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0948 Listening to Motivational Speakers

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 948 – Listening to Motivational Speakers.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 948. I'm your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Our website is ESLPod.com. Go there. Become a member of ESL Podcast. When you do, the sun will be brighter, your days will be longer, and your happiness will be greater. Oh, and you can also download a Learning Guide when you become a member.

This episode is an episode about listening to motivational speakers – people who try to motivate you or to get you to do something that perhaps you don't want to do, like listening to motivational speakers. Let’s get started.

[start of dialogue]

Jamal: I really dread these annual management meetings. We usually have to sit through the most boring motivational speakers giving us pep talks.

Cindy: I think you’ll be surprised by the person they’ve hired to kick off our meeting. She’s supposed to be a guru on crisis management.

Jamal: Oh no, not another one.

Cindy: This one has a lot of real-world experience. She was a fighter pilot who has apparently survived some very difficult missions.

Jamal: What does a fighter pilot know about business? I can’t believe our company is shelling out thousands of dollars on speaking fees for someone like her to tell us how to do our jobs better.

Cindy: I think that the idea is to understand how other organizations and professions handle crises, which may shed some light on how we can do things better.

Jamal: Well, I don’t have high hopes.

Cindy: Don’t you think she can teach us anything?

Jamal: Sure, in fact our speaker has inspired me to try to get on the lecture circuit myself.

Cindy: What would you speak about?

Jamal: Avoiding corporate waste!

[end of dialogue]

Jamal begins our dialogue by saying to Cindy, “I really dread these annual management meetings.” “To dread” (dread) means to not be excited about something. It's the opposite of “looking forward to” something. “To dread” something is not to look forward to it. “Management meetings” are meetings that are attended by, or that have as their participants, people who are managers, executives, bosses in a company. The “management” of a company refers to the people who run the company – the bosses and executives.

Jamal says, “We usually have to sit through the most boring motivational speakers giving us pep talks.” “To sit through” something is a phrasal verb meaning to go somewhere where you have to stay, but it isn't very pleasant. We might also use the verb, here, “to endure” (endure). “To endure” or “to sit through” something is to go somewhere and have to listen to things that you, perhaps, are not very interested in. You might have to sit through a really bad movie if your husband or wife wants you to go, and you really don't want to go, but you say, “Okay, I’ll go,” and then you have to sit through this terrible movie about people dying and, well, that’s just an example – not something from my own life.

“Pep talks” (pep talks) – two words – are informal speeches that are given to people to make them happier, to make them more motivated to want to do something. The people who often come to these large meetings of managers and try to help people get motivated are called “motivational speakers.” “Motivational” comes from the verb “to motivate,” which as I've mentioned means to get you to do something that you perhaps don't otherwise want to do. “Motivational speakers” became very popular in the middle part of the twentieth century, at least in the United States, especially for these sorts of large business meetings where bosses were coming together to try to plan the future of the company.

Cindy says, “I think you'll be surprised by the person they've hired to kick off our meeting.” Cindy is not as negative as Jamal is. She’s saying that he'll be surprised by the person the company hired, or paid, to come and “kick off our meeting.” “To kick off” something means to start or to begin something, especially a long project or a large task that has to be accomplished. Cindy says, “She's supposed to be a guru on crisis management.” A “guru” (guru) is someone who knows a lot about a certain topic, who is considered an expert. A “guru” is also a wise, spiritual person in certain religious traditions such as Hinduism and Buddhism. But here, it just means an expert – someone who knows a lot about a certain topic.

This motivational speaker knows a lot about crisis management. A “crisis” (crisis) is a serious situation, maybe even a dangerous situation, that requires some immediate attention or immediate action. The word “management” in the term “crisis management” doesn't refer to the people who run a company, but rather to the process of taking care of and solving whatever problem is causing, in this case, a crisis. Jamal says, “Oh no, not another one.” He still isn't very happy about this motivational speaker.

Cindy says, “This one” – this speaker – “has a lot of real-world experience.” The term “real- (real) world (world)” refers to things that people actually do – that people do “in real life,” we might say. The term is used to contrast with learning or experience that comes from reading, or comes from not actually participating in a certain activity, but perhaps from simply observing it. You can learn things from books, and you can learn things from “real-life experiences” or “real-world experiences” – things that you actually have experienced or participated in yourself. Cindy says that the motivational speaker “was a fighter pilot who has apparently survived some very difficult missions.”

A “pilot” (pilot) is a person who flies a plane; a “fighter pilot” would be someone in the military who flies planes that shoot bullets or drop bombs in some sort of military activity – a war, for example. This motivational speaker “was a fighter pilot who apparently survived some very difficult missions.” A “mission” (mission), when referring to military activities, is a task that has to be accomplished. For a fighter pilot, a mission might involve flying a hundred miles and dropping a bomb and then coming back to the ship or the place where the plane took off from. That might be a mission. The word “mission” can also mean, more generally, the purpose for doing something – your reason for doing something.

