A Conference Call Simulation for Advanced Learners

Hello, ESPers worldwide!

Sometimes, you get lucky! Or maybe I should say, sometimes things come together in just the right way. In this TESOL Blog post, I am going to focus on how such things came together to produce a successful teleconferencing activity.

I was teaching what I would call a Business English class for high-level learners. The class participants were Japanese professionals of different ages. One student was the head administrator of a university hospital. Another student had completed her undergraduate degree at UC San Diego. (That was 7 years earlier.) One of the students was the brand manager in an international (and non-Japanese) company, etc. All of the students worked for different organizations in the Tokyo area. They were all highly motivated.

The class met once a week for 90 minutes, and there were 12 students in class on the day that we did a conference call activity. In the course textbook, there was a section on teleconferences that we were scheduled to cover. What follows is a summary of what we did in class.

  1. Textbook: We first used the textbook to discuss and clarify how a participant in a conference call should behave; i.e., conference call manners or best practices. We also conducted listening, reading, and speaking activities in connection with a model conference call in the textbook.
  1. Video: Fortunately, I had been shown by Joe McVeigh (with whom I served on the Governance Review Task Force) an amusing parody of a conference call. (The members of the GRTF had participated in a number of conference calls, so I could appreciate the humor in the video.) I used the video in the following way in the classroom.
    • I had a computer and a large-screen TV monitor in the classroom. I asked my students to turn their backs to the TV screen. They were instructed to listen carefully to the video and to take notes.
    • Next, I had my students watch the 4-minute video.
    • Finally, I announced that we were going to have such a live conference call in class (with some differences).
  1. Live conference call:
    • Seating – There were chairs for approximately 45 students in the classroom. I arranged 12 of those chairs so each of the students would be facing a wall in the classroom.
    • Agenda – I wrote a simple agenda for the meeting on the board. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the Hello World campaign. The students were to come up with ideas to encourage people to visit Japan during the 2020 Olympic Games.
    • Leader – I assigned one student to be the leader of the conference call. I made sure that everyone in class knew his name.
    • Instructions – I asked all of the students to exit the classroom. They were instructed to say their names (to announce that they had joined the conference call) when they were seated. They were also instructed to look ahead and not at each other during the conference call. They could take notes.
    • Joining the call – At first, I brought the students into the classroom one at a time. Then I brought two students into the classroom at the same time, etc. (Everyone laughed when people said their names at the same time to announce that they had joined the conference call.) The last person to be seated and to join the call was the leader.
    • Participation – The activity lasted for about 25 minutes. At the start of the call, the leader asked all individuals to identify themselves. He also asked another student to take the minutes. He told students the purpose of the call and asked for ideas. When students spoke without identifying themselves, he asked for their names. He summarized comments, etc.
  1. Results: The simulated conference call was a success. The person with the most ideas was the student who had recently returned from working in New Jersey for several months. I should say that she was the most outspoken. One or two of the students seemed to be reluctant to participate. (They listened but did not talk.)

This approach could easily be used to prepare a student for a real conference call scheduled in the near future (i.e., ESP). My impression was that the students were reflecting on their own performances as they left the classroom. The student who had just come back from New Jersey was smiling. She had learned the importance of taking advantage of the opportunity to participate.

Good luck in preparing your students for global success!

All the best,



About Kevin Knight

Kevin Knight
Kevin Knight (PhD in Linguistics, MBA, MPIA) is an associate professor in the Department of International Communication (International Business Career major) and has also been working in the Career Education Center of Kanda University of International Studies in Chiba, Japan. In the TESOL ESP Interest Section (ESPIS), he has served as chair and English in occupational settings (EOS) representative, and he is currently the ESPIS community manager. He was also a member of the Governance Review Task Force (GRTF) appointed by the board of directors. In addition, he has been a TESOL blogger in the area of English for Specific Purposes (ESP). He has more than 30 years of professional experience working for private, public, and academic sector institutions including Sony and the Japan Patent Office. His doctoral research on leadership communication (i.e., discourse) as a basis for leadership development was under the supervision of Emeritus Professor Christopher Candlin and Dr. Alan Jones.
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3 Responses to A Conference Call Simulation for Advanced Learners

  1. Monica Zavala-Peretto says:

    Thanks for the informaiton.

    What is the textbook that you refer to above? I’m teaching a business executive that wants conference call activites. I’d know more about that text.


  2. Sarah says:

    I’ve seen this video recently and was wondering how to use it in my business class – this is a great lesson plan! It works as a great follow on from my last lesson on ‘meetings’.
    Thanks very much for sharing!

  3. Karen says:

    Thanks for sharing the video; it’s a good icebreaker.

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