Telephoning RP: arranging a company visit


This is one of those zero-materials, zero-preparation activities that works every time. I did it again recently after a break of several years and it went really well.


1 Put the students into pairs and tell them that they are going to do a telephone role-play on the topic of ‘Arranging a company visit’. Do a very short warmer by asking them how often visitors come from abroad to visit their company, what the visitors do/see on the trip, etc.

2 Ask everyone to work individually to prepare their role as Host. To do this they should imagine that someone (a potential customer, someone from Head Office etc) is coming from abroad to visit their company. They have to write down on a piece of paper:

  • the name, country and job of the visitor (a real one, or just ‘Mr/Ms Customer, Germany’)
  • the schedule for the trip, with details of times, places and things to see/do.

They should make it realistic, and you can give a quick verbal example: 9:00 pick-up from hotel, 9:30 welcome and short presentation by Ms X, 10:00 tour of plant, 11:00 coffee with plant manager Mr Y, etc. They soon get the idea – this is a normal situation for them and they know the typical program for this kind of tour of their company. If they want to make it a two-day program because that’s more common for them, fine. Let them write the schedule.

2 Now ask them all to prepare the role of Visitor, again working individually. They should write down:

  • their name, country and job (copied from their partner’s piece of paper)
  • the arrival day and time of their flight, and the flight number
  • their requirements for a good hotel (which the host is going to book for them)

3 Now establish the scenario very clearly. Tell the students:

  • they are going to sit back to back, mobile phones in hand, to have a telephone conversation
  • there has been some email correspondence about this trip, and now the host is calling to finalize all the arrangements
  • the visitor has not yet arranged a hotel and the host will make the booking for them
  • nothing has been discussed yet about meeting the visitor at the airport, going to the hotel etc.
  • the host will go through the schedule for the trip and the visitor should listen very carefully and ask questions where appropriate.

4 Put the students back to back and establish who is going to have which role first. Clarify that the visitor will speak first when the phone ‘rings’ by answering in the way that they normally would when they are at work. The host should say who they are and give the reason for calling. They can have a few lines of friendly social English before beginning the main part of the call. Now make a ‘ring ring’ sound from the front of the class and indicate that the students should begin.

Remember to circulate and take notes for language feedback.

5 The students change roles and have another call. You do more note-taking for language feedback.

6 As a round-up, you may want to ask one pair who did particularly well to perform the RP again for the whole class. Give them a big round of applause at the end and don’t refer to any errors they made – just compliment them on something you (genuinely) thought they did well, eg when one person asked a good clarification question.

7 Have a language feedback slot at the end as normal.