I convey brain science in a straightforward, relevant and engaging way, weaving in stories and strategies that promote peak performance, creativity, health, and well-being.
For professionals, I distil neuroscience, health psychology and principles of coaching into practical tools and strategies for use in the clinic, classroom or corporation.
For general audiences, I share my neuro-knowledge and top tips for better mental health and longevity.
I'm happy to work with you to create a bespoke keynote, interactive workshop, and present face-to-face or virtually, based on your audience and requirements.
Popular Keynotes & Workshops
When day-to-day life becomes uncertain, the brain can’t predict 'what happens next'. We all experienced extreme uncertainty during the Covid pandemic, but today's world remains volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.
Humans typically deploy unhelpful behaviours to relieve the emotional discomfort of ‘not knowing’. Our actions often send us down a negative emotional spiral towards worry, hypervigilance, anxiety, and languishing.
We all vary in our tolerance to uncertainty, with surprising upsides and downsides to both resilience and intolerance.
The talk or workshop includes:
- an introduction to the neurobiology of uncertainty,
- an individual analysis of intolerance uncertainty (using the IU questionnaire) followed by group discussion,
- an introduction to neuroscience-based tools to build individual tolerance to uncertainty.
"Our cohort loved the vibe. Thank you so much for the session."
On the Same Wavelength.
Biological synchrony is one of Mother Nature’s tricks to ensure we bond and trust other people. Synchrony is like the social glue that holds groups together and enables cooperation.
When people experience trust, rapport, cooperation, sing or dance or share attention, their biology — heartbeats, breathing, hormones and brainwaves — synchronises.
The talk or workshop includes:
- An introduction to the social brain and the neurobiology of trust and rapport,
- An overview of the most up-to-date neuroscience and technology (most published since 2021) of two-person neuroscience,
- How to create trust and build rapport using the latest neuroscience. Is it possible in the digital age?
"The session was greatly interesting and highly informative, weaving neuroscience in with real-world examples relatable by all and certainly not without its humour."
Ernst & Young
All in Her Head?
Women's health is not a niche!
Did you know puberty, pregnancy, and menopause are the most significant neurological transitions in women's lives?
In this talk, Sarah discusses surprising lessons learned from writing two books about women's brain health (The Women's Brain Book and Baby Brain).
The keynote or workshop includes:
- The latest neuroscience research on sex and gender, the inclusion of sex as a biological variable (SABV) and how we're finally shifting away from considering the male body as 'the norm'.
- Girls' and women's brain health through the lifespan, including early childhood, puberty, the menstrual cycle, the pill, pregnancy, motherhood, menopause & ageing.
In 2022/23, bespoke versions of 'All In Her Head' were successfully delivered to Wenona School (staff development), Woollahra Library Ideas Exchange (gender bias panel), International Association of Applied Neuroscience (IAAN).
"A rare scientist who is as powerful from the podium as she is on the page."
Dr Justin Coleman
Australasian Medical Writers Association
Neuroscience-informed coaching practice
Neuroscience provides a compelling lens through which coaches may view their client's thoughts, feelings and behaviour.
However, enthusiasm for brain science often outpaces the coach’s knowledge. The prevalence of neuromyths in coaching suggests a lack of neuroscientific literacy.
This keynote or workshop includes:
- A discussion of the opportunities and limitations of 'using neuroscience'. Are you providing neuroscience-informed psychoeducation, tools or practices, or simply 'talking about the brain'?
- Provides practical, evidence-based neuroscience that coaches can apply within their next coaching session, e.g.
- emotion construction vs the 'lizard brain';
- stress and habits vs the 'amygdala hijack;
- visualisation, motivation and autobiographical memory (beyond mental rehearsal).
In 2022/23, 'Neuroscience-informed coaching practice' was successfully delivered to the University of Sydney Coaching & Mentoring Alumni (USCMA) Chapter and SMG Coaching and Leadership Development.
"She also has that rare strength of being able to translate science into everyday practice."
The Positivity Institute
7 1/2 lessons about brain development
The keynote addresses seven (and a half) of the most important concepts related to the development of a child's brain. The focus can shift to include early childhood and/or adolescence.
The keynote may include the following concepts,
- The first 1000 days (and 10,00 days) of brain development, including trajectories from birth through childhood and adolescence.
- Sensitive periods for cognitive, motor, social, and emotional development (and why we should use strength-based language to discuss adolescence).
- How adults 'wire' little brains to the world (and how this matters when considering 'nature vs nurture')
- Attachment, brain-to-brain synchrony, and adult well-being are factors in child development.
- How adversity disrupts the foundations of learning, behaviour, and health.
- How to reduce sources of stress and promote the development of core life skills.
Each ‘lesson’ is discussed using real-world examples and with the Bottom-Up Outside-In Top-Down brain framework (a simple way to understand the complexities of neuroscience).
