ESL Business Tips: Do You Know Your Client? Part 3

Knowing what your client wants to accomplish when he takes a lesson with you is essential. Just grabbing or writing up a random lesson plan that seems to provide value isn’t really great because it could be way off target. As a result, you may never see them again and you will wonder what went wrong when you feel like you delivered an awesome lesson. Get it straight from the get go and take a note somewhere about what this person wants to get out of your lessons.

Aside from an overall goal, it would help to have areas of focus. Here are some that I use:

  • Grammar: Does this person care about every little detail? Do they want to have perfect structures? Do they care about prepositions and articles and so on? Will you need to explain to them rules in detail? If so, you should be prepared to explain. Bring that grammar handbook.
  • Vocabulary: Does this person want to build up a super huge word bank? Is it to be more technical? Is it to use industry terminology? Is it to write emails? Find out why it is important and cater to that. Check if they want written examples too rather than just a single word.
  • Natural Phrases: Perhaps this person wants lots of idioms and other ways to express something. It is more than just giving a word.
  • Role-Plays: Does this person enjoy doing role-plays? Or do they just want to create environments for situations they may encounter? I find some students just want to do role-plays based around a certain situation but in various ways just so they are prepared for any randomness.
  • Debate/Discussions: I have had students who despised role-plays and preferred to only have heated discussions so they can practice giving opinions and ideas while being able to defend or expand on their point.
  • Presentations/Interviews: Is this person preparing for a presentation or interview in English? They may need your support. You can read through their materials to not only rephrase but challenge them with Q&A based on that content. I find a lot of students appreciate the Q&A greatly because sometimes my questions ACTUALLY do get asked!
  • Emails: This is a tricky one as it is hard to prepare for but I find a lot of students like to go over email situations. How to reply back or even handle cultural interpretation situations with global contacts. Having students prepare sample emails at home to bring in for discussion can greatly help. Give situations for them  to write about, which you can go over.
  • Listening: Perhaps this person just wants to practice for an English exam and needs more listening practice. Perhaps they just want a relaxing lesson. Maybe they just want to hear about your life’s experience or culture. Be careful here though because sometimes students may request this but they don’t really mean it.

My suggestion is to rank these in an order of most to least important. Review this every time you have a lesson. Review every so many lessons to see if this is still their goal. You can them incorporate these requests into your teaching. If you have any other points, feel free to point them out!

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ESL Business Tips: Do You Know Your Client? Part 2

I mentioned previously that it would be good to write down some information about your client rather than to keep it all up in your head. I find a lot of people just seem to only have the person’s name and phone number in their cell phone and that is about it. Perhaps they added them to facebook or some other social network. Really? That’s it?

If you meet lots of people all the time, I really can’t believe you will be able to retain all those little details you gathered overtime. Can you even remember what you ate for dinner last night? Seriously.

If you knew their birthday was coming, wouldn’t it be great to surprise them with warm wishes rather than finding out by them telling you? Take it a step further, if you knew what business they were in and the role they played at work, wouldn’t you then be able to develop your lessons plans around that line of business and cater to their goals more specifically?

If you know your clients and their needs, you will be able to better customize the lesson. We are living in a very competitive world. Showing that you care and understanding your client is critical.

I have prepared a VIP profile to help you get started. Make one every time you meet a new client. Show them you really care.

I orignally got this document from Darren Hardy. Check it out.

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ESL Busines Tips: The Power of the Pareto Principle

According to Wikipedia, the Pareto principle (also known as the 80–20 rule, the law of the vital few, and the principle of factor sparsity) states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.

What does this mean for your lesson? Well it can mean many things so lets look at three aspects.

1) I can’t say it enough, if you speak 20% of the time, 80% of output should come from the client. Talk time is incrediably important for your client as discussed in Do you talk too much? My thinking is a client came to you to learn to communicate so it is my duty to make sure the content matches their needs while at the same time they are getting an opportunity to verbally apply the material via conversation.

2) This also sadly means that 80% of lesson will likely be forgotten so make sure you are dilling the same words and phrases over and over to help make it stick. Covering to many points in one session will likely to a bigger loss. So keep focused on the subject and give variation of the same situation to help apply the concepts over and over but yet keep the situation fresh.

3) Look to the top 20% of clients who constantly return to take your lesson. They may be providing 80% of your success. See what is working and not working by comparing these clients to your your other 80%. Then try see how you can adjust to help boost your growth or teaching techniques.

ESL Business Tips: The Pareto Principle

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ESL Business Tips: Set Clear Expectations with MoSCoW

Understanding your client’s needs will put you ahead many of your competitors. Asking casually what they want to accomplish and assuming they just want to speak English is a good start but not enough to understand their expectations. Knowing what exactly it is they want to accomplish will allow you to customize your lessons to make sure you structure the content to satisfy their drive and hunger and of course, to have them keep returning back to you for more.

