Client Testimonials

We are passionate about helping leaders reach the next level. Read what our clients are saying.

University of Michigan - Ross School of Business

Jeff Domagala - Associate Director

Speak Up and Be Effective is one of the most eye-opening experiences I have had as a professional. The personalized feedback I received from my coach and my peers that day will serve as constant reminders for improvement each and every time I begin to prepare any presentation. Our coach Amy energized the group and prepared the content in a way that was applicable across all disciplines. I left the session feeling excited about my next presentation having gained a set of tools to put into practice with a newfound confidence.

Plante Moran

Ashley Dempsey - Experienced Hire Recruiting Coordinator

The Speak Up and Be Effective program far exceeded my expectations. I have never been comfortable with public speaking and was nervous even going into the session, but the program is set up in a way that put me at ease and allowed me to get the most out of the feedback from other participants. Amy was very helpful with the feedback she gave, and I have a new awareness of my natural tendencies along with how to build credibility with an audience.


Kendra Lisak - Indirect Procurement

Speak Up and Be Effective- Advanced was the single most impactful training program that I have participated in to date. I went into the training very skeptical about how this two-day session might help me, and I came out with very targeted and impactful feedback, specific to my speaking style and how to make improvements. The course also helped me have the tools to provide suggestions to others on their presentations, so that they can become more effective and grow the impact of their communication as well. The instructors were excellent and clearly had numerous real-life examples to help drive the content home. I would recommend this session to absolutely everyone - even if you feel as though you are a great speaker already and are skeptical of how much more you can learn.

Grand Rapids African American Health Institute (GRAAHI)

Stephanie Pierce - Education Coordinator

I had the opportunity to attend a two day session of The Exceptional Leader™. The two day session connected leaders from different organizations, and allowed insight into challenges we all face on a daily basis. Day one included an intense yet interesting exploration on ways to cultivate and improve leadership skills through strategy and innovation. I believe my leadership abilities were enhanced and I took away a magnitude of knowledge that will not only benefit me as an individual, but will add value to my organization.

Yanfeng Global Automotive Interiors

Joe Buonodono - Continuous Improvement Manager

The Exceptional Leader™-EXCEL program helped me to understand my skills and strengths. I gained valuable insight on how to improve and grow. The real world examples and leadership advice in this series will benefit me for years to come.

Grand Valley State University

Carolyn Clayton - Director of Annual Giving

I had a very positive experience attending the Speak Up & Be Effective™ training. I have done a considerable amount of public speaking and present regularly on the job – this training assisted me in honing and refining my skills for both personal and professional use. I found the small group experience to be very enriching and benefited from watching others as much I did from practicing my own skills!

Helen DeVos Children's Hospital

Leslie M. Jurecko, M.D. - Medical Director

“I found the Speak Up & Be Effective - Advanced" course to be very valuable. The small class size kept the atmosphere friendly and not at all intimidating. The teachers were fantastic and engaging. This class challenged me in many ways and I have been using the tools I learned ever since…almost on a daily basis!”

Johnson Controls

Melissa Fernandez Guerra - Business Transformation Financial Manager

The Speak Up & Be Effective™ program allowed the participant to acquire concepts for an effective communication. Exercises can be applied in life and business presentations. Throughout the session the message, posture and gestures are reinforced, allowing the member to include them in his/her speech in a step by step process. For all that, this is a program I recommend in leadership development.


Jamie Wilcox - Associate Director - Product Marketing

The Exceptional Leader™-EXCEL provides an invaluable opportunity to step away from day-to-day business challenges and refocus on becoming a great leader. It breaks down what seem like lofty, far-reaching goals into simple, manageable steps. It provides easy-to-use frameworks for setting, aligning to and executing a vision, driving change and balancing being a manager AND a leader. The coaches are wonderful and the learning and networking you get from your peers is just as valuable as the class materials themselves. This class is definitely a great choice for new leaders, soon-to-be leaders or those just wanting to brush up their skills.

University of Michigan - Ross School of Business

Nathan Dewey - Program Coordinator

Amy was a great instructor. I received personalized, specific feedback and expert coaching on how to connect with an audience, deliver my message with poise, and improve my overall public speaking skills. I highly recommend this program.

