Vicky Margari MaM

Vicky Margari

Welcome to this week’s Meet a Member interview. I had the pleasure of interviewing Vicky about her experience as not only a new IATEFL BESIG member but also a new volunteer! Vicky tells us about how the lockdown helped her find out about IATEFL BESIG, how her business background steers her teaching, and also shares her tips on presenting for the first time.

Bio: I have been teaching business English and English for the hospitality industry for the past 4 years. I’m a freelancer and I offer a combination of live, virtual and e-learning training. I have a business background, working in hotels for 12 years and 8 years as an insurance broker.

What are your main takeaways from the IATEFL BESIG online conference in 2020?

The key takeaway for me is the whole experience of volunteering as a moderator. I love working with people, but there had never been a case before where there were no complications. So, I was blown away by the high level and quality of collaboration and communication in our diverse team, and by our perfect alignment towards the common goal of delivering a seamless, virtual experience. I learned a great deal from observing all of my fellow professionals, committee members and volunteers, applying their skills and know-how, while giving their all with enthusiasm and lots of humour. I really miss our WhatsApp group chat!

As for the speakers, I hugely admired their resilience and adaptability. A special shoutout to Valentina Dodge, who artfully took control of the situation, while I, the host of her talk, was panicking due to technical problems.

 How did you get into teaching business English?

In retrospect, it was a natural next step in my career. Back when I was working in hotels, I was always assigned the training tasks, both with regards to skills and language, and also involving smoothly integrating the newly hired staff. After moving to Italy, I struggled to find another job in hospitality at an executive position, mainly because I spoke little Italian and wrote even less. So, much like Teresa Ting’s memorable quote at her plenary talk, “you know about rats, why don’t you teach English?”, my ex-colleagues suggested, “you know English and you understand people and business, so why don’t you teach?” Why not, indeed! I’m so happy I took their advice. There’s a great sense of fulfillment in helping people communicate and reach their goals in English, and I love this feeling.

What do your students particularly struggle with and how do you support them to overcome these struggles?

Their struggles can be very different depending on the setting of their language use. In the English for hospitality context, my Greek students struggle most with appropriacy. To give a simple example of an extremely complex concept, you can’t just say, “follow me!” to a guest, who has just checked-in at the 5-star luxury resort while showing them to their room. Yes, it gets the job done, but is it appropriate considering the specific context and its sociocultural implications? And it’s not only about using the imperative either; it’s also the intonation and all the supportive paralinguistic features. What I do is raise their awareness using authentic video materials and by modeling the language myself. That’s where the advantage of having a customer care background comes in handy.

What has been a highlight of your business English teaching career so far?

That’s an easy one – without a doubt, joining IATEFL BESIG! I can honestly say, if it hadn’t been for the lockdown, I’d have missed the opportunity to discover the IATEFL BESIG family. Back then, resources were made available on their website to non-members, and when I saw the wealth of materials, I thought, “these people are truly active”. Joining the Facebook group, I appreciated how much support is given to anyone seeking it. There were endless threads of invaluable advice. Also, no self-promoting, which is remarkable comparing to what you see around. After that, I joined a Break Room, I put faces to names and I experienced first-hand this sense of belonging, of being among old friends. And the benefits keep coming!

How was your experience presenting at the IATEFL BESIG conference online in 2020?

That’s the second highlight of my career so far. And, if I remember well, I was scared to do it! Luckily, Evan Frendo, ever connecting people, brought Galina Khinchuk and me together to give a joint talk and I’m so glad he did! Imagine a panicky control freak (me) working with the most laid-back and collected person in the business English world (Galina). Trouble? Quite the contrary! We joked and laughed so much during our Zoom meetings, when we were supposed to be preparing for the presentation. Galina proved to me that having confidence in what you know and say will make people listen. I believe this amusing chemistry we shared poured out of the screen while we were presenting. As for the actual 35-minute talk? I can’t remember a thing – I was too overwhelmed with excitement!

What tips would you give anyone giving a presentation online?

One – watch the past webinars available in the Members-Only area of the IATEFL BESIG website to pick up ideas on delivery, content quality and quantity, interaction with the audience, slides, and more.

Two – to perfect your timing, watch videos of short presentations such as the EFLtalks videos on YouTube. If all the presenters there can get their message across in 10 minutes, so can you in 30! For the 5th EFLtalks anniversary, Rachel Appleby shared her 5 top tips in a talk called ‘The confidence to stand up and talk’- a must-watch!

Three – for the wow factor, look at the Toastmasters speech contests.

Finally, it can be awkward and off-putting to speak to a computer screen instead of in a room full of people, but don’t forget to look directly at the camera when you do – it makes it so much more engaging for your audience.

What are your professional goals for 2021?

I’d love to get more involved with IATEFL BESIG, volunteering on a more permanent basis. I also hope to complete my DELTA adventure by getting Module 2. But my top goal, and the most challenging endeavour, is to create more complete and effective blended learning solutions as a way to improve how I deal with my clients’ time constraints. Offering them the possibility to access materials at their own time and pace has two key benefits: our live virtual sessions are optimized, which means we can focus on reinforcement, and the information is readily available at all hours of the day and night to refer back to when needed. I’ve been experimenting with it this year and have received some very positive feedback, so I’d like to explore this further in 2021.


Questions by Mandy Welfare

Editing by Christopher Chandler

February 14th 2021

MEET A MEMBER is available to IATEFL BESIG members and non-members alike but only features our current members. Another reason to join us and “BE with BESIG.”