Sarah Denholm

Public Speaking Consultant

Sarah consults and trains in public speaking and presentation skills. But she wasn’t always this confident. So how the heck did she do it?

What work do you do?

Consult, coach and train in public speaking and presentation skills. From the terrified – needing mindset and behavioural tools and support – to the confident client just needing a presentation refinement and delivery polish.

When you were at school did you know what you wanted to do?

Later! My best subjects were music, English and languages at school. I ended up going to music college, then fell into performing and teaching. None of it was exactly pre-planned…it was there, I was good at it, I took it.

How did you get started?

I was always a nervous performer as a pianist. After illness as a student and in my 20s, I lost my nerve to go on stage. My way back to performing the music I loved was through learning how to speak in public. (I was terrible – afraid and frozen!). I then learned – through pushing myself to engage with the fear – that I enjoyed public speaking. Other people noticed my improvement and asked if I would help them. Gradually, 10 years ago, I transitioned into becoming a speaking coach for clients of every skill level. This is now my full-time work (with a small amount of piano on the side – I still love playing!).

What makes you feel powerful at work?

I love the moments when I see a client’s true improvement, and indeed embracing being a presenter. When a client tells me that they hated public speaking, and now they enjoy it…that’s truly powerful! Because my goal is all about helping people to become visible as speakers. I help them get their point across effectively… in ways that feel authentic and strong. Their sense of power is my reward!

Did you ever fail along the way?

I limited myself for a long time by thinking that without a corporate background I couldn’t work effectively with people in corporate environments (particularly large enterprise). I felt like an imposter. When I look back, I really held myself back.
A practical fail to go along with the mindset limiting beliefs? Not every public workshop I’ve put into the marketplace has had enough numbers to run…I’ve had to learn that what I think is a great idea may not resonate with my market! And to find out what people are actually looking for, before I set something up.

What’s been your biggest accomplishment so far?

Building to a six-figure income over a period of years by being persistent and determined not to give up. I started out by blogging on my website even though my numbers were tiny; and continuing, sometimes through gritted teeth, to do so until my website was prominent and full of free resources for people who didn’t know me to access my work! And building my income almost entirely through two sources: my website and eventually, referrals.

Who helped you get to where you are today?

Internally: I have a very supportive partner, who’s always encouraging and full of entrepreneurial ideas! Myself for committing to keep going, even on bad days.

And externally, my wonderful clients who’ve engaged with my work and ideas!

How has technology changed your industry in the last 5-10 years?

Well, social media and the ease of putting ideas online has been a game-changer of course. LinkedIn has been an excellent source of visibility just in the past couple of years or so for me. And the ability to coach and collaborate with people all over the world online is wonderful. I have clients in the UK, US and Singapore at the moment – the world has opened up in faster and easier ways.

What is one piece of advice you can give young girls thinking about pursuing a career in your industry?

Learning how to speak in public and communicate your ideas to be understood, retained and repeated – this is one of the best things you can do. If you’re afraid of speaking, know that you can go from terrible to doing it for a living (I have!). And if you’re confident: remember that balancing certainty with curiosity is always worthwhile. We look for certainty in a speaker, but also that sense of openness to whatever unfolds. That’s part of the magic of presenting!

In your wildest dreams, what would you love to do every single day and get paid for it?

What I’m doing right now. The sense of fulfilment and satisfaction from helping people and getting to work with words and ideas…it’s perfect.

More about Sarah’s business –

Industry: Communication
Job: Public Speaking Consultant