One technique to help you get started with is to use the business analyst technique, MoSCow. Here is a brief description pulled from Wikipedia:

This is used to prioritize requirements by allocating an appropriate priority, gauging it against the validity of the requirement itself and its priority against other requirements. MoSCoW comprises:

  • Must have – or else delivery will be a failure
  • Should have – otherwise will have to adopt a workaround
  • Could have – to increase delivery satisfaction
  • Would like to have in the future – but won’t have now

So now aks yourself (and your client),

  • What MUST the client be capable of doing by the end of  each lesson and/or by the end of the course?
  • What SHOULD be covered in these lessons? Articles, discussions, vocabulary drills, grammar drills, role-plays, etc.
  • What COULD be provided/discussed to increase satisfaction? Homework assignments, article preparations, etc.
  • What WOULD like to be learned in the future but not at this time.

So discuss with each of your clients when you first meet and also do follow-ups from time to time to adjust for new or revised goals. Take a memo and jot this information down so you can recall each time you prepare and meet with them. Delivering happiness to your customer is best done when you understand them.

This technique can also be used in a lesson when going over a project that you client wants to discuss, say in a presentation. Have them break it down with this process and see what they come up with and then have them explain their reasoning for each.

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ESL Tips: Make it Stick with SUCCESs

In Dan and Chip Heath’s book called “Made to Stick”, they discuss about making content sticky by presenting principles under the acronym SUCCESs. If you have not read the book, I suggest you purchase it and read through it yourself. In this tip, I will only scratch the surface but hopefully, it will beneficial to your lesson plans.

Below is a snapshot from their website summarizing the SUCCESs principles. Basically, your objective to make something stick is by being Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional and by presenting in a story. You don’t necessarily need to use all these principles in one go but it does help. Do your lesson plans or style follow this format in anyway?

Made to Stick Principles
Made to Stick

SIMPLE: What is the purpose of your lesson, that is, what do you want the student walking away learning? By the end of the lesson, can the student use the language or handle the situation with simplicity or do they get overly complicated and lose their point? Keep It Simple Silly (KISS) is the way to go.

UNEXPECTED: Keep your client on their toes with new materials. Don’t get repetitive. Consistency is important but make sure the content isn’t dull. Most teachers start with “How is it going” or along these lines. Doesn’t this get old? Is it really that beneficial too?

CONCRETE: What’s the hook in your lesson? What will capture the students attention so they stay focused for the whole time? Is it getting them to role-play at the start to see if they know the language already? This may help you to adjust the language so you can meet their needs better.

CREDIBLE: Is your lesson practical? Are you developing their needs for situations they may encounter or you creating a lesson because you know you can stretch it? If you understand your students needs, perhaps you can cater the lesson with a higher quality.

EMOTIONAL: Language is very flexible.  In Japan, many students don’t put emphasis on their words. Are you getting them to practice tone of voice? Are you showing and getting them to put emotion into their words? It isn’t easy but emotion is important.

STORY: Practicing giving short stories is tough work but if students can present themselves by giving short dialogues, they will likely get more practice using what they learned. I usually try to open the lesson with having the student give me a 5-10 min story at the office or on a recent trip though I prefer something revolving around today’s topic.

You can spin these principles in many different ways. This is just one way to give you an idea. You can deliver lesson plans that are much more sticky to be more successful. Remember, when the student walks away and two days later pass, they may reflect and think, “What did I study the other day?” And if they can recall very clearly, you may very well be seeing them again!

You also teach your student this concept as they may use it in their day to day life. They may find it valuable as well!

Good luck with your teaching and building a stronger relationship with your students!

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Who are you Talking to?

Would knowing the personality of the person you working with help you to build rapport quicker? Well, I don’t know the answer but there are people out there who have done A LOT of research and believe that it could make a big difference in communication if you did understand .

Here is a quick behavioral model called DISC that has become increasingly popular in the world. Try to see where you land and then think of people you know and where they land. If you can figure out their behaviors quickly, perhaps you can serve their needs better.

People’s personalities are likely to be strongest in one of these types below. The personality diagonally opposite is likely to be the person’s weakest type.  The idea is if you understand the other person’s personality, you will be able to adapt the lesson to their needs.

DISC Assessment Chart


DISC Chart Explanation

Here is an example:

  • If you are dealing with a calculated person, you want to develop a more structured and detailed lesson. They want to be corrected constantly for accuracy and then understand why you used that grammar point.
  • If you are dealing with a dominant person, you want to get to the point and be clear as this person wants to charge on and meet his goals. Understand their needs clearly so you can meet their objectives.
  • If you are dealing with a steady person, you want to keep checking with them to make sure they understand and/or have any questions. They can be very easy going people who don’t speak up if they don’t follow (many Japanese seem to fall in this category).
  • If you are dealing with an influential person, you want to be more energetic and outgoing. Make the lesson exciting. Don’t dwell on grammar and correcting constantly as they will be bored. They just want to talk!

Give it a try and see how it goes!

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Are You Playing The Best Role As a Teacher?

The definition of Devil’s Advocate is “a person who advocates an opposing or unpopular cause for the sake of argument or to expose it to a thorough examination”.

Why is this important though? Simply becuase it helps to drive the conversation further and find a better solution to the problem. Often in meetings does one play the role for the sake of argument to challenge the idea and to affirm whether it really stands a solid ground or not. It also helped to enhance the idea by finding flaws with it, which you can them look for solutions or a work around.