Jamal says, “What does a fighter pilot know about business? I can't believe our company is shelling out thousands of dollars on speaking fees for someone like her to tell us how to do our jobs better.” Jamal is not happy. He says he can't believe that the company “is shelling out thousands of dollars.” “To shell (shell) out” money means to pay a lot of money for something. This is a two-word phrasal verb that is often used when you think the money is being wasted, when you think the price is too high. “I don't want to shell out $50,000 for a new car. That's too much money.” “Speaking fees” refer to the money that you have to pay someone to come in and give a talk or a speech to your group.

So, Jamal is not happy the company is spending, or shelling out, “thousands of dollars on speaking fees.” Cindy says, “I think that the idea is to understand how other organizations and professions handle crises, which may shed some light on how we can do things better.” Cindy is saying that although this woman may not know anything about business, she understands how to handle or manage a crisis. And “crises” happen in many different situations and in many different organizations.

Cindy says that the fighter pilot’s experience might shed some light on how they do things in their company. “To shed (shed) light on” something or “to shed some light on” something means to provide insight on a topic, to help someone understand something better, to see it in a different way. Jamal says, “Well, I don't have high hopes.” “High hopes” are high expectations – when you think something is going to be really great. Jamal does not have high hopes.

Cindy says, “Don't you think she can teach us anything?” Jamal says, “Sure. In fact, our speaker has inspired me to try to get on the lecture circuit myself.” Jamal is saying that this woman is inspiring him or giving him the idea – and, I guess, the motivation – to try to get on the lecture circuit. The term “lecture” (lecture) refers to a speech when you go out and educate someone or give a speech to a group of people to try to provide new information to them. We also use this word at the university when a professor gives information to the students. We call that “giving a lecture,” or we can use it as a verb: “to lecture.”

The “lecture circuit” (circuit) refers to a typical schedule that you would have for a person who goes and gives lectures or presentations at many different places, in many different organizations. In education, for example, there are people who go around and give presentations to teachers in different cities. Now, they don't all go to the same cities or to the same schools, but we could refer to this activity of going around and giving presentations and talks to different groups of people in different parts of the country as being a “lecture circuit.”

I was on the lecture circuit for a couple of years. I would go around and give speeches and give presentations to English teachers all around the United States. I did that for about three years. I would fly to different cities and give presentations, sometimes 30 or 40 cities in a year. So, I did a lot of traveling when I was younger. I'm glad I don't have to do that anymore. I travel now just via the Internet.

To finish our dialogue, Cindy says, “What would you speak about?” She's asking Jamal what he would go and present on if he were to be on the lecture circuit. Jamal says, “Avoiding corporate waste.” “Corporate” (corporate) refers to a large company. “Waste” (waste) refers to money that is not spent well, money that is lost on things that are not very productive or useful. “Corporate waste” will refer to money that a company spends that doesn't really give them very much benefit.

Jamal thinks motivational speakers are a waste of money. So, he's going to go around to other companies as a motivational speaker to tell them how much money they're wasting on motivational speakers.

Now let’s listen to the dialogue, this time at a normal speed.

[start of dialogue]

Jamal: I really dread these annual management meetings. We usually have to sit through the most boring motivational speakers giving us pep talks.

Cindy: I think you’ll be surprised by the person they’ve hired to kick off our meeting. She’s supposed to be a guru on crisis management.

Jamal: Oh no, not another one.

Cindy: This one has a lot of real-world experience. She was a fighter pilot who has apparently survived some very difficult missions.

Jamal: What does a fighter pilot know about business? I can’t believe our company is shelling out thousands of dollars on speaking fees for someone like her to tell us how to do our jobs better.

Cindy: I think that the idea is to understand how other organizations and professions handle crises, which may shed some light on how we can do things better.

Jamal: Well, I don’t have high hopes.

Cindy: Don’t you think she can teach us anything?

Jamal: Sure, in fact our speaker has inspired me to try to get on the lecture circuit myself.

Cindy: What would you speak about?

Jamal: Avoiding corporate waste!

[end of dialogue]

Our scriptwriter uses her real-world experience to give you the very best scripts possible to help you improve your English. I thank you, as we all thank you, Dr. Lucy Tse.

From Los Angeles, California, I'm Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to us again right here on ESL Podcast.

English as a Second Language Podcast was written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan. Copyright 2013 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
dread – not looking forward to something; not being excited about something and not wanting it to happen

* Patrizia dreads going back to work on Monday morning.

management meeting – a meeting attended by many managers, executives, and decision-makers in a company, usually to share basic information about the company and to discuss strategy and long-term planning

* At the last management meeting, they decided to open a new office in Southeast Asia.

to sit through – to endure; to be present throughout the duration of something, but not actively participate and not enjoy it or find it worthwhile or valuable

* Professor Farber’s lectures are so boring, it’s almost impossible to sit through them without falling asleep!

motivational speaker – a presenter who tries to motivate (excite for a particular purpose) other people to do something or be interested in something, usually by sharing his or her own experiences

* The conference had a great motivational speaker who talked about her experience overcoming cancer.

pep talk – an informal speech designed to make people feel excited about something and ready to take action

* The coach gives the players a pep talk before each game.

