The Dragons’ Den: Understanding meetings

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Want to understand what is going on in meetings? Watch the Dragon’s Den, that reality show in which young entrepreneurs present their business ideas to experienced investors hoping to convince them to invest their own money. Both the Canadian and the British series contain real jewels. Last year I wrote here about the Patil children and Rasam soup, but my current three favorites for drama and up-to-date business culture are

Foldio (British series)

“Hi My name’s Christian and I’m looking for an 80,000 pound investment for a 15% stake in my company, Foldio Ltd. Last year I studied Graphic Designer A-Level, and I was forced to carry around these huge A2 graphic design folders, and I found them very awkward to carry…”

Youdoodoll (British series)

“Hello everyone, my name’s Sara Lu and today I’m asking for 35,000 pounds investment for 20% equity in my product, the Youdoodoll.”

The UK Dragons: James, Deborah, Peter, Theo, Duncan
The UK Dragons: James, Deborah, Peter, Theo, Duncan

“Atomic Tea” (Candian series)

“Next up: A brother-sister team that wants to franchise their rapidly growing tea business. And they’re looking to bag 120,000 dollars from the Dragons for a quarter of their company.”

Jim, Arlene, Kevin, Laurence, Robert
The Canadian Dragons: Jim, Arlene, Kevin, Laurence, Robert

What I’m doing with these

I teach experienced assistants with an advanced knowledge of English how to follow what is going on in meetings and negotiations and how to take the minutes in English. I unfortunately have no videos of real meetings to work with, and while EFL videos of meetings (I use the Cornelsen “Effective” series) teach standard communication patterns and “good practice”, they are too artificial to get these assistants’ adrenaline levels up. So instead I get them watching and documenting The Dragon’s Den. The way I do it takes about 45 minutes. First we watch the film once (ca. 10 minutes) and the assistants work in groups to answer basic comprehension questions:

  • Who is the contestant?
  • What is the product?
  • What does the contestant ask for first?
  • What does each Dragon offer?
  • What are the alternatives the contestant must decide between?
  • What is the final outcome?
  • What will happen next? Who is to do what?

Then they watch again to check they’ve got everything right. After the second go through we do a whole class summary to make sure everyone understands what is going on. With a lively group I like to do this as a Q&A game – the groups trading missing information for other information or, if they run out of that, sweets or a back rub… Then we set up rolling minutes as a table using headings “What / Who / Discussed / To do” to document the meeting.

You can surely get a lot more mileage from these videos, e.g. for teaching negotiation skills, but this is how I use them. Louise Kennedy turned me on to the Dragon’s Den last year – thanks again!


2 Responses

  1. Hey Anne,
    Hope you’re having a great start to 2010.
    I love your ideas and your blog is a garden of goodies!

    Nice to see that you and your students are getting lots out of The Dragon’s Den.
    Just to let you know Alun Philips did a very nice BESIG presentation of The DD in 2007 called:
    ‘ Into the Dragon’s Den – making effective use of authentic business materials’ (PowerPoint presentation, worksheets and tapescript available). You’ll find all here under G8.

    Also, there are 2 worksheets on the ‘Up to Speed’ website based on the Atomic Tea episode of DD that you mention above.
    One is called:
    ‘Anyone for Tea’ and the other
    ‘I can(‘t) get no satisfaction’.

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