How do I apply this though as a teacher. By simply doing in your role-plays or even drills. Advise the student ahead of time that you will take the opposing role so they are aware and that you don’t step on any toes. Take caution not to get too heated in the debate. Remember this is for practice exercising the language to be learned and not to fight and loose the student. Remember to use open ended questions too as this helps to get more than one word responses!

Check out Wiki for more info on the point.

Here are 4 additional tips on being a well-received Devils Advocate.

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3 Techniques to Improve Your Teaching

I was looking for ways to improve my teaching skills and stumbled upon this great book by Doug Lemov. I think it was incredibly powerful so I would like to share just three points in this blog that I now constantly use in my lessons whether teaching in junior high school or with my private students.

  1. No Opt Out – The point here is not to allow the student to escape from answering the question. If they say “I don’t know” or give a random answer, don’t accept that. Throw the question back at them to get an answer. If they again decline then turn to someone else (yourself if it is a 1:1 situation of course) to get the answer. Once you have gotten the answer, go back to that student to ask them the same question for the answer. Basically, they cannot escape. If they don’t participate, then it is unlikely they will remember.
  2. Right is Right – Don’t stop until the student gives the exact answer. This is one factor what separates good teachers from great teachers. Keep pushing the student until they give the full answer.  There are a few points on this:
    • Hold Out all the way – Support with positive simple words to encourage the student to continue at getting the answer.
    • Answer the question – Direct the student back to the question rather than giving hints.
    • Right answer, right time – Go Step by Step rather than allow the student to jump to the end. Order is important.
    • Use technical vocabulary – Push for precise technical vocabulary. Don’t settle for simplified words.
  3. Stretch It – Have the student expand by asking a follow-up question, asking how they got that answer, or even ask them to rephrase it another way. Push the student further so they expand and/or test their knowledge more.

As you can see they are pretty straight forward but the real challenge is following through with using them constantly. I found myself not applying them as I was now conscious so it took some effort to remember to utilize. These techniques really did make an impact when I did use them as it got the student to think more and practice more so I could see some improvement. Give it a try, you’ll see too!

Here is a great summary from the book. I recommend that you have a read through if you don’t plan to read the book.

Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College by Doug Lemov

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What Does it Take to be Great?

“I don’t care what business you are in, you are in the business of people” – Sam Walton

We are living in the Thank You Economy so Gary Vaynerchuk says. I think he is right. Thank your clients and treat them all like your best friends by going out the way for them or just going that extra mile and you will likely find luck coming your way. Sure people will take advantage of the niceness but that doesn’t mean you should cut back. It is all about word-of-mouth. If you create a great customer experience, they will spread the word. This is a powerful marketing strategy.

So are you going that extra mile in your lessons? When a client tells you they will be finishing up taking lessons with you, does that make it ok to loosen up and basically toss in the towel? No, I don’t think so. You should be pushing yourself harder to deliever even better conent to meet this person’s needs Perhaps they will reconsider their decision and stay as a loyal student and/or they may tell his or her friends about the quality of lessons they got, who will them sign up with you.

Of course there is also the saying “He who tries to please everyone, ends up pleasing no one”.  Give it your best shot but don’t slap yourself if they end up not coming back. Sometimes your greatest efforts just weren’t right for this person. You may still get a referral from this person so do your best anyway. Reflect on the situation as to why you might not have gotten their business. Don’t blame them, be responsible for this result. Keep tweaking your lessons to do your best. Be a superstar.

“If you build it, he will come” -Shoeless Joe Jackson (Field of Dreams)

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5 Ways to Help Increase the Chance to Retain your Clients

Here are 5 ways I found that helps me finding my students returning back over and over to take a lesson with me. Of course the most important point is to deliver great lesson content that is customized to the students needs but these below points also help to drive the lesson towards greatness.

  1. Smile – As they say, smile and the world will smile at you. Would you rather deal with an unhappy person or a happy person? Having a smile helps make the lesson so much smoother.
  2. Praise Be sincere and give constant praise for the client’s efforts. Feedback is important and praise is just one method. Help get the student to self-correct but don’t forget the praise again for doing so. Everyone wants a boost to their confidence and honest praise is a good way to do that.
  3. Talk Time Watch how much you speak. Keep it under 20% of the lesson.  Clients want the opportunity to talk so give it to them.
  4. Formalities Give a warm welcome. A firm handshake, a great smile, help with their cost, bag, or other items, and a big “Hello”.  Don’t forget when closing to thank them, praise them, and appreciate their effort today and preparing for their next lesson. A compliment wouldn’t hurt either!
  5. MannersBe polite, be humble, be organized, be prepared, don’t step on toes, apologize when necessary, be present and focused, keep your ears open, be sincere and curious, be devoted to helping this person, and I am sure your student will be grateful. Don’t be hungover, don’t be late, don’t be sloppy, don’t be dirty, don’t point at the client, don’t dress poorly and so on. Presentation matters. People will judge you in that first minute so start on the right foot.

Be consistent about these routines with all your students too! If you form good habits and maintain them, students will know how to respond better as they will expect them each time. All the best!

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