My name’s Sarah Denholm, I’m based in Melbourne, and I’m a speech coach, trainer and consultant. I do public speaking and presentation skills coaching throughout Australia and beyond.
I also have a small group of consultants who can come on board for bigger projects.
If you have something to say (or are employed to do so), and want to become comfortable, engaging and persuasive in front of groups, I could well be the right coach for you.
Learn how to increase your influence and impact when you communicate: whether that’s a conference keynote, small group meeting or 1:1 client appointment.
After years of struggling with performance and public speaking anxiety (see my story below), I’ve learned what’s needed to prepare and perform at your best in front of an audience. I originally trained as a professional Classical pianist, which – believe me – hones your skills on stage in front of audiences of any size. Appearing unprofessional – whether that’s playing wrong notes, being unprepared, or not connecting with your audience – and your reputation and career nose-dive. It’s the perfect learning ground for a public speaker!
My background is in the performing arts as a chamber musician, professional accompanist and piano teacher. I’ve performed a range of styles – from cocktail pianist in five-star U.K. hotels, to playing the piano in the Purcell Room, Southbank, London, as one of the Park Lane Group Young Performers of the Year.
I’m a certified Master Business Coach Graduate of B-Coach (2004); a graduate of Coach U in life coaching (2002) and I have a Master’s degree in piano performance (1990). I’m a certified trainer, with my TAE40110 Certificate IV in Training and Assessment. I’m also a member of the Institute of Learning Professionals (ILP). I also have over 70 recommendations on LinkedIn: view my profile here.
My struggle with performance anxiety as a musician
During my six years at music college in the U.K. I suffered from performance anxiety. The competition and pressure was intense, but I coped – until the chronic and disfiguring illness, severe eczema, took over my body. I deteriorated until I had to be hospitalized. At one point I didn’t leave the house for three months – my world couldn’t have shrunk any smaller. When I resurfaced, not cured but improved, I had a problem. My previous slow decline while I was still performing, plus time away from the world, had made my performance anxiety overwhelming, and I could barely get on stage. I was self-conscious, worried about what the audience were thinking of me, and couldn’t keep my focus on the music; I had to do something or lose my career.
So I took six months off to backpack around the world on my own (challenging for a shy introvert!). After meeting a man from Melbourne, I moved to Australia and started a new life in Melbourne, teaching piano. And I found my performing anxiety solution: the way back to performing well was through learning how to speak in public. I started as a very nervous speaker, trying to speak to parents at the concerts I put on for my piano students. My voice shook, and I couldn’t look at the audience face-on, but swung my gaze from side to side, like I was watching a tennis match! I decided to do something about it.
Starting the public speaking journey
I joined the speaking club Rostrum and found that with specific tools – and practice – I actually began to enjoy public speaking! And my performing skills as a musician improved dramatically as well. I learned how to be more engaging as a speaker, how to structure a speech, and how to do impromptu speaking. In fact after one year, I was runner-up for the state of Victoria in the Rostrum national speaking competition.
I then became passionate about helping others to communicate well in front of groups or in social situations which made them nervous, such as networking events or client meetings. Workshops were the next step, using researched tools to help people with public speaking and performance anxiety. I now help others through a combination of techniques learned as a performing musician, speaker, long-time devotee of meditation, and keen researcher of the latest neuroscience into effective communication skills. Learn more about my workshops, classes and coaching…
Recent media interviews include in the business and career sections of The Age Melbourne, Sydney Morning Herald and ArtsHub Australia; Exemplar Magazine