50,000-75,000USD per person)
    • See below graph to ask if they agree and why.
  • Could turnover be healthy for an organization? Why (not)?
    • How long does it take to find a new employee?
    • Which teams and people are involved in hiring new people?
    • How long does it take to get someone new up and running?
  • Do you think direct managers care about turnover? Why and when?
  • Some people think 2 years is enough at one job before moving. Do you agree? Why (not)?
  • How long should a person stay in on position? Why?
    • How long should a person stay at one company for? Why?
  • What are your thoughts on job-hopping? Why?
    • What is the motivation for job-hopping do you think?
    • Do you think companies accept job hopping?
  • What do you think about being poached by another company?
    • How does the company losing the employee feel?
      • Can an employee take advantage of this situation?

Voluntary Turnover Graph

Turnover Costs

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ESL Business Talk: Brands

In this post, the discussion will about brands

  • Do you think branding is important? Why (not)?
  • Do you think brands are overrated? Why (not)?
  • What are some of your favorite brands? Why?
  • What are the top 3 bands do you think? Why?
    • Answer: Coca Cola, IBM, and Microsoft: Are you surprised? Why (not)?
    • Many of the famous brands are from the US? How do you feel? Why?
  • What does it take to make a brand famous?
    • Why are they so celebrated and respected?
    • Do you think logo designs are important? Why (not)?
    • Do you think slogans are important? Why (not)?
    • Do you think Word of Mouth is important? Why (not)?
  • How do brands become famous? How long does it take?
  • Do you trust brand names? Why (not)?
    • Do you trust generic products? Why (not)?
  • Do you think brands are a rip-off or do they deliver the value of cost?
    • Do you buy brands? Why (not)?
  • Do you think investing in brand companies just because they have a famous brand name is good choice? Why (not)?
  • Do brands die? Why?


  • Do you think people can be branded? Why (not)?
    • How would you brand yourself?
  • Do you agree with these points: Why (not)?
    • Become an expert on something related to your business
    • Establish a website or blog with your full name
    • Learn how to be a good source
    • Generate brand awareness through social networking
  • It is said that everyone is now self-employed (even if you work for a company). Do you agree with this concept? Why (not)?
  • Do you think business cards are important? Why (not)?
    • What should be said on a business card? Why?

Talked about Brands

Recommending Brands

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ESL Business Talk: Reading

In this post, the dicussion will be about reading.

  • Do you think reading is valuable? Why (not)?
    • What are the benefits of reading?
    • What are the negatives of reading?
  • How often should someone read? Why?
    • How much time should be put aside for reading daily? Why?
  • What should a person read? Why do you think so?
  • “Tell me what you read, and I will tell you who you are” – Slovak proverb, Do you agree? Why (not)?
    • What do you read? How would you evaluate yourself then?
  • Do you think seminars or trainings are better than reading? Why (not)?
    • Do you think the cost to value represents this fairly?
  • Should companies provide a library within their organization? Why (not)?
    • What are the benefits of doing so?
    • How can this be funded?
  • If you read 2 books a week for a total of about 100 books a year, what do you think will result in your life? Why?
  • People claim they don’t have time to read? What would you suggest to rectify this?
  • Does it matter what type of books you read? Why (not)?
  • Should businesses give an incentive for employees to read?
    • Should it be part of the employees performance review then?
  • Do you think reading will lead to a faster promotion at work? Why (not)?
  • Do you think reading too many books is ineffective? Why (not)?
  • Should a book be re-read? How many times then? Why (not)?
  • Do you think TV is a good substitution for reading? Why (not)?
  • What book had a major influence on your life? How so?
  • What was your favorite book? Why?
  • Which book do you recommend to friends and family? Why?
  • Do you have a favorite author? Who and why?
  • Do you think reading to a child has an impact on their life in the short term? long term?
  • What are your thoughts on digital books?
    • How do you feel about reading a book on a PC? Why?
  • Have you heard of the concept “Mobile University”? What do you think it means?
    • Do you agree that listening to audio books is better than listening to music?
    • Do you or would you consider  listening to books more then?

Reading to Children


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ESL Business Talk: The Job Market

In this post, the discussion will be about the job market.

