Business English

Death By PowerPoint? No Thanks! – Digital Storytelling Using PowerPoint

PowerPoint has the ability to utterly, utterly destroy your soul with boredom – and yet it can totally engage your students’ attention and draw them into a digital story plot if used well. And how should you use it well? These slides will show you! 🙂

I have posted these before, but this is a slightly updated version that I made for the teachers and trainers at Bolzano Free University’s language department (a tri-lingual University in the north of Italy!)

I had wanted to upload this to VoiceThread so that you, my dear readers, could ask and answer questions and see how effective Voicethread is – unfortunately, Voicethread allows a maximum of 50 slides per presentation and … well… this has several more slides than this. Anyhow, the first slides are the digital story part. If you’d like to skip straight to the  PowerPoint hints and tips, go to slide number 48.

Hope this is helpful – if you have any questions, leave them in a comment. I’d love to hear from you!


Pete Sharma Associates and Digitalang – An Exciting New Collaboration!

We are delighted to announce that Digitalang have teamed-up with The Pete Sharma Associates, and we’ll now be “officially” offering courses on behalf of PSA in Italy. We are really excited about this, not only because such a top-quality teacher-training company has recognised the standard of the courses we offer, but also because Digitalang training material, along with the already established training material available from PSA, will now also be offered worldwide by the network of PSA trainers.

For those of you who know him, you’ll be aware that, apart from being a lovely guy, Pete Sharma is a real guru when it comes to pedagogically-sound ways of using technology in the classroom. He has co-written some exceptionally well-received books such as Blended Learning , 400 Ideas for Interactive Whiteboards along with many other really well-known Business English books. What is sometimes not quite as well-known, is that working with Pete, is a highly-experienced and skilled group of professionals, The Pete Sharma Associates. PSA run courses and offer consulting for language schools internationally, along similar lines to Digitalang does here in Europe. They offer in-house training, online training, and of course blended training courses to language teachers from as far afield as India and Bangladesh; to Spain, Germany and Chile.




Teacher Development Webinar – “Using Virtual Meeting Tools with Students.” #besig

The excellent English360 online learning platform are holding a community webinar next week, with the guest speaker Mike Hogan. (Disclosure: English 360 is one of the companies I do consultancy work for.) The webinar is on the topic of Virtual Meeting Tools and even though it’s geared towards those using, or thinking of using the English 360 platform, it will definitely be of interest to any language teachers who are using online meeting tools, or who want to, with their students.

Valentina Dodge, on the English360 blog has the following to say:

Are you using English360 in conjunction with real-time tools?

Do you have experience teaching in WebEx, Adobe Connect, or on Skype?

How can these virtual meeting environments be used with learners?

Come along to our English360 Open Community Webinar to find out more on delivering lessons in real-time when learners are geographically dispersed or unable to attend face-to-face classroom lessons.

Register now to enjoy Mike Hogan ‘s expertise and experience of using virtual meeting rooms.

Send us an email to Register for the Community Webinar 28th Feb 13.00-14.00 CET


I’ve personally spoken to Mike about e-learning quite a bit over the last few months and he certainly seems to have a good deal of practical experience of what “synchronous” e-learning requires. As it’s being organised by Valentina Dodge, too – I’m pretty sure that it will be well worth attending.

The Language of Successful Presentations

Ever wondered how Apple manage to do such great presentations? Well, apart from the fact that they have fabulous designers who make wonderfully simple, easy to understand slides, they also use exceptionally positive language in their presentations.

Take a look at this video, what do you notice about the language used?

So, okay the video is actually a bit of gentle fun-poking at Apple (it’s a summary in 120 seconds of a 90 minute recent Apple talk) but it does illustrate really well the power of positive language in a talk. I don’t even remember what I saw in the vidoe, but I do remember that it was “great, fantastic, incredible, amazing” and other things like that.

Next time I, or one of my students present something, I’ll be sure that it’s amazing, incredible, fantastic, great, too. Won’t you?

