IABC Leadership Institute: building our presentation skills

This year’s IABC EMENA Leadership Institute covered many bases; from strategy and leadership and the future of communications to workshops on our own value proposition, positioning and partnerships. In this post we’ll share with you some valuable tips on how you can improve your presentation performance skills – courtesy of RADA in Business.



Successful communication not only involves planning ‘what’ we say, but being attentive to ‘how’ we say it and the effect of our overall presence.

At this year’s EMENA Leadership Institute Sheelagh McNamara from RADA in Business (specialists in Communication Skills, Training and more) offered us insight into how to become a better presenter. Sheelagh has worked with business leaders and politicians across the world, including the UK, Canada and Switzerland.

Based on the skills and techniques used by actors, her introductory training session helped us become aware of how our use of thought, breath and voice can kick our presentation performance skills up a notch. And boy, was it fun!

Here’s an overview of some of the things we learned:


Sheelagh framed her workshop with Michael Grinder’s ‘cats and dogs’ analogy. This analogy is not a model of personality, rather a nice model to help us understand communication behaviour preferences – so don’t worry! You can find out more about Grinder’s model right here. It’s worth taking a look.


Do you see cats in your audience? Cats are most often found in the boardroom. In essence, they like being first. They are pioneers, often with unreasonable dreams and ambition. They find freedom in chaos. And perform best when the stakes are high. And they respect you if you put them under pressure. 

We will only win a cat’s attention if what we say interests them. They want to be impressed by what we’re offering. And they want to admire us, not ‘like’ us.

If you want to communicate effectively with a cat, you need to adopt the behavioural presentation style that matches their preferences. And here’s how you do it: 

  • Most important of all: breathe low in the belly to avoid sounding angry or insistent
  • Place your feet a hip width apart
  • Balance your weight evenly
  • Keep a flat vocal tone
  • At the end of sentences, drop your head forward and down
  • Do not smile!
  • Keep hand gestures to a minimum.


Do you see dogs in your audience? Dogs are most often found in middle management. And dogs don’t mind cats being ‘first’. They are more settlers than pioneers. They thrive on relationships and want everyone to be harmonious. They are good team players.

However, they are also often uncomfortable taking risks. And may freeze under pressure.

If you want to communicate effectively with dogs, you need to adopt the presentation style that matches their behavioural preferences. And here’s how you do it: 

  • Breathe low in the belly to give you more control over your voice
  • Put your weight on one leg
  • Cock your head to the side
  • Vary your tone, make it melodious
  • Bob your head up and down
  • Use long sentences
  • Smile!
  • Use lots of gesture – especially palms up


As Sheelagh pointed out, we all have parts of us that can be said to be dog-like and other parts cat-like. It is situational. And by adapting our performance behaviours ourselves, and considering our audiences preferences, we can become much better communicators in our big presentation moments.

With this in mind, Sheelagh left us with a nice framework to help us deliver better performances time after time:


THINK – Every communication begins with thought: who is being spoken to and what message needs to be conveyed? The thought then triggers the breath.

BREATHE – The way in which one breathes affects both one’s physical and vocal presence and provides the power behind speech.

SPEAK – When the body is centred and the voice is being used to full effect, the speaker will be able to inspire and influence their audience.

It was a truly fabulous workshop. Interactive, fun, focused and even liberating. And we do believe that everyone who attended took home valuable lessons on how to become a better presenter! 

You can find out more about RADA in Business here. 

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2 thoughts on “IABC Leadership Institute: building our presentation skills

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  2. […] reading: Steve Seager live blogged two of the other sessions in the meeting – RADA’s presentation skills workshop (we all took an interactive part in an excellent learning experience); and the keynote by Alex […]

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