Business English Trainers Conference: are you soft enough?
3 June 2014

Soft skills are the overarching theme of the 2014 Business English Trainers' Conference which takes place this Saturday (7 June) in central London.

Both plenary sessions and some of the elective seminars look at different aspects of soft skills, their usefulness, and how they can be taught.

"I think it's the strongest Business English set of talks we've put together," said Huan Japes, Deputy Chief Executive of English UK for Professional Services.

Bob Dignen will look at the skills which really matter in Business English training, including relationship building, Candy van Olst will discuss how students can bring their conversational skills into the Business English classroom, enhancing them through their learning, while Philip O'Connor will talk about how to become an intercultural trainer.

Opening the day, Bob Dignen talks about generic skills such as building rapport, decision making, managing conflict and ensuring people are able to network, and about the "core people skills" which are required when using English, and how trends in Business English teaching have emphasised intercultural rather than interpersonal skills.

He says the issue is about teaching Business English students to build rapport with people in order to work together. "It's not a matter of linguistic competence to be able to make decisions effectively in a group or manage conflict or people relationships," but these things could be developed as part of trainers' practice, he suggests.

Complementing this session, Nick Brieger's plenary will revisit business meetings with a soft skills approach.

He says "leadership can be defined as 'getting things done with and through people'" and this has raised the importance of soft skills in business communication generally, and on training courses.

"In the West, we are seeing the recognition of the importance of developing people skills throughout the corporate hierarchy. And this is reflected in the focus of training courses to develop, for example, team-building skills.

"The list of soft skills can be very extensive: from attitudes, such as having a positive work ethic, to communication skills, such as participative decision making. Certain soft skills can lend themselves to a language-oriented approach.  However, the starting point for developing soft skills is to raise awareness of their importance for building relationships," he says.

This can mean a new role for the teacher, he says, moving beyond the traditional to "becoming a trainer and facilitator; and in terms of content it means exploring beyond the familiar areas of language and linguistics into areas influenced by psychology and sociology."

For more details about the day, which also includes the awarding of the Excellence in Business English Training Award, click here. To book a place at the conference click here.

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