"Sarah’s keynote was engaging and, at times, amusing."
Women's health is not a niche!
"Dr Sarah McKay's keynote on 'The Uncertain Brain' was a highlight of the 2023 TikTok Agency Accelerator event. Her insights into the intricacies of the brain's response to uncertainty struck a chord with our audience, offering invaluable tools for navigating modern work environments. Dr McKay's expertise left an indelible impact, empowering attendees to embrace uncertainty with newfound confidence."
Marketing Manager - Global Business Solutions TikTok AU & NZ.
"I have known Sarah since we were graduate students. She was always an extremely sharp thinker about science; she likes to challenge things but with an openness to possibility. It's hard to maintain sharp-edged curiosity without becoming cynical. But Sarah did that as a graduate student. And she does that now."
Professor Andrew Huberman
The Huberman Lab Podcast. Stanford University.
"Dr Sarah McKay is the real deal. There are many people who have jumped on the ‘brain bandwagon’ without any formal qualifications in neuroscience. Not only does Sarah have the academic quals, having completed her PhD at Oxford University, but she also has that rare strength of being able to translate science into everyday practice. Sarah’s sessions focus not only on boosting brain power but aim to help people live their best lives. I can’t recommend Sarah too highly."
Dr Suzy Green
The Positivity Institute
"Dr Sarah McKay presented to our professional board strategy day on the dynamics of neuroscience in terms of how trust is established, manifested and gained throughout the physical behaviours that we carry out as humans. The session was greatly interesting and highly informative, weaving neuroscience in with real-world examples relatable by all and certainly not without its humour.
Our team thoroughly enjoyed having Sarah along and would recommend her greatly to any professional group keen to learn more about neuroscience, bonding and communication-enhancing behaviours, and what happens with the brain concurrently.
Sarah also touched on modern-day issues such as virtual and remote working methods through video and AI's rapidly increasing technological enhancements. Sarah has an approachable style and manner making her very easy to listen to.
Thank you, Sarah, for a valuable and insightful session that we will all remember.”
Oceana Markets Strategic Operations Lead, Ernst & Young.
"Sarah was the keynote speaker at our recent Early Learning conference. Sarah’s keynote was engaging and, at times, amusing. She was extremely generous with her time and curated a bespoke presentation designed specifically for our audience. I can highly recommend Sarah to educators who want to provide the children they teach evidence-based pedagogy with a deeper understanding of brain development and how to nurture growing minds.”
Director, Early Learning, Abbotsleigh
Past Speaking Events:
The Uncertain Brain. TikTok Australia Business Development Accelerator Program July 2023.
On the same wavelength: Trust, Rapport & Brain-to-Brain Synchrony. Ernst & Young Government & Health Sciences. July 2023
Neuroscience in the classroom (Risk, challenges and opportunities). Abbotsleigh Early Learning Conference. 2023.
7 1/2 lesson the female brain (for teachers). Wenona School. Staff education day. July 2023.
Towards a neuroscience-informed coaching practice: opportunities & limitations. SMG | The Art of Leadership annual conference. 2023.
Nature Nurture & Neuroscience. Child and Adolescent Brain Development. Implications for Policy & Practice. Compass Seminars. New Zealand. March 2020.
International Association of Applied Neuroscience. In Her Head. Lessons from writing a book about the female brain. September 2023.
Australian Hypnotherapists Association NSW branch workshop. June 2019. REFIRE to REWIRE. 6 steps to rewire your brain (and master anything).
International Coaching Federation NSW branch workshop. The neuroscience of habits and coaching for change. June 2018.
Happiness and its Causes 2019. ICC, Sydney. In Her Head. Lessons from writing a book about the female brain. June 2019.
Genanzzano Institute of Learning and Brain Sciences. Science of Learning Conference. The Neurobiology of the Will and the Way. August 2019.
Nurture Your Brain for Life with Dr Sarah McKay. Five Dock Library, Sydney, NSW. April 2018.
Revive 2018. Sheraton Mirage. Sheraton Mirage 29 July 2018.
How to write a popular science book. Australasian Medical Writers Conference. Melbourne, VIC. August 2018.
In Her Head. Business Chicks. Movers and Breakers Conference. Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay. October 2018. *sold out.
Women's Wellbeing Symposium. Otago University, Dunedin, NZ. November 2018.
I’ve acted as an expert spokesperson and brand ambassador for media campaigns for companies including SodaStream, Philips Lighting, Allianz Insurance and Alzheimer's Australia.
Today, neuroscience has a 'seductive allure', and I believe it's important to share evidence-based information and the latest research on the brain, brain health, mental wellbeing and applied neuroscience in a clear and easy to understand way.
If you’d like to explore working together, please connect me directly: firstname.lastname@example.org
Previous writing and consulting clients include: