Five Takeaways from the Book TED Talks – The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking


Founded by Richard Saul Wurman and Harry Marks in 1984, the TED conferences originally featured talks focused on Technology, Entertainment, and Design. Under the catchy tagline Ideas Worth Spreading, the range of these talks has since expanded to include other academic, scientific and cultural topics.

If you have ever watched any of these talks, you will have noticed that they are not the usual boring PowerPoint-based presentations we get in conferences of all kinds. Storytelling techniques – long a proven method for grasping and keeping listeners’ attention – prevail in most TED talks. Another obvious key to their success in the succinctness; speakers have 18 minutes to tell a compelling narrative.

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In his engrossing book, TED Talks – The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking, published last year, Chris Anderson, who took over the conferences in the early 2000s, offers the reader a truckload of useful and practical suggestions on how to put together and deliver a memorable presentation. A must-read for everyone who needs to speak in public these days (and who doesn’t?)

To whet your appetite, we have selected five of the most stimulating presentation tips we found in the book. See below.

1.What is the takeaway?

As you organize your talk, decide on what is the point you are trying to make. There must be an overarching theme connecting all the elements of the story. This is called a throughline in movies, plays, and novels. As a planning exercise, make sure you specify a concrete objective in no more than 15 words. What is your goal? What do you want to accomplish? What do you want the audience to do, how do you want them to feel after you leave the stage?

Chris_Anderson_2007-1

2. Get personal.

Speakers need to connect to the audience, break the ice and build trust. A talk is much more than mere words. You need to engage the audience on many levels. There are different ways to do that. Making eye contact with the audience, for example, is always effective. Showing some kind of vulnerability, such as admitting that you are nervous, may also work. Using humor at the beginning – through a personal anecdote, presenting funny visuals, or by playing with irony and sarcasm – may do the job. Don’t try to be funny if you are not comfortable with it, though.

3. Visuals.

We all know the staggering amount of technology available out there to help public speakers: slides showing graphs, photography, infographics, animations; video, audio, etc. Yet, it may come as a surprise that at least one third of the most viewed TED talks do not make use any of these tools. So maybe you should ask yourself: do I really need to use them? And how much of it is really necessary? Most people are extremely familiar with these so-called innovations by now anyway, so it’s hard to make an impact based only on them. Besides, visuals may distract the audience, taking their attention from you! Then again, great slides may add to the presentation, especially when they do not only repeat and highlight what is being said verbally. Ideally, visuals should reveal (show something that can not be easily described by words); explain (make concepts clearer: a picture is worth a thousand words!); and delight (give the talk aesthetic appeal).

4. To memorize or not to memorize.

Although most TED speakers have their presentations scripted out beforehand and memorize them, this approach does not work for everyone. There’s beauty and power in variety. You need to discover your own natural style. Possible options: you can write and memorize your talk; use in-the-moment language to talk about something you are familiar with (it helps to have a mental structure of the points to cover, though); or even read your piece! Whatever makes you more comfortable and confident. However, remember that preparation is essential for any format you choose.

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5. Traps to avoid.

There are some speaking styles TED organizers do not recommend. The sales pitch: trying to sell products or services directly through your talk may damage your reputation as a speaker. The main job of a speaker is to give not to take. So be careful. Find out if this is the kind of talk your audience is expecting. The ramble: to be under-prepared or not to have a set objective is insulting to the audience; the org bore: talks that focus on the greatness of an organization or on how amazing their staff is will probably bore the audience to death – they don’t work there after all. The inspirational performance: despite the fact that great TED talks deeply inspire and move the listeners, this effect cannot be manipulated through tricks and gimmicks. It needs to feel real. So avoid copying the so-called “inspirational” talks, where the speaker is full of self-praise and despicably phony.

For more tips, I strongly recommend you get the book now and make sure your next presentation is a hit.

Au revoir

Jorge Sette

 

 

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Five Reasons to Teach English Using Art (summary)


To read the full article, click on the image above.

To read the full article, click on the image above.

How beautiful do you need to be in the XXI century?


Do you live in 2015? So you need to start behaving like you do.

