Wednesday 27 April 2016, Dublin

The guest speaker at our April event was Orlaith Carmody of, who gave an engaging seminar on the topic of ‘Leading Communication Excellence’.

Orlaith’s opening gambit of how the person in charge of communications in an organisation often feels like they work ‘on’ rather than ‘in’ the business struck a chord – it’s true that those in the communications function create a cost centre rather than a revenue stream but this role is vital as it helps teams hone the perfect pitch, present the best version of themselves to prospective clients and ultimately bring home the bacon through winning new business.  How much time is devoted to crafting a credentials document which strikes the perfect balance of your company appearing both traditional, established and trusted while also highlighting that it is modern, technologically advanced and at the cutting edge?  How wasteful it is then not to prepare the team adequately for the pitch itself - the ‘beauty parade’ at which all members should be represented as a cohesive team and one which lives up to the first impression proffered in the initial credentials document?

Less than 10% of the ‘meaning’ taken from a pitch is acquired through the words spoken – the rest is understood through unspoken body language, a sense of ‘team’ and a willingness to ‘buy the people’ who are presenting so preparation and rehearsal is essential as it puts shape on the whole pitch.

Similarly, media opportunities provide a chance for fee earners to shine and further assert their credibility among their peers, existing clients and potential new clients.  However, a great opportunity can quickly turn sour without carrying out the right sort of preparation.  The advice is simple but effective: firstly, hone the top 3 key message and secondly, decide how you will get these key messages across such as through a story or anecdote that will connect and resonate with the audience.  Handle tricky questions with the AID technique – use your answer to Address the issue, Illustrate the point and Direct the conversation in a preferred direction, which is often helped along with an example or ‘hook’ that leads the flow elsewhere.

The issue of coaching was touched on, with a shift from the traditional role of ‘commander’ to coach’ and we were warned to be conscious of diminishers – even accidental ones, which block the collaborative process and stymie progress.  We also picked up some tips to improve meeting skills which in a nutshell include setting clear agendas ahead of time, agreeing end times as well as start times and paying closer attention to the dynamic of the room when decisions are being made, from the presentation phase to positioning, movement and finally, decision.  Timing is crucial as often it’s not what you say, but when you say it! 

Orlaith summed up the seminar with some leadership tips – the core of which is communication:

  1. Observe more, taking visual cues from your audience
  2. React less, take a moment to decide how you will react
  3. Practice self discipline, watching both yourself and your reactions

Anna Kavanagh
Drury | Porter Novelli
PM Forum Ireland Committee