  • What do you think of the current job market? Why?
  • Do you think it is get better or worse? Why (not)?
    • Do you think there is a vicious circle?
  • Where do you think the jobs are moving? Why?
    • Will jobs continue to move offshore? For how long?
  • Do you think developed nations such as the US or Japan will see growth in jobs in the near future? Why (not)?
    • Do you think China and other rapidly developing countries will slow down?
    • Do you think labor costs in emerging countries or BRIC nations are becoming to expensive?
  • Do you think there is enough talent is produced domestically?
    • How about abroad? What is the impact?
  • Do you feel sorry for people who lose their jobs? Why (not)?
  • Do you think it is the government’s responsibility to establish more jobs?
    • Should more government jobs be produced as a result?
    • Should government jobs be secure?
  • What does “Job Security” mean to you?
    • Do you think this is term of the past or does it still exist?
    • Should Job Security still exist today? What are the benefits and disadvantages?
    • What do you think of job hopping? Why?
    • What is the impact of job hopping on you? on the business?
  • Do you think cities have too many jobs? For example many people flock to Tokyo but the countryside population is declining rapidly. Is this a safe heaven?
    • Should the government adjust benefits to stimulate growth here?
  • Should young people look to work abroad? Why (not)?
  • How old should people work to? Should their be a fixed retirement age?
  • What is the impact of both genders working from young to elderly?
    • Should laws be imposed to restrict?

Graduating into the Job Market


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ESL Business Talk: Entrepreneurship

In this post, the discussion is about entrepreneurship.

  • What does entrepreneur mean?
    • Do you agree with this definition: A person who organizes, operates, and assumes the risk for a business venture.
    • Which language is entrepreneur derived from?
  • Do you think entrepreneurship is for everyone? Why (not)?
    • What does it take to be an entrepreneur? List some characteristics and explain why.
    • Do you want to be an entrepreneur? Why (not)?
  • Does GDP growth depend on entrepreneurs? Why (not)?
    • Do you think entrepreneurship is important for a country? Why (not)?
  • Should entrepreneurship be encourage? Why (not)?
    • Do schools provide enough education on this? Should they? Why (not)?
  • Does government provide support for startup companies? Is it enough? Why (not)?
    • Should startup companies get more tax breaks? Why (not)?
  • Are funds readily available for startups? Who should/will provide?
    • Do you think a startup with a cost of less than 100$ can be successful? Why (not)?
  • What makes a startup successful do you think?
  • What are some ways to start a business?
    • Do you think the internet has sped up startups?
  • Do you think social media is essential for new businesses? Why (not)?
    • Do you think monitoring social media and internet for feedback on your business is important? Why (not)?
  • Which is more important for a business: operations, sales, or marketing? Why?
  • Do you think business plans are critical for a startup? Why (not)?
    • How detailed should these be? Why (not)?
  • On average, how long do you think before a company is successful (in the black)? Why?
    • When should a startup pack-up and quit?
  • Do you think Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) are the way to go or should a business stay private? Why?
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ESL Business Talk: Feedback

In this post, the discussion is about feedback. This is based off of “A Carrot a Day: A Daily Dose of Recognition for Your Employees” by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton. Read through it if you have not. It is a great book.

  • What does “Feedback” mean to you? Why?
    • Could you define feedback as just “information”?
  • How should you respond to feedback?
    • Is saying “Thank you” good enough?
  • How should feedback be delivered?
  • Do agree feedback should be “specific, frequent, and timely”? Why (not)?
    • How do you make feedback specific?
    • How do you time feedback?
  • When should you give and receive feedback?
  • How often do you give feedback? How often do you receive feedback?
    • How often do you think feedback should be given?
  • Do you agree with this statement? “Praise in public, criticize in private” Why (not)?
    • How would you praise in public?
    • What would you say when speaking in private?
  • Do you agree with the statement? “Praise effort, reward results” Why (not)?
    • What is an example of praising effort?
    • What is an example of rewarding results?
  • What should the praise to criticize ration be? Why do you think so?
    • How do you feel about 5 to 1?
  • Do you or your boss track achievements for each person on the team? Why (not)? Should you?
  • Do you think people will remember what was said and done when giving feedback? Why (not)?
  • Do you think performance reviews are important? Why (not)?
    • Should they be given only twice a year (mid year and end year review) or more frequent?
    • What should be discussed at such a review?
  • Should you set expectations or should the employee expectations? Why?