Start off  by finding the answer to the question in the title of this post and setting your goals with precision and determination.  Start acting, time is not on your side.  Do you need to look (more) beautiful to keep your job,  to find a new job, for your spouse, for yourself, because of the pressure of  the society to look eternally young and fresh, or maybe do you need a correction for a bodily defect? Take a hard look at yourself in the mirror, go through your thousands of selfies, talk to your therapist and make a decision. Examine every section of your body, it’s not only about faces anymore. Everyone seems to be doing this. You will be feeling isolated and disconnected if you don’t start soon.

Just take a look at the profile  pictures of the list of  your friends on Facebook or dating sites you may use: if you don’t use dating sites or apps,  sign up today, you won’t stand a chance of meeting anybody in the real world anymore.  It won’t take you long  to realize that everyone is scraping off a couple of years from their details, if not decades.  If you are 55 – apparently the end of life to date someone online or get a job –  photoshop yourself and pretend you are 45 or younger.

I watched a program on E!  the other day (“Botched”)  in which,  apparently,  these two renowned plastic surgeons fix botches  or errors made by some of their peers. People, especially  in Los Angeles, the Mecca averyone in our culture seems to be looking up to for the new standards of beauty, fashion, lifestyle and voyerism, will not accept the body they were born with any longer. They treat it  as discardable pieces of clothing to be changed and replaced by a new one every now and then as they wish. Wa have started finding it more and more common to expose as much as we can about our private lives through social media, dating sites and reality shows. Therefore,  we need to fit the bill, make the grade. Look beautiful. In the 90s and before, only giant billboards over Times Square could do that kind of magic, launching careers for the likes of Marky Mark  (Mark Wahlberg, who posed for an explosive Calvin Klein underwear campaign). Now the potential to project yourself internationally and become a celebrity is within everyone’s reach, or at least, we think so.

Mark Wahlberg in CK underwear.

Mark Wahlberg in CK underwear.

I watched the doctors’s show on E! in a state of trance and disbelief, and I’m trying very hard not to sound judgmental and self-righteous here. I  struggled to understand how these people feel, what they suffer, the source of their eternal dissatisfaction  with themselves, which makes them undertake the risk of hundreds of painful surgical procedures to add, cut, move, reposition, enlarge, narrow and change body parts as if they were playing with cartoon characters on a drawing software. Worse: they all looked weird and doll-like in the end, far from beautiful, in the classical sense, but maybe these will be the new standards in the upcoming years. My perspective on beauty may be getting dangerously outdated.

One of the patients on the show had gone through a number of operations to make his face look like Justin Bieber’s, his idol. He looked nothing like the original in the end, but he was happy and kept trying. There were certain things he wanted done – such as shrinking his jaws –  that the doctors would refused to do, though. He said he would consult other doctors instead. A woman  with size DDD cups, who could hardly keep her breasts inside the blouse, was angry because the doctors wouldn’t make them even bigger. Nothing will stop her. If she needs to go to Tijuana to have them enlarged by the local doctors who use ice bars for anesthetics, as told by another patient who was trying to reposition her navel and had this nightmarish experience in Mexico- she will not hesitate. There was also the case of a gay man who will not stop at anything to make himself have Barbie’s or Ken’s looks. At first I thought he meant Ken’s, but then, as the program progressed, I was under the impression he wanted something more radical: an amalgamation of Ken’s and Barbie’s looks in his own body.  He looked totally plastic and robot-like to the naive and unsophisticated eyes of someone like me, who grew up by the beach in Recife, in the northeast of Brazil, where people could not be more natural in the way they looked physically.

Human Ken/Barbie

Human Ken/Barbie

A gay friend showed me a matchmaking app named Grindr, which operates as a virtual shopping catalog, showing parts of the body of strangers – usually toned or heavily worked-out headless torsos of young men –  they may contact and meet at the touch of a button. The people will show up on your device screen if they are geographically near you, which, supposedly, adds to the immediacy of the satisfaction and completely eliminates the concept of delayed  gratification. The guys on the app seem to be all the same: if you don’t look like a porn star (they immediately exchange more explicit photos after the first contact is made, so all the physical info is made known), your chances of having someone continue your attempts at making  conversation are meager. And even if you look like a Greek god, I was told, the real contacts rarely happen, as the parts keep canceling and postponing the actual meetings forever. The fear of the real is palpable and insurmountable.