Michigan Women's Foundation

Elly Drain - Youth Development Program Manager

Before the Speak Up & Be Effective – Advanced Program, I was unaware that some of the body language habits I’d developed were potentially harming my credibility as a communicator. Thanks to the expertise and instruction from the very knowledgeable coaches, I now have several tools to help craft and effectively deliver an activating message. Watching and critiquing myself on camera was uncomfortable, but it was definitely worth the end result. I would highly recommend this program to any young professional.

Arbor Research

Kaden Milkovich - Project Manager

I attended Varnum Consulting’s single-day Speak out and be Effective training and can truthfully say it has been one of the most useful and engaging professional development opportunities that I have had the privilege of attending.The training focused on crafting and delivering clear and credible professional communications placing particular emphasis on presenter delivery. As a project manager, I found the subject matter extremely relevant to my specific job duties working with a diverse constituent of organizational stakeholders and Amy, our facilitator, did a truly outstanding job translating the skills across our group’s varied professional backgrounds. The recorded training exercises where we were asked to present on several different subjects were prescient, well-timed in duration, very engaging, and highly informative. Watching my presentations truly brought to light some unconscious behaviors I fell back on during public presentations, and Amy again did a remarkable job of providing supportive feedback and suggestions for improvement. As a facilitator, Amy was remarkable and truly an exemplary model of effective communication skills. Not a phrase or communication gesture was ill-timed or out of place.The small cohort size was very inviting, and I felt relaxed and comfortable working on some of my “tics” in an environment devoid of judgment. I left the training with a multitude of skills and activities to work on to further improve my communication effectiveness and highly recommend participating in this training. From this experience I have learned that there is something to improve at every level of professional speaking—no matter if you’re a seasoned professional or just starting out in your career.

Kent District Library

Lance M. Werner - Director

I consider myself an engaging, experienced public speaker and I was unsure if attending Speak Up and Be Effective™ with coach Ellen McNally would be useful. After participating in the program, there is no doubt in my mind that it was. The Speak Up and Be Effective™ program helped me take my presentation skills to a new level. It enabled me to identify weaknesses in my style and furnished tools to address my communications shortcomings. I emerged a stronger communicator than ever and am only sorry I didn’t attend earlier in my career.

Lacks Enterprises

Jeff Cowdry - Plant Manager

The Exceptional Leader™-EXCEL course provided me an opportunity to truly discover who I am as a leader. What you learn not only about yourself, but how to build and guide your team, is invaluable.

Herman Miller

Brent McClain - Systems Analyst

After attending the Facilitating Effective Meetings program, I have seen meetings in a whole new light. Regardless of whether I am leading them or not, I am much more aware of even the subtle things that can quickly derail a meeting. The program was very hands on and fun - activities even seemed silly at times - but in the weeks following I witnessed a lot of them! Brainstorming new ideas has also become much more effective, and I’ve gotten such a better response from groups using the new techniques.

Priority Health

Nathan Foco - Director - Market Intelligence

The Exceptional Leader™-EXCEL program helped me to improve my leadership by emphasizing my DiSC style. The program took me through a number of exercises where I was able to reflect on my personal DiSC style and assess how my particular style can be used to enhance my interactions with other leaders, teams and members of my own team.


Charen Buyce - Director, Indirect Global Procurement

Varnum Consulting has been an excellent partner to Amway for several years. The training we have done together has complemented our technical Procurement Mastery program with the communication and leadership skills required to equip our team to be highly effective leaders.

Bluewater Advisory

Mark Debinski - Founder and President

As my firm has grown so requests for speaking engagements in the US and abroad. While I considered myself a fairly competent public speaker, Varnum’s two-day program was the perfect fit for me to polish my skills. I found that my delivery was not quite as impactful as I had previously thought, and Varnum’s respectful hands-on training brought me to the professional level which I sought.

Yanfeng Global Automotive Interiors

Greg Pothoff - Senior Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt

The Exceptional Leader™-EXCEL course was a reintroduction/reinforcement of leadership qualities & strategies. It would be beneficial to both ingrained leaders who strive to improve themselves as well as people new to leadership roles who are simple trying to figure out how to succeed.

Christman Company

Karen DeShon - Director of Strategic Facilities and Organizational Development

Varnum’s blend of proven training content and customized exercises relevant to our business have been a great asset. Our people consistently give positive ratings of their Varnum experiences and recommend programs to their colleagues. Each facilitator brings expertise, humor, and an ability to create a demanding yet safe practice environment in which everyone is focused on learning new skills.