Performance Review

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ESL Business Talk: Creativity

In this post, the discussion is about creativity.

  • What does creativity mean to you?
    • Do you think taking an idea and improving that idea is being creative? Why (not)?
  • How do you get creative?
  • Is creativity important? Why (not)?
  • How do you improve creativity?
  • When does creativity diminish in a person? Why (not)?
    • How can you stimulate creativity?
  • What does “Thinking out of the Box” mean? Does it work? Why (not)?
    • Seth Godin wrote “Poke the Box” meaning to start something and fail too. Should you poke rather than think outside?
  • Is your businesses creative? How so?
    • Is your team creative? How so?
  • Should a business encourage creativity? How so?
    • Are courses offered on being creative? Why (not)?
    • Do you encourage creativity on your team?
  • Which country produces the most patents? (Patent stats)? Why?
    • Are you surprised by this? Why (not)?
    • Do you think patents are important? Why (not)?
    • They say a country with the most patents tends to be the leading country in the world? What do you think?
    • Do you think royalty fees are too expensive?
    • Should patents expire? Why (not)? [Think drug companies, which lead to generic drugs sold]
  • Do you know the concept red ocean and blue ocean? Do you think this is a good technique? Why (not)?
  • Do you think a MBA graduate or a drop out from high school/university  student is more creative?

Creativity: Think Outside of the Box

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ESL Business Talk: School Education

In this post, the discussion will be about school education.

  • What do you think of the current country’s school education?
    • Do you think public schools meet the needs of businesses today?
    • Do you think the school system is flexible enough?
    • Are children prepared enough to work in a company?
  • Is university worth the time and money?
    • There are many famous people who quit university and went on to be successful (Bill Gates, etc). Were they just lucky?
    • Some entrepreneurs are paying people to money to start a business rather than go to university. Thoughts?
  • Should high school be more focused on career paths rather than general subjects?
    • Should schools (high school/uni) provide more internship program opportunities?
    • Harvard University found that 10,000 devoted to a skill can lead to mastering it. Should schools pursue this objective then?
  • Is private school better than public school? Why (not)?
    • Is the price and child pressure worth the value?
  • How would you improve the public school system?
  • Should children be pressured more as in zero tolerance?
    • Are parents to relaxed with enforcing education on their children?
    • Should schools tolerate poor behaving students or throw them out? If so, where do they get placed?
  • Should there be advanced classes or allow skipping grades for students who excel quickly? Vice versa also?
  • Should a teacher teach children behaviors and mannerisms or should this be the parent’s responsibility?
  • Should teachers receive tenure or should they replaced if they underperform like in a business?
  • Should more technology be integrated with the school system/education? (Think ipad for textbooks)
    • If so, how would it be funded? What advantages and disadvantages could it cause?
  • Are teacher’s compensated or appreciated enough? Why (not)?
  • Should students have holidays or should school’s operating hours be structured like business?
  • Should students have to attend cram school? Why (not)?
    • If a student has to attend cram school, what does that mean or say about the school they go to?
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ESL Business Talk: The Japanese Economy

In this post, the dicussion is about the Japanese Economy

  • How do you think Japan’s economy is doing? Why (not)?
    • What are three main issues? Why these?
    • What can be done to resolve these issues?
  • What do you think the future holds for Japan?
  • Do you think Japan can turn the situation around?
  • Do you think Japan needs to implement more taxes?
  • What is your take on Nenkin?
    • How do the elderly feel about it? Why?
    • How do the young feel about it? Why?
    • Do you think this is a Ponzi scheme?
    • People avoid paying into a system, particularly some businesses. Thoughts?
  • Do you think the government is responsible for the current situation?
    • Do you think the people are involved enough in politics? Should they be?
    • The prime minster has changed a number of times in these past few years. Thoughts?
    • Do you think the government should be restructured?
  • Do Japanese companies invest enough overseas? Are they being ambitions enough?
  • What is the impact of the Tohoku disaster on the Japanese economy?
    • How is it being handled by the government in your own words?
    • How do you think the cleanup should be handled?
  • Do you think job security in Japan is a dying system?
    • Do you think such a system hampers businesses from growth?
    • What are the benefits of such a system? What are the disadvantages?
    • Should such a system continue? Why (not)?

Japan's Economy Hitting the Wall

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