I don’t mean to be nostalgic about the old ways of flirting and dating. They did not work that well either. And there is no way they can compete with the optimization provided by these new dating apps in some respects.  If you are lucky enough to meet the person you contacted through the app outside the virtual world,  you’ll already be armed with a load of information about him/her (most of it fake or distorted, just like in real life, when people talk about themselves). It saves a lot of time. It’s just the new way of doing things. We will have to get used to it.

People have also always worried about how good they looked. It may be only my impression that things may have gotten a bit out of hand now. I wonder how historians will analyze this period we are living now and how all these changes – which actually started back in the sixties – will reshape the human race and its values and behaviours.

Good luck with your bodily alterations.

Jorge Sette.

 

 

 

Start your blog today: what are you waiting for?


I have some 2000 friends on Facebook.  Of course not all of them are close friends, but also family and business peers. Most of all are in ELT (ENGLISH LANGUAGE TEACHING)  one way or another: as teachers, publishers, writers, distributors or students. Of course, our news feeds are packed with info about methodologies, new materials, suggestions on lessons, and self-congratulatory posts on how great it is to be a teacher. The latter, I must confess, are not among my favorite posts: you didn’t see Steve Jobs talking about how great it was to be a brilliant marketer all the time. He presented us the results of his work in terms of concrete products. Of course, with teaching, not all products are tangible, customers are more likely to talk about the quality of our service. However, if we are teachers, we should be teaching on the Internet: not only languages  – our main job – but other stuff we have fun with, things we like, activities we are good at and we can share with other people.

Sharing your interests and expertise with the world.

Sharing your interests and expertise with the world.

We live in a fascinating age where we can show our work on as many and varied platforms as we care to look for: photos on Instagram; videos on YouTube and Vimeo; pictorial suggestions and ideas on Pinterest; snippets of your expertise on Twitter; blogs on WordPress…. to name just the most common. I’m surprised you guys – the experts in inparting knowledge and sharing strategies in meaningful and structured ways –  are not doing that more often online. Most of you keep posting cat pictures and your latest dinner photo on Facebook. That’s fine: some of the cats are even cute, but you can do so much more.

Everytime I go through my news feed I’m fascinated to find out how my friends know about so many different and interesting things:  pets and how to treat them, unusual recipes, places to go to on vacation, art, suggestions on movies to watch, you name it. Most times, however, they just share a copy of something written by another person they might have come across online and expand  a little bit on that.

Well, do more.

Create a blog on the topic and let us learn from you. I have no idea how to cook, and would love to read a simple cooking blog written by any of my friends and would be glad to share with her the results of my efforts, for example. If, for some reason, you don’t like to write, use pictures, videos, cartoons. The important thing is to come up with a story. Create a thread that can lead us to what you are trying to teach us, the goal you wish us to reach. Make it didactic and systematic, set exercises, answer our questions, help us. Who knows, you may even make money out of it, if it gets great readership.

I myself started a blog (LINGUAGEM: jorgesette.com) a year ago just for fun, discussing not only language, my favorite topic, but other themes I enjoyed (movies, art, books, culture, TV shows,  marketing, sales),  but now the blog is becoming more and more professional, as it’s helping me promote the language eBooks I publish on Amazon.com. As I write in English, I’m easily read all over the world, and it’s really gratifying the sense of pride and accomplishment you get when  I see my humble stuff being read in the US, India, Pakistan, France, etc.  This year (2015) we’ve been getting more than 3000 views per month,  and getting stronger.

So, my recommendation is don’t think about the money first: publish something on the Internet for fun: gather an audience, build a network,  and make new friends. Then, if it works out, turn it into a business.

Don’t waste time: start teaching us today! It’s fun.

On the other hand, for those interested in reading how a professional blog for customers should be written, please refer to my previous article: Should you have a blog as a marketer:

 http://wp.me/p4gEKJ-1bv

Au revoir

Jorge Sette.

 

 

 

Backstabbing in the workplace: how to deal with it.


New York is considered the workplace backstabbing capital of the world. I believe that’s only because there are more offices there.  The situation in Sao Paulo or London is not that different, and I’m sure you must have the same problem at work wherever you live.