Have you got any other key language, phrases or words that you encourage your students to use in their presentations? Be sure to share them in the comments section!
All the best, Seth.

The 10 Best Ways to Look Professional Online

Maintaining a professional image on-line is vital nowadays for everyone. From  newly qualified students looking for their first job to top managers with years of experience under their belts. If you’re on-line, you’ll be seen more easily, so it’s a good idea to make sure what they see of you on-line makes a positive first impression, hey?

A positive image goes a long way.

Image From:

The How Stuff Works site is often a great source for authentic material for EFL teachers. It is regularly updated with articles about, well… how stuff works and things like that 😀 More than this though, it also often has some handy little “Top 10” lists which are easily exploited by language teachers. The article they’ve just published today, 10 Tips for Maintaining a Professional Image Online is perfect for in-class activities, both for business English students and for high school students. To be honest, it’s pretty darn good advice for a lot of language teachers, too. Here’s the introduction:

Whether you like it or not, you probably already have a significant online presence. Between government documents, newspaper articles and self-generated content, it’s not hard for others to dig up information about you. And whether those people are potential employers, co-workers or casual acquaintances, it’s generally a good idea to put your best foot forward on the Web.

For example, although social networks like Facebook were designed more for casual socializing, more and more human resource managers use these sites to screen potential employees. You must realize that personal Web content can have an effect on you professional life.

As a class activity, I will probably give 1 of each of the 10 pieces of advice to a different student. Ask them to read it, then do a mingle activity where they summarised their advice to each other, noting down what their partners told them. Probably afterwards I would read one or two of the key articles again as a class and do some vocabulary or comprehension work.

Anyhow, without further ado, here are the 10 headlines, or the 10 best ways to look professional online. Click the individual headline to read more.

10: The Best (or Worst) Stands Out

9: Professional Perception is Reality

8: Defend Your Reputation

7: Protect Passwords and Other Vital Information

6: Control Your Branding

5: Use an Alias

4: Establish Your Expertise

3: The Internet Never Forgets

2: Prepare for Potential Employers

1: Privacy is Still Real — If You Want It

What do you think? Do you agree with How Stuff Works’ list? Would you add anything else? Make sure you let us know what you think in the comments section!

The 10 20 30 rule.

The 10/20/30 PowerPoint Rule.

If you haven’t heard about it, Guy Kawasaki coined a clever little expression a while back to help folk improve their PowerPoint presentations. He called it the 10, 20, 30 rule.


The 10 20 30 rule.

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  • 10 – No more than ten slides in your presentation. This key number is supposed to help focus your audiences minds on your message, rather than your slides.
  • 20 – If you have a one hour meeting, aim to finish your slides in no more than 20 minutes. What with technical problems, questions and chatting, you’ll end up running out of time and going too fast at the end if you try to cram in too much.
  • 30 – No font size smaller than 30. If you want your audience to be able to read your slides (you do!) then make sure your text is legible. If you find yourself trying to use a smaller font to squeeze it all in, ask yourself:
    • do you need all that text anyway?
    • shouldn’t the main message come from you, not your slides?
    • wouldn’t it be better to spread the information over more than one slide?

What made me decide to point all this out here though is because I found a nice little presentation on SlideShare today by Cory O’Brien that explains all of this in a nice, visual way. Have a look:


Guy even goes as far as giving us a suggested theme of what should go on each slide. Although I think this is far more relevant to marketers and business-people, I think it’s worth bearing in mind for education, too (and of course it works excellently for a business English teacher.) You can see Guy’s suggestions on Cory’s slide number 3 above. Better still, why not listen to it from the horses mouth Guy himself:

So, there we have it. If I haven’t convinced you, I hope Guy has!

Got a great PowerPoint tip? Is there a mnemonic-like “rule” you tell yourelf before starting to plan a presentation? Be sure to tell us about it in the comments section below! 🙂

All the best and happy presenting!




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