Business Communication Skills Seminar



Dr. Elena V. Orlova, Associate Professor, CESM Language Coordinator, Department of Languages for Academic and Business Communication, Graduate School of Management, St. Petersburg University



16 contact hours



Course Description:

During the course students develop oral and written skills of efficient communication in a business-related context performing the following activities: 

  • Case-specific email exchange (emailing to different target audiences - senior staff, peers, etc.);
  • writing analytical notes based on analytical research and previous case-related activities; reporting the outcomes (reporting conflicting ideas); 
  • pitching positions/solutions;
  • presenting solutions (format: case-related group presentations).

Course Content (Topics and subtopics):

Topic 1. Effective business correspondence: Instant messages vs. emails. (4 hours)

Session 1. Introduction into the case

Reading input.

  • Main message
  • Initial opinions


Session 2.

Effective business correspondence:

  • Instant messages exchange 
  • Emailing to peers vs. emailing to senior staff. Instant messages and emails layout. Instant messages and emails language styles. The interrelationship between the needs of the audience, the goal of the writing, and writing style and format. 
  • The Analytical Grids.
  • Typical challenges and pitfalls of business emails.
  • Empty messages vs. action-oriented response


Topic 2. Feedback session. Effective analytical notes. (2 hours)

Session 3

Feedback 1.

  • Email exchange
  • Analytical Notes. Presenting the findings. Effective analytical notes: collecting the information, selecting and organizing the material, presenting findings, concluding and recommending. 
  • The art of persuasion. Persuasion techniques.
  • Mini-lectures:
    • Psychology of persuasion. Words are power. 
    • Public speaking: anxiety and fears.


Topic 3. Pitching positions/solutions. (6 hours)

Session 4 - 5

Public Speaking: Anxiety and fears. Gaining credibility.

Pitch Your Position.

  • Main principles and techniques of pitching
  • Selecting and organizing material for pitching.
  • Language of pitching


Session 6. Pitching a position/solution.


Topic 4. Giving and receiving feedback techniques. (1 hour)

How to avoid the cruelty of feedback.


Topic 5. Giving presentations (group presentations). (3 hour)

Session 7.

- Feedback. Analysis of pitches. Self-evaluating tables. Peer-to-peer feedback.

- From academic to business presentations

  • Main principles of selecting and organizing information for efficient presentations. Presentation structure. Essential language of presentations
  • Visualization of the message
  • Developing an argument
  • Dealing with difficult questions


Session 8. Final group presentations.

Course Organization:

This is a cased-based course which consists of

- Mini lectures with slide presentations

followed by such activities as

- Group work (group discussions, written activities – writing instant messages, and oral activities – presenting analytical notes, final group presentations at the Joint Department meeting)
- Individual work (oral activity – pitching at Department meetings, written activity – writing emails)
- peer-to-peer feedback formats

Students’ pitching and final presentations are video-recorded

Students are expected to attend all classes and be fully prepared and actively participate in class discussions.
At the stage of pitching students are partially engaged in using a computer room where they draft their pitch scripts and send them to the seminar instructor
Maximum number of students per group: 20

Course Reading (the full list):

Core reading:

  1. Alred, G.J., Brusaw C.T., Oliu W.E. The Business Writer’s Handbook, - Bedford/St.Martin’s, 2015
  2. Ashley A. Oxford Handbook of Commercial Correspondence, - Oxford University Press, 2015.

Reading on Financial Institution Ethics.


Text 1. Opening Remarks at the Workshop on Reforming Culture and Behavior in the Financial Services Industry,
Federal Reserve Bank of New York, New York City,
October 20, 2014


Text 2. Enhancing Financial Stability by Improving Culture in the Financial Services Industry October 20, 2014


Text 3. Opening Remarks at Reforming Culture and Behavior in the Financial Services Industry: Workshop on Progress and Challenges
November 5, 2015,William C. Dudley


Supplementary reading:
- Selected articles on the case (online resources)
- Selected reading on business communication formats

Exam format:

Final test will consist of group presentations delivered at class within the frame of the Joint Meeting aimed at finding the best and most effective solution to the case.
In-Class, 90 min.

Grading Policy (% or points):

Attendance: max (100%)           8 sessions
Pitching: max (100%)               40 points
Email: max (100%)                  30 points
Analytical note: max (100%)      30 points
Presentation: max (100%)         30 points

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