Backstabbing gets worse in times of change and instability, as people get more afraid of losing their jobs and tend to sacrifice basic principles and decency in order to keep their positions. Like me, you may  have been backstabbed a number of times, it’s part of corporate life. However, I believe the situation is getting worse now, as younger employees, with immature emotional skills, lack patience for the hard work and time required to climb the slow steps of the corporate ladder, and do not think twice before creating situations that compromise the work and credibility of more meritorious co-workers.

Samson and Delilah by Mantegna, Andrea, 1500.

Samson and Delilah by Mantegna, Andrea, 1500.

There are some tips I can pass on to you on how to deal with sabotage and backstabbing  based on my experience in the corporate world,  although I’m by no means an expert on the topic. Sadly, these tips do not guarantee 100% success.

1. Let’s start by discussing the personality of the typical backstabber: they are usually popular and seem to be nice. They never lose their temper in public. They act behind your back and are cold enough to invite you to lunch at the same time. Everything you say while talking to them informally may and will be used against you, in a slightly distorted way, to fit their story and context in the future. They do not know as much as you do about the work, lack your skills,  and are generally jealous of all you managed to accomplish in your long career. They need short cuts, quick fixes. They are great at socializing and tend to personalize their contacts with clients and other co-workers to the point of inviting them to their houses, for example, or going out with them for drinks without any specific business purposes, as an artificial attempt to foster intimacy.  Their lives revolve around the idea of getting ahead no matter what, except by doing hard work. They tend to be passive aggressive, manipulative  and non-confrontational.

2. The first thing you need to do as you suspect someone is sabotaging your work or damaging your professional reputation is to analyze the situation from as many angles as possible: are you being paranoid? Give the person the benefit of the doubt.  Tell your story to  a couple of close friends (out of work) and get their reaction.

3. If you are sure you are being sabotaged, the next step is to get allies. Try and find out if someone else in the office is also suffering in the hands of the backstabber and see if you can build a case involving more stories than yours alone.

4. Confront the backstabber: invite him to a meeting and express your feelings, ask what is going on, how you can both work better together, and what he would like you to change so the atmosphere gets better. Tell him what you would like him to change. Have this meeting privately, so the person does not feel you guys are ganging up on him.

5.  If things do not improve, start collecting tangible proof (email, documents, careless or intentional mistakes) that this person is somehow sabotaging your work. Today, collecting evidence is becoming easier and easier, with all the digital trail people leave behind them. Take all the evidence and go two or three levels above the person’s position (her direct boss might be in on the sabotage as well, so you may be in trouble if you talk to him) and state your case as unemotionally as possible.  Make it all about the work, objectively. Tell the big boss that you are finding it hard to work with that person, explain why, show your proof, and ask if she could help you solve the problem.

6.  Start immediately looking for a new job, as backstabbers have a better chance of succeeding, due to their popularity and skillful aptitude to fake feelings and emotions.

7. Think that your life is a lot bigger than the work you do for a living.

Corporate life is hard, but I still firmly believe that competent, decent,  and hard-working people will eventually prevail in the long run, despite all the evidence to the contrary.

Au revoir

Jorge Sette.

 

13 Business Lessons from House of Cards


Apply the rules below at your own discretion in the workplace. The author assumes no responsibility for the consequences, although he is 99% sure they will help you climb the corporate ladder faster.

House of Cards - Netflix.

House of Cards – Netflix.

1. There is no difference between business and politics. Corporations are like the National Congress.

2. Crush your opponents again and again  (competition or coworkers). And yet again. But if they survive, align with them.

3. Keep your self-control. No shouting matches are allowed in public. Keep a perpetual fake smile on your face no matter what. There is sex, drugs and cigarettes to drown your misery at night. Use them in moderation.

4. Get married and have a big family. There is no way a single, childless person can prove their love and care for the constituents (or customers).

5. Lie, lie, lie. And lie once more. Do not commit to anything as far as possible. Then tell the truth, when you are out of danger and no one expects you to: now you become a hero.

6. If you are writing  a contract or some other kind of written document: make sure you get legal advice to make the language as vague as possible to allow for leeway and future changes.

7. Distance yourself as much as you can from the weak and broken. Discard them.

8. Involve your security personnel as much as you can. Get close. Have sex with them and your spouse together to tighten the relationship.

9. Unlike the common thought, intelligent people understand that being gay is not a personal choice and they couldn’t care less about who people go to bed with. However, play to your audience’s tastes and ignorance. If they hate gays, you must hate them too. And mean it. Typical doublethink tactic from Orwell’s 1984: study it.

