Dawn Metcalfe

"Dawn is unapologetically herself and unafraid of ‘HardTalk’ whichever side of the conversation she finds herself on."

- Annabelle Corton, Literature Festival Programme Curator & Radio Producer/Presenter

I’ve lived and worked in eight countries and speak seven languages. I’ve written two books. And I’ve worked with people from all over the world and organisations of all sizes and industries: from when I was teaching teachers in China and Japan, to being on the fast track to becoming a headteacher in the UK, to medical education consultancy, to setting up my business, PDSi, in the UAE.

One thing remains the same, no matter age, culture, background or experience – communication can be hard – and it hits the bottom line. Poor communication costs businesses up to $37 billion every year.

My mission is to help people hear and be heard, effectively engage in difficult conversations, build no-fear workplace cultures, and shape our future workforces.

I’ve written about this extensively for Entrepreneur, Thrive Global, Training Magazine and Arabian Business, to name a few. I’m a regular Forbes contributor. In 2014 I authored ‘Managing the Matrix: The Secret to Surviving and Thriving in Your Organisation’ as a roadmap for individuals on how to advance their career. In 2018, my second book was published - ‘The HardTalk Handbook: The Definitive Guide to Having the Difficult Conversations That Make a Difference’ (SHRM certified). I built my business, PDSi, to help drive behavioural and cultural change. I created the modular, blended, certified HardTalk training programme for businesses and individuals. Our work with PDSi also helps us reach the next generation workforce, with soft skills programmes designed specifically for teenagers.

I’m lucky enough to speak at/chair conferences and private events, as well as participate in and moderate panels, around the region. I’m a member of both the London Speaker Bureau and MENA Speakers Bureau.

A snapshot of my most recent speaking engagements:


HR Summit & Expo

Abu Dhabi International Book Fair

WIL Economic Forum KSA

The Hospitality Network Stakeholder Conference

Emirates Airline Festival of Literature

Accounting and Finance Show

DHA Transformation Forum

Entrepreneur Achieving Women Forum


TiE Conference

Huda Lighting Support Conference

Human Capital Forum

Nokia MEA Sale Conference

Lebanon HR Summit

Hopscotch Careers Conference

What people say about Dawn

"I have had the privilege of coming across Dawn twice now in different contexts. Some four years ago she facilitated a Reach Mentoring workshop and more recently had a HardTalk seminar. I am usually a cynic of people engagement workshops but I found Dawn's approach so different, insightful & interesting that I remained engaged for the full duration. She is humorous and perceptive enough to adapt the discussion to keep conversations flowing and always very mindful in making sure that everyone in the room is contributing and part of the discussion. As a public speaker she again displayed the skills of humour, appropriate anecdotes & insightfulness to keep her audience engaged."

Gop Menon

CFO Middle East & North Africa, Thomson Reuters (from LinkedIn)

"Before having the opportunity to hear Dawn speak I read her book “The Hardtalk Handbook” and found it to be a really useful guide.

Dawn delivers a spot on and hard (pun intended) hitting presentation. The examples she uses are real eye openers as she uses practical examples and humor to make the audience reflect on how they handle difficult conversations.

At our 2019 Stakeholder Conference held from 15-17 January at Lapita, Dubai Parks & Resorts, Dawn was one of our industry experts speakers and the feedback from the hotel industry leaders in attendance was fantastic."

Petvin Fernandes

CEO, The Hospitality Network

"Dawn is a member and great supporter of the Club, a guest speaker and has also moderated panels and interviewed visiting dignitaries at the Capital Club. On all occasions she is well-prepared and has something interesting to say. Her ability to engage any audience and make difficult topics interesting and relevant means she’s the “go to” person to talk about humans in the workplace, culture and transformation. There isn’t a difficult conversation Dawn is not willing to have and turn it into a positive and constructive outcome. I think I was the first to buy her book!"

Ian Palmer

General Manager, The Capital Club