Mark M. Mark M.

Business Meetings 101 Series (1/6) Lesson Plan
UW+ level


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 lesson introduces useful language for small talk with practice in the form of a role play.


Main Aims

  • To discuss the importance and drawbacks of small talk at meetings.

Subsidiary Aims

  • To provide practice and feedback of the situation of small talk in a meeting.
  • To teach some useful phrases for small talk.


Warmer (8-10 minutes) • To set lesson context and engage students

1. Elicit from the class a definition of "small talk". * Suggested answer: Small talk refers to conversations about things which are not directly relevant to the current task we are doing or the situation we are in. Classic examples include discussions at work about the weather, the news, TV programs, family news, etc. Small talk is small in the sense that the conversations tend to be quite short. 2. Divide the class into 2 teams. 3. One team should come up with arguments in favor of allowing or encouraging small talk in business meetings; the other team should come up with arguments in favor of discouraging small talk in meetings. Make sure they write down their arguments. 4. Ask for a volunteer to chair a meeting between the 2 teams to present and discuss their arguments and to decide on the best approach to managing small talk in meetings. 5. At the end, give and elicit feedback on the effectiveness of the meeting itself (e.g., how well did the chair manage to control the meeting or encourage creativity and compromise, did everyone contribute equally, or was the meeting dominated by the most confident speakers, etc.).

Small Talk Phrases: Questions (8-10 minutes) • To highlight and clarify useful language for upcoming productive tasks

1. Students work in pairs to complete the questions by putting the verbs in the best form. When you discuss the answers together, focus on the patterns (e.g., use present continuous to ask about current politics). Elicit more questions for each small talk topic, as well as other suitable topics for small talk. * Suggested answers: 1. are / working 2. is / going 3. Are / making (or: Have / made) 4. did / go 5. was / did / get 6. --- 7. Have / heard (or: Did / hear) 8. have / been 9. will / sign (or: are / going to sign) 10. Are / going

Small Talk Phrases: Answers (8-10 minutes) • To highlight and clarify useful language for upcoming productive tasks

1. Students work in pairs to match the questions with the answers. When you check with the class, draw attention to the verb forms, which generally match the verb forms used in the questions. Elicit other suitable answers for each question. Note that they will have a chance to be more creative in the practice activity later: the aim here is simply to practice the questions and answers from the worksheet.

Small Talk: Practice (18-20 minutes) • To provide an opportunity to practice target productive skills

1. Students work in pairs to ask each other questions about their work or studies. If students know each other fairly well, they can ask fairly specific questions (e.g., their own versions of questions 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, and 9). If they don't know each other well, they can ask more general questions (e.g., questions 1, 6, and 8). 2. If you prefer, you could allow students to invent information about a fictitious job, in which case all 8 questions would work. 3. Students should support each other to plan the best answer for the questions (i.e., they should spend some time deciding which tenses and vocabulary to use in their answers. 4. Afterwards, students swap partners and repeat the activity. This time, their answers should be much more fluent and natural, as they had time earlier to plan them.

Feedback and Error Correction (8-10 minutes) • To provide feedback on students' production and use of language

1. Open discussion on how the students felt during small talk practice, what they felt comfortable with, and what they felt needs improvement. 2. Introduce next part in lesson plan series: "Getting the meeting started (#2/6)".

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