10. Give condoms as a gift to whoever is sleeping with your husband. You don’t want him to financially support the bastard.

11. Eat ribs at shoddy joints.

12. Play the feminist card whenever you run out of options. “It’s because I’m a woman, right?”

13. Have Robin Wright on your side and get her to love you.

Good luck

Jorge Sette

Blog Linguagem: 1st Anniversary. Jan 2015: 100% Growth!


We broke all our records in Jan 2015 with a 100% growth.  Join us now: http://www.jorgesette.com

LINGUAGEM, MARKETING, SALES TRAINING, CULTURE, ART

100% GROWTH

100% GROWTH

 

Our main customers. Where do they come from?

Our main customers. Where do they come from?

 

 

Click on the link below to check out our latest stats in PDF format.

Blog LINGUAGEM- First Anniversary

 

Au revoir

 

Jorge Sette.

OUR BLOG “LINGUAGEM” HAS HAD A GREAT FIRST YEAR!


HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE.

Please find below some official stats sent by wordpress.com on the blog LINGUAGEM. We’ve had a great first year. Thanks for the support and we will back stronger than ever in 2015.

BLOG LINGUAGEM: 2014 official stats

BLOG LINGUAGEM: 2014 official stats

 

 

Screen Shot 2014-12-30 at 8.48.34 PM Screen Shot 2014-12-30 at 8.52.35 PM

 

Au revoir

Jorge Sette.

What’s your social media strategy as a salesperson?


As I have been stating in a number of previous posts in this blog, the barriers between Sales, Marketing and Customer Service need to come down fast, if companies are to become more effective. The upper hand of the relationship between customers and companies has shifted significantly towards the former in today’s market place. Salespeople must focus on the client as an individual and cater for her specific needs at every stage of the buying process. Therefore companies need to adapt and be way more attentive and responsive to be able to move the client along the sales funnel (the steps towards the purchase) and close the deal. Companies need to train their staff to develop sophisticated social media skills if they want to succeed.

Sales, Marketing and Customer Service have to work closer than ever to provide a seamless experience to the client, regardless of the different touch points (email campaign, sales call, the various social media channel communications, print ads, etc) she is exposed to and chooses to use on the path to a purchase.

The old system of departmentalization between Sales, Marketing and Customer Service is becoming obsolete: in the past, sales leads were generated by Marketing, which would qualify them and pass them on to Sales, which, in turn, would hand post-sales issues to Customer Service for support and help. This process does not work so neatly anymore. It has become a lot more complex, not to say messy. Customers are probably exposed to your product through a number of sources and the communication and the responsibility for the process of following up on their requests must be handled together, as a team, by your employees. Software is available to make all the history of this interaction clear to whoever deals with that client.

Selling through social media

Selling through social media

For starters the client is bound to already know a lot about the product even before she first contacts you. She has a number of ways to research and get precise info on what she needs to purchase. The idea is to be fast and prompt in your response, adding to what is already known, whether it be: passing on more specific info on the benefits, clarification on functionality, scheduling a live demonstration, an invitation to a webinar with a specialist, drawing the terms of a contract, the negotiation of a discount, etc.

Let’s focus in this post on how specifically the sales force could use social media more proactively to meet the customer’s needs and move them along the sales funnel towards a successful goal. They can use any or all of the following tools as a supplement to what they already do (such as personal sales calls or phone calls). In many cases, however, you will notice that if they use these online tools properly, parts of the more traditional in person face-to-face sales process might be replaced smoothly by digital communication – which, not rarely, are more likely to yield results.

1. LinkedIn: this is your personal online ID card. Chances are customers will check out your profile immediately after you schedule an appointment to see them. Make sure you live up or surpass their expectations. Choose your profile picture carefully. Only you can decide on the level of formality or informality expected from professionals in your industry. Play by the rules. Fill in as much relevant info about your career as possible, and do not hesitate to ask coworkers, bosses and senior management for recommendations and endorsements. You can always return the favor. Publish only work-related posts on this platform. Avoid jokes and cat photos (you can use other social networks for that, don’t worry). Think twice before you post an update here. Remember that slips may jeopardize your chances of a future job. Nurture and grow your contacts daily. Be courteous and answer communications sent to you as quickly as possible.

