I enjoy conferences, and I am lucky enough to go to quite a few. It’s a chance to meet up with friends and colleagues, to learn, to network, to see the rock stars, and so on. And like many of us, when I can’t attend in person, I like to spend time on the conference websites and on social media following what is happening. I can see what people are up to, get links to useful resources, and simply enjoy the buzz. The TESOL convention in Baltimore and the IATEFL conference in Birmingham are two recent examples of this. A lot of the posts were really useful, and well worth reading.  But others were not so good – social media can be very limited at times.

We’re all familiar with the issues, I’m sure.

As most readers of this blog know, I work in corporate language training. Years ago I was asked by an HR manager to test a German employee who had been shortlisted for a possible job in Asia.  The job would entail negotiating in English with engineering suppliers all over Asia.

This year has seen the publication of some really excellent books for anyone teaching English for the Workplace. I thought it might be nice to finish off the year with short descriptions of three of my favourites.

Exploring Professional Communication – Stephanie Schnurr  (Routledge).

This book looks at professional communication from an Applied Linguistics perspective. Full of examples of authentic discourse, it provides a very useful grounding in what such communication is all about.

Almost time for the annual IATEFL BESIG conference. This time it's in Prague, and there'll be around 400 participants. Can't wait.

One innovation this year was for speakers to publish a 1-3 min video preview of their talk. Lots of people took up the challenge, and you can see many of the results on the IATEFL BESIG Youtube channel. My own talk is on Impression Management, and I thought I would try out Videoscribe. See what you think. Just click the link here.

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to speak at the Teaching English for Healthcare conference in Locarno, Switzerland. As always at these events, there was lots of discussion prompted by the talks.

Yesterday I stayed at home and went to a conference. It was IATEFL BESIG’s first attempt at a large online conference, and what an excellent event it was too. The focus was on materials writing for business English and ESP, and there were speakers and attendees from all over the world.

Readers of this blog may know that Clarice Chan and I are currently co-editing a new book in TESOL’s New Ways series, called New Ways in Teaching Business English. The book is basically a collection of activities which teachers can use in their own classes, and includes traditional style activities to practice spoken and written business communication, as well as lots of new activities which make use of things like social media and technology.

Another country, another conference, and yet another chance to meet up with ESP colleagues from around the world and discuss and debate issues and concerns. This time the conference was TESOL in Dallas, and a full programme of talks and sessions about ESP and teaching English.

One thing struck me again – how far corporate language training is from the academic perspective of ESP offered in tertiary institutes around the world.

Just come back from observing a class in a company. The group was made up of people from different departments and different professional backgrounds, and the trainer came from a nearby language school. 

As part of an activity the trainer asked the class to brainstorm the sorts of written texts they had to deal with in their day-to-day work.

TESOL ESP interest section members will be aware of the regular discussions which are hosted on the TESOL community website. Topics have been wide ranging, and have included things like “Teaching Tips and Success Stories in ESP”, and “Exploring for excellence in EMP practice”. Last year there was a joint discussion with IATEFL’s ESP SIG called "English for Specific Purposes (ESP) around the world in academic and occupational contexts".