The Business English Trainers Conference: CPD, creativity... and celery
1 May 2013

The Business English Trainers Conference: CPD, creativity... and celery

Continuing professional development and ways of developing creativity were major themes at this year's  Business English Trainers' Conference.
Highlights included practical sessions on how to come up with "lifechanging" ideas and how to beat writer's block, as well as a panel discussion on CPD for Business English and English for Specific Purposes trainers.
Other sessions on offer included advice for trainers on how to create and manage their own brand, and the benefits of including people skills and communication skills in the language classroom.
Huan Japes, Deputy Chief Executive for English UK, said: "We had a real focus this year, with creativity echoed in both plenaries, teachers taking control of developing themselves and finding their own goals, and two or three sessions on soft skills training and motivation. It wasn't about the nuts and bolts, but what are soft skills? How do we train people? How do we make use of the business context?"
Maurice Cassidy, chair of Business English UK, told delegates that one of the association's priorities was "to raise the skills of our talented workforce. That's the theme today of the panel discussion -- CPD -- and to use that to look at how all of us can raise our skills level is as many ways as possible. This conference is inspiring, and makes me come away satisfied at the talent in the Business English sector -- but as with everything, there's always room for growth."
Around 75 delegates attended the day at International House London, which also included the presentation of the first-ever Excellence in Business English Training award. Maja Stekovic had travelled from Slovenia to attend.  "I heard about it, and it was highly important for me to attend. I am finding it extremely useful, with new ideas. And it's nice to talk to more experienced colleagues," she said.
Helen Crawford, from Canterbury Language Training had also enjoyed the conference. "I was particularly interested in the soft skills. It's been really useful -- but the activities have also been fun."
Opening the day, James Schofield challenged the audience to consider whether they were creative, "or as creative as a stick of celery?". Schofield, a former Business English teacher who is now a senior consultant for Siemens, promised to help with "tools which are fantastic for helping you come up with new ideas could be going away at the end of the day with something lifechanging."
He then demonstrated two techniques: free writing, where the user writes their  "issue" in the centre of a large piece of paper and then spends ten minutes writing down anything that comes into their head, and the brain writing pool, where a group of people will each write their idea onto a card, and pass it ground the group for each person to add thoughts or improvements.
Many delegates returned to the session enthused by the way the techniques worked. "That was really useful, and could benefit anybody," said Joe Gillespie of MLS in Bournemouth.
Bethany Cagnol and Mike Hogan continued the practical theme with a packed session for trainers on how to ensure their own "brand" was the best it could be, whether or not they were self-employed or working for a company. The three important steps, they said, were for trainers to professionalise themselves, create and maintain an online presence, and communicate and promote their services.
Bethany, the owner of two companies in France, said: "As you become a professionalised language trainer, perhaps you should take a few moments to look at yourself in the mirror and see if you look the part. What is the image of an English language trainer our students expect? Observe how your trainees walk and talk. Watch, observe, reflect while training them. You can learn a lot from observing the clients alone."
She added: "The brand you have is your name. What do people think when they hear your name. What do they say?"
Mike, a communication and intercultural skills trainer based in Germany, said: "We'd like to get you thinking about yourself as one-person business, even if you're fully employed by school. You build a reputation, you have a niche.
"You need a business plan. You need to think, what do I want to have for my lifestyle, should I continue training along the way so I can be where want to be in 3-5 years? " It was important to talk to trusted peers and students and get feedback, he said.
Other sessions included Steve Oliver on the usefulness of the Cert IBET for Business English trainers. "I wish it had been around in first 5 years of my career: it would have helped me realise what path I was on," he said.

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