2. Facebook: if you are uncomfortable using your personal profile professionally, create a specific professional one (I’ve confronted that dilemma of separating private and public life myself for a couple of years, so I’m totally sympathetic to whoever has the same problem). However, I gave up the on the struggle and unified my profiles. In this day and age, customers expect to deal with genuine human beings, so developing skills to be able to post the right content to the right group of people through a single profile will surely make your life easier and boost your career. If you wish to post photos of your family barbecue, do create a little private group for the only people who would care about this. Besides, as you probably know, you have the option to post to your whole audience of “friends”, to a few chosen people, or to the public in general, by adjusting the platform settings for every post. Just exercise some common sense in your content publishing strategy and you should be OK. This works better than keeping separate profiles. What you can’t do is avoid creating a digital presence for the development of your personal brand on the Internet. Gather as many clients and prospects as your “friends” as possible, and start posting relevant and useful content (not annoying and interrupting ads) on your newsfeed. You will be building what they call “thought leadership”, presenting yourself as an expert in a specific subject, and, naturally, prospects will grow to depend on you when they have a problem that needs the kind of solution you have been discussing or blogging about.

3. Instagram: develop a similar a strategy. Of course, the focus here, however, is on visuals: photos and videos. Publish a balanced mix of personal and work-related content. The personal stuff will make it easy for the customers to relate to you as a person (so the occasional cat pictures are fine, don’t worry), whereas the work-related publications will hopefully help you build a friendly and caring image for your company and for yourself as a professional. You could, for example, post photos of your products and services (a dynamic teacher in action using the latest technology in the classroom, if you sell edtech products, for example). Try not to use fashion models – this is not an ad after all (lose the glitter and fake glamour) – but real life photos of actual happy users of your product instead. Show people you work with. Post pictures of the offices of your company, to make it more relatable to customers. The main thing to keep in mind is you should be providing valuable or fun information, educating your prospects, training your users, not interrupting your audience with a sales pitch. In the meantime, Marketing should be working on building a bank of images, video clips, ebooks, blog posts, white papers and other useful pieces of content to help you pass them on in a more personalized way to your prospects, but there’s nothing wrong in your creating your own content, if you have the skills and the authorization of your boss. Do not rely solely on the Marketing Department’s support for your success, it doesn’t work like that.

4. Twitter: don’t waste time using your Twitter account only for personal interactions. Think of it, as of any other social media channel, as a powerful tool to create an Internet presence and carve a unique personal brand. This may advance your career in unexpected ways. Create or curate as much germane content to your customers as possible. Retweet, for example, your company’s invitations to webinars and events. Indicate and promote useful and complementary websites to the customers. Share relevant information about your industry. Educate the prospects on the benefits of a new product or service. I know you have only 140 characters to use, but you’d be amazed at how much can be accomplished with that. Don’t forget you can use links to more comprehensive information (such as a blog post, a landing page or a how-to video clip), although I wouldn’t recommend you overuse this technique. The recommended balance goes more or less like this: for each 15 new updates, think 10/4/1: 10 posts should be about content from other people you are curating and sharing; 4 posts should direct them to your latest blog post or video clip; 1 post should invite them to a special offer on your company’s landing page. Don’t use this ratio as a straightjacket, though.

The bottom line is nobody has a perfectly safe job in today’s corporate world. Companies will not give you all the support you wish you had to carry out the ideal sales performance everyone expects from you. You need to stand up for yourself and imagine you are an external consultant hired to do the best job you can for a limited period of time. Lay-offs are around the corner. I don’t mean to scare you, but this is the brutal reality of our times. Therefore, you have no choice. Dive into social media, develop a powerful personal brand on the Internet, nourish a healthy and trusting base of clients and feed them all the relevant content you can. The pay off will be the empowering of your personal brand and the resulting sale – when and only when the customers are ready for it. The good news is this method will yield a lot more closings than the more traditional approaches, in which you need to wrestle down the poor customer to the floor and drag her across the room by the hair to force the purchase of the latest edition of your Manual for Reluctant Customers.

For more on the same topic, please refer to my previous post:

https://jorgesette.wordpress.com/2014/05/02/salespeople-need-to-become-marketers/

Please let me know your thoughts about this article. Use the comments section for your reaction.

