Sunday, October 11, 2015

Business Spanish: Week 7

Photo of a computer and tablet with the words Business Spanish Lesson Plans from Annie Abbott
Week 7 of my "Business Spanish" class
by Ann Abbott

I'm juggling a lot of things and several important, looming deadlines. So I'm just going to jump right into it.

Week 7 was great! We began work on the Networking Project for the course. (I'll describe the entire project in more detail later.) Here's what we did.


I told students that we were going to be working on this project, and that I would give more details later. In general, though, 

Final goal

They will "cold call" (or cold contact via the Internet) three professionals and invite them to Skype into our class during the last week of the semester. They can talk to us about their work, their path from college student to professional and their use (or not) of Spanish. In order to accomplish that:

Today's goal
  • Research. I gave my current students a list of my former students whose careers might interest them. I assigned each student someone on the list (some students had to double up). they spent about 15 minutes in class researching this person on-line.
  • Pitch. They then had a few more minutes to prepare a pitch. I explained to them that they were all going to have to stand in front of the class and "pitch" the person they had researched as one of the three--only three!--people who we were going to invite to Skype with us. 
  • What is a pitch? I gave them a formula for preparing a pitch and illustrated it with an example.
    • Problem. What is the problem you are addressing? This must be a problem that matters! And it must matter to the people to whom you are pitching. (If you are pitching to venture capitalists, they might not feel the problem personally, but they should understand clearly that this a significant problem for a lot of people who would be willing to pay to have it solved with your product/service.)
    • Current solution. This is where you acknowledge the competition (if there is any). You describe why the current solution is inadequate. It might be too expensive. Too far away. Too complicated. Inaccurate. Low quality. Unreliable. Etc.
    • Your solution. Wow them with your solution. What is it? How is it better? How will it solve people's problems in a way that makes their lives better?
    • Example. Some students found it difficult to match that formula to this kind of pitch. Sot this is the example I gave (or something like it...). "Problem: May Spanish students also care deeply about social issues, but they don't have a clear idea about how to combine those two passions into a career path. Current solution: The Career Services Center has great resources, but students still need more specific advice. Your solution: If X person talks to us, we can find out how she managed to build a career that combines a passion for environmental issues and Spanish.
Students did a great job, although I noticed that some of them could benefit from learning higher-order Google search methods.


  • PreparationI gave the students about five minutes to refine and practice their pitch. I told them that I wanted them to come as close to three minutes as possible, not one minute or one and half minutes.
  • Notes. Each student had to take notes while the other students were pitching so that in the end they could vote on the top three.
  • PitchesEach student (or pair of students) had three minutes to stand at the front of the class and pitch.  
  • Vote. We finished with the pitches just a few minutes before the end of class. They took out a piece of paper, listed their top three choices, and left the paper on my desk. I posted the results on our Compass page.
Now, I need to help them prepare a brief but potent message to send to the three professionals, asking them to join us via Skype (or another method).

I'll be honest, there were two main weaknesses in the pitches (though several of them were very, very strong).
  • TimeThe majority of students didn't come close to using the full three minutes. I know that can be hard to judge, but managing time wisely is so important when you are preparing and giving a presentation! I'll talk to them about that.
  • Persuasiveness. The majority of students abandoned the notion (and the formula) of the pitch. They mostly provided a thorough summary/description of the person and their career trajectory. That's very different than pitching. Again, I'll have to work on that with them.


Fridays are always our social media marketing workshop. I worked with the "Spanish Advising - Illinois" team while the team for "La Línea" met at the YMCA, as usual. These are the things I went over with my team:
  • Client feedback. She's happy with their work!
  • New marketing campaigns. She also gave them two things that she would like them to work on. I formed to "sub-teams" to work on the following topics. I also told them that I wanted to see at least one post for each topic that was an original video.
    • Help "Emily" (their ideal reader) improve her oral proficiency while she prepares for study abroad.
    • Promote the "stand-alone" or "non-standard" Spanish courses: SPAN 208 Oral Spanish, SPAN 232 Spanish in the Community and SPAN 332 Spanish & Entrepreneurship: Languages, Cultures & Communities. The spring schedule is now available, and students are beginning to plan their classes/schedules. Use this time to promote these classes so that students will enroll.
  • Team processes. I also repeated that I wanted our timing to change. They should come to class on Fridays with their posts for the next week already prepared so that we can use the time in class for critique and editing. If they start once they get into class, then we aren't using class time to maximize on the team's talents--and my presence. Several students had done that for this week, but not all. We need to get to 100% for next week.

More lesson plans

Week 11
Week 10
Week 9
Week 5
Week 4
Week 3
Week 2
Week 1

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