to kick off – to start or begin something; to mark the beginning of something

* They kicked off their weight-loss efforts by getting rid of all the junk food and soda in the house.

guru – someone who knows a lot about something and is considered an expert and is admired and respected by many people

* Renee is an accounting guru, so if you have any questions about saving money on taxes, be sure to ask her.

crisis management – the process and profession or dealing with alarming situations and scandals to minimize the damage

* Politicians often ask crisis management teams for help when reporters learn about unpleasant things from their personal life.

real-world experience – experiences gained from real life and actually having done something, not by studying it, reading about it in books, or hearing about it from other people

* A lot of applicants have degrees in IT, but very few of them have real-world experience in software development.

fighter pilot – a person whose job is to fly airplanes in wars and use them to attack other airplanes or drop bombs from the sky

* Fighter pilots need to have great flying skills, the ability to remain calm under attack, and a willingness to follow orders.

mission – a task that one is told to accomplish; the purpose of one’s actions or activities

* Your next mission is to find the chemical weapons facility and shut it down.

to shell out – to pay a lot of money for something, especially when one thinks the money is not well spent

* Why would you shell out hundreds of dollars for organic produce when you could grow it in your yard for free?

speaking fee – the amount of money paid to a presenter so that he or she speaks at a particular event

* Presidents can make a lot of money from speaking fees after they leave office.

to shed some light on – to provide insight or clarity on a topic; to help someone understand something better or think about something in a new way

* They hope their research will shed some light on why so many bees are dying.

high hopes – high expectations; a lot of anticipation about how good or beneficial something will be

* Everyone had high hopes that the new police chief will be able to reduce crime in the city.

lecture circuit – a schedule of many speaking events for different audiences in different places

* Being on the lecture circuit can be a great way to share information and earn money, but travelling that much can be very tiring.

corporate waste – the practice of wasteful spending by companies; when businesses spend a lot of money on things that are not necessary

* One easy way to reduce corporate waste is to have one person keep track of office supplies for the entire company.

Comprehension Questions
1. Why is Jamal dreading the annual meeting?
a) Because he thinks it will be too expensive.
b) Because he thinks the chairs are uncomfortable.
c) Because he thinks the presentation will be boring.

2. What does Jamal mean when he says, “I don’t have high hopes”?
a) He doesn’t expect the presentation to be very good.
b) He doesn’t think very many people will attend.
c) He doesn’t think the company should spend so much money.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
mission

The word “mission,” in this podcast, means a task that one is told to accomplish, or the purpose of one’s actions or activities: “The soldiers are on a mission to protect civilians during the bombing campaign.” A “mission” is also what an organization is trying to do, or why an organization exists: “The mission of our company is to make money while helping people.” When talking about religion, a “mission trip” is when a “missionary” goes to another place to talk about that religion and try to get others to believe in the same thing: “The students studying theology go on a mission trip during the summer between their third and fourth year of schooling.” Finally, the phrase “mission accomplished” is used when one has finished something: “The garage is finally organized! Mission accomplished.”

high hopes

In this podcast, the phrase “high hopes” means high expectations, with a lot of anticipation about how good or beneficial something will be: “Mindy had high hopes for the new job, but unfortunately, it wasn’t as challenging as she had expected.” The phrase “to raise (someone’s) hopes” means to make someone think that something they’ve been waiting for is finally going to happen: “Donglin got a great score on the college entrance exam, which raised her hopes of getting into a good business school.” The phrase “to shatter (someone’s) hopes” has the opposite meaning: “Getting seriously ill shattered Heather’s hopes of having a baby.” Finally, the phrase “to be (one’s) last hope” means to be one’s last opportunity of getting what he or she wants: “Asking Jake’s parents for a loan is our last hope in buying a house now.”

Culture Note
Types of Motivational Speakers

There are many types of motivational speakers who “hail from” (come from) many different backgrounds. Some motivational speakers are business professionals who have achieved great successes. Many of them are the “founders” (the people who start a business) with great success and want to share their stories of how to “defy the odds” (do something that is very difficult or almost impossible) to make their businesses grow. Others are “turnaround experts” (people who help a failing business become successful again) who share stories of their “triumphs” (great achievements, accomplishments, and successes) in changing “organizational culture” (how people interact within an organization) and “public perception” (how most people view something and how they think about it).

Other motivational speakers “draw on” (find inspiration in) their personal experience “overcoming” (conquering; moving beyond) physical and emotional challenges. Some of these motivational speakers talk about their battles with cancer and “chronic illnesses” (a long-lasting disease that cannot be cured). Others talk about living with a disability, such as “blindness” (not being able to see) or “paralysis” (not being able to move one’s body).

Still other motivational speakers share a story about some unusual event or accomplishment. Some might talk about fighting in the military, hiking to the top of a very tall mountain, or adopting a child with “special needs” (severe physical or mental problems). The basic idea is that they are telling stories that encourage their audience members to “think outside the box” (think creatively) and imagine how they might have felt in a particular situation and how they might have acted. The hope is that then they will return to their job or personal life with a new “can-do attitude” (the feeling of being able to do or to achieve anything).

Comprehension Answers
1 - c

2 - a