Au revoir

Jorge Sette

Five Reasons to Teach English Using Art


I have always been very interested in the association between Art and Learning. Teaching with art. In my workshops and presentations as a teacher and sales trainer, I usually try to illustrate my sessions with slides containing pictures of famous paintings or sculptures to make a point. The reaction of the audience is invariably positive. I started then to think about the power of the pedagogy or andragogy (training adults) that incorporates art works as some form of context in the specific field of English language teaching. These are some of the reasons to expose learners to art I came up with. The list is by no means exhaustive, and I would appreciate your help in adding your ideas to this blog in the comments section at the bottom.

Apollo in the forge of Vulcan, 1630. Velázquez.

Apollo in the Forge of Vulcan, 1630. Velázquez.

1. Fun: art is fun. Fun makes learning easier. We all know that whenever leaners are enjoying an activity their level of engagement rises and, therefore, they spend longer stretches of time focusing on the topic. Considering the goldfish-like attention span of most people today, due to the overwhelming amount of information they are bombarded with from all sides, this is already a victory in and of itself.

2. CLIL: most teachers are familiar with this acronym that means Content and Language Integrated Learning. It’s been around for some time now. It only means that language should be taught within a specific context, as a means to an end, rather than as a metalinguistic process. Learners acquire a second language more effectively if they come across real or contextualized uses of it: in a text, a listening passage or a video clip, for example, so they can concentrate on the message as much as on the medium. The length of exposure to the topic may vary: the longer the better. This means that if you teach, for example, history or math in English for a whole term, the learners might develop a better grasp of the language than if you had used fragments or decontextualized sentences to focus only on the language itself. Art, therefore, lends itself perfectly to the job, as it provides a wonderful canvas (pun intended) to design innumerable language activities on.

3. Emotions: Krashen, the linguist, warned us against psychological barriers that, when up, prevent the linguistic input from reaching our innate language acquisition device. The classroom environment must be as free as possible of pressures and inhibiting factors to be more conducive to learning. Art can be a great help in creating this atmosphere of calm and relaxation learners need to internalize input. But it also keeps them alert, due to its positively emotional impact, which is also a necessary condition for language acquisition. Besides, beauty makes the language more memorable.

4. Flexibility: teaching English based on paintings and sculptures lends itself to all kinds of activities across language levels, catering for different kinds of learning styles. Of course the impact is huge for the more visually oriented learners. But if you add a listening comprehension task about the piece of art or aesthetic movement you are discussing, or have, for example, learners work on some kind of hands-on activity as a follow-up – such as putting the pieces of a puzzle together, producing their own art work, or making a collage on the theme – you will be equally catering for the auditory and kinesthetic learners.

5. Personalization: learning is all about personalization. People have individual learning paces, varied kinds of intelligences, diverse learning styles and interests. Art and its many manifestations allow for different meanings and interpretations. The same work of art fosters different reactions and emotions in different people. Teachers can tap into this. Allowing open-ended responses to a speaking or writing activity based on a painting makes for solid and effective methodology.

The Nude Maja, 1799-1800, Goya.

The Nude Maja, 1799-1800, Goya.

Both teachers and students profit enormously from the inclusion of art in their English lessons. Most people are not really exposed to fine art, despite all the technological means to reach it we have at out disposal today. So, in addition to all the reasons listed before, we, as teachers and educators, will be refining the learners’ aesthetic taste, opening up a whole world of discovery and instilling a wish for self-improvement in them.

Cupid and Psyche, 1786-1793, Antonio Canova

Cupid and Psyche, 1786-1793, Antonio Canova

If you want to see some practical examples of English lessons using art, we have some ready-made plans on Slideshare: http://www.slideshare.net/jorgesetteelt

For those of you who are English Teachers and love art in general, we offer a wonderful collection of supplementary eBooks for the students to practice vocabulary, speaking and writing, based on the works of famous painters: TEACHING ENGLISH WITH ART. The series is comprised of 8 books so far, and features works by Matisse, Picasso, Caravaggio, Monet, Norman Rockwell, Vincent van Gogh and Winslow Homer. For further information on how to download the materials, please click here: http://wp.me/p4gEKJ-1lS

Check out this brief video on the material on TEACHING ENGLISH WITH ART: MONET:

Au revoir

Jorge Sette