Daymon Worldwide

James Ward - Senior Human Resources Business Partner- North America

The Varnum Consulting team was excellent at listening to the developmental needs of our team, crafting a customized solution for our team and then facilitating a two day workshop with our team. The feedback from our team and their leadership was that the sessions were outstanding and that it would have an immediate impact on the ability of our sales team to enhance their communications with our customers.

Michigan State University Federal Credit Union

Brandon Bussa - Assistant Manager

Varnum Consulting helped prepare me for management by giving me useful tools that were simple enough to implement, but substantial enough to make a real impact on my work life.

EQI Ltd.

Dave Bell - Chief Financial Officer

The Speak Up and Be Effective - Advanced program is outstanding. The Varnum coaches put together two solid days of extremely valuable information using a real life approach that works. The strategies they provide to “connect” with your audience will make your next presentation a hit, as well as help you navigate the stage without the normal anxiety. This class is essential for leaders/presenters at all levels of your organization!!

Wolverine Group

Ted Bergin -

I was encouraged by my employer to attend this class. They believed that I could improve upon my presentation style with it. Since I had been watching myself on video periodically (we tape certain safety sessions) I knew they were right.I have always believed that you get out in proportion to what you are able to put in and this was especially true for this program. The number of trainees was small so we were all able to get the hands on experience with each other and with our guides from Varnum. The peer and professional feedback was very insightful and has significantly altered how I present in front of small and large groups. I have been able to immediately implement many of the strategies and am working on others that were presented to me. This is an excellent course for anyone.

Mercantile Bank

Robert Staley - Vice President

My objective in attending Varnum was to make my speaking more concise in small and large group settings. The program is well done from start to finish. Pre-work is brief but very effective in setting up an impactful 2-day session. Instructors are knowledgeable, confident and personal. Opportunities to practice speaking in session are valuable. Immediate visual and verbal feedback is priceless in generating effective speaking habits. I love this program and those that make it a wonderful learning experience.


Kaylee Betzinger - Business Systems Analyst

The Speak Up and Be Effective course was so much more than I expected. Sarah and Amy are extremely knowledgeable and were so helpful throughout the training and are really just a joy to learn from. The materials presented will stay with me for the rest of my life and are so useful on a daily basis. I would recommend this course to anyone interested in improving their communication skills.

Experience Grand Rapids

George Helmstead - Executive Vice President

We have sent our entire sales team through Speak Up and Be Effective™ classes. We found them to be invaluable as a sales tool. We would recommend them to anyone looking to improve their sales team’s effectiveness.

Arbor Research Collaborative for Health

David Dickinson - VP, Information & Operations

The Exceptional Leader™-EXCEL program introduced me to both people and techniques that directly improved my leadership ability. Starting after the first class, my colleagues noticed a sharpening of my ability to articulate, motivate, and carry forward both small and large initiatives. The collective experience of the coaches and a diverse group of classmates was not only inspiring, but provided many helpful examples to learn from.

Grand Rapids Community Foundation

Marilyn Zack - Vice President of Development

Grand Rapids Community Foundation staff at all levels have benefited from Varnum Consulting’s leadership and public speaking training sessions. Each session addressed the unique needs of Community Foundation staff and were fun and well-organized. The skills we learned were extremely relevant and immediately applicable to our work.

Grand Valley State University

Nicole M. Horne - Cook Leadership Academy Fellow, Ralph Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies

The Speak Up & Be Effective™ program literally breathed life back into my public speaking endeavors and overall professional development. I was amazed at how I immediately noticed positive constructive changes, such as calmness and clarity, in my countenance and delivery as I practiced the different exercises throughout the extent of the class. Now this, of course, could not have been accomplished without a great coaching staff! Ellen and Amy were very encouraging, as they maintained a "safe" atmosphere in which I could relax, speak, and ultimately grow. Thank you Varnum!

YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids

Bev Thiel - Executive Director - Spartan Stores YMCA

It is always beneficial to take time to learn more about who you are and how your leadership affects those around you. After completing The Exceptional Leader™-EXCEL program, not only do I understand myself better, but I understand the impact I have on those around me and how to best use my leadership style. As a mentor, this will help me to lead my staff team more effectively.

Lake Michigan Financial Corporation

Jodi DeRoo - Training Manager - Service Center

Working with the staff at Varnum has been a great experience. I love the attention they gave to structuring their training to fit our organizational needs. The quality of learning they deliver is just what we were looking for. Thanks to Jennifer and all the staff!