Soar Higher 2005 Brings 12 Speakers to NWA to Provide Professional Development to Area Leaders

“We had a great time at Soar Higher 2005. It was well worth the time away from the office to attend. I learned ways to improve a number of skills that relate directly to my business goals. Giving persuasive presentations, motivating an unmotivated staff, and achieving a work/life balance were all very applicable. I was also impressed with the caliber of the speakers that were there. It is unusual to get to hear that many great speakers in one day; and all for what you’d expect to pay for just one. Soar Higher 2005 was awesome. I can’t wait until next year!”

Tim D. Keck, Performance Insights

Articles from the Speakers

Article 1. Kristine Sexter, “Employee Recruiting and Retention Ranked #1 Concern of Top Executives”

Article 2. Bob Oros, “The Best 30-Minute Sales, Marketing, and Motivation Session I Have Ever Attended In My Entire Life”

Article 3. Ron Meyers, “It’s the Finish That Counts”

Article 4. Darren LaCroix, “10 Speaking Tips from the Champ”

Article 5. Carrie Perrien Smith, “Set Kick-Butt Goals”

Article 6. Mary Pryor, “Move Now! It’s Doesn’t Have to be Perfect”

Article 7. Tom Bach, “What Does Change Have to Do With Customer Loyalty?”

Article 8. Willie Johnson, “If It Is to Be, It Is Up to You”

Article 9. Kerry Robertson, “Listening ... The Skill That Can Transform Relationships”

Article 10. Bob Oros, “Are You Putting Off You Success?”

Walt Pavlo was featured in USA Today on November 16. Click here to read the article in the online version.

Tuesday, November 1, 2005

The conference featured three general sessions and eight skill-builder sessions.

The Soar Higher Operations Team takes a few moments to enjoy lunch. Left to right, Juli Vonnegut, Lunch General Session Speaker Chaundra Cox of Wal-Mart, Jana Wegner, SIFE Team Member Allisha Raltson, Tina Bright, and Tom Smith.

Speaker Kristine Sexter uses Spike, an Australian Bearded Dragon, to reinforce her message on leadership at the Soar Higher 2005 conference in Springdale.


If you’ve picked up the newspaper on a regular basis over the last 12 to 24 months, you’ve seen an increase in the number of conferences held in Northwest Arkansas. With the new convention center scheduled to open next summer, you can plan to see the number pick up even more.

On Tuesday, November 1, Rogers, Arkansas-based Soar with Eagles hosted their first full-day conference at the Holiday Inn Northwest Arkansas in Springdale.

The Soar Higher 2005 conference featured 12 speakers who are experts in their field. The morning and lunch general sessions were kicked off by local 12-year-old singing sensation, Meagan White.

Breakout sessions included topics such as “Back to Normal: Handling and Managing Change;” “Motivating and Managing an Unmotivated Staff;” “The FACTS about Living Better at Work; and “Career Success — God’s Way.” Click here to see the full line-up of topics and speakers.

Professional Speaker Kristine Sexter from Tulsa, Oklahoma, presented “Characteristics of Wildly Successful Leaders.” Sexter uses exotic animals in her presentations. “I like to incorporate the animals in my presentations because it makes my points more memorable,” commented Sexter, a professional member of National Speakers Association. Her presentation incorporated Spike, an Australian Bearded Dragon, owned by Safari Joe Estes, Owner of Safari Joes Wildlife Sanctuary located in Adair, OK.

The morning general session featured 2001 Toastmasters World Champion of Public Speaking presenting his championship-winning program, “How I Went from Chump to Champ.” Darren came in a day early so that he could present a training program at the Rogers Toastmasters Club. “I owe so much of my success as a professional speaker and speaking coach to Toastmasters. I like to visit area clubs when I travel to share my knowledge and experiences with members” said LaCroix.

The lunchtime general session featured Chandra Cox, Director of Women’s Markets Diversity Relations, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., and Cathy Harris of C. Harris Companies, Inc. The session focused on leadership experiences from two professional women. Harris is a seasoned professional speaker and consultant who helps organizations to identify and implement the best changes for their growth. She also founded a New Orleans-based non-profit organization called Each One Save One that encourages mentoring.

Harris shared her experiences of losing her home and business in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in September. She and her husband, Ray, along with her family members, have relocated to Hot Springs, Arkansas. She told the audience about the experience from her perspective. “We went into a Sam’s Club after we finally got settled in Hot Springs to buy a few things we needed. It was the first thing that really seemed familiar since the hurricane. It felt like home because we shopped at Sam’s Club in New Orleans,” commented Harris. She even chuckled about not knowing what do to during her first tornado warning ever after she moved to Hot Springs.

The audience of over 100 attendees gathered for the final, unforgettable session of the day. Professional Speaker Kerry Robertson of Oklahoma City interviewed Walt Pavlo, the former MCI manager who served time in federal prison for his role in a fraud that involved some of MCI’s major clients. In a room so quiet that you could hear a pin drop, Pavlo recounted his experience as the fraud damaged his health, changed his career forever, and devastated his family. Today, Walt is picking up the pieces of his life and now travels the country speaking to companies and college students about the perils of white-collar crime.

This event is the first of this type of conference in this area. It was focused on providing a series of professional development topics that serves the needs and interests of leaders or individuals on the leadership track. “With my speaker bureau, I have access to so many fantastic experts who speak professionally, that it seemed like it was time to invest in an event like this,” said event organizer, Carrie Perrien Smith, president of Soar with Eagles. Her company provides speakers, training, consulting, and conference design services.

A talented conference operations team consisting of Jana Wegner, Juli Vonnegut, Tina Bright, and Tom Smith, all who work at Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. assist Perrien Smith in coordinating the conference. Their skills include large-scale meeting management, event planning, catering contract negotiation, emergency planning, and technical support. “The folks are not only exceptionally talented and detail oriented, they extremely great friends to spend a day of their vacation time and invest so many evenings planning this event,” commented Perrien Smith.

The Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) at NorthWest Arkansas Community College offered their help in planning and supporting the conference. “Their SIFE Fellow [faculty advisor], Theresa Neal, and President, Becky Hudson, have such a strong, motivated team this year. They were a huge help to our conference operations team.” Soar with Eagles made a $500 donation to the SIFE team at the end of the day.

Plans have already begun for Soar Higher 2006. To find out how you can get involved in the next conference, contact Carrie Perrien Smith at Soar with Eagles at 479.903.0208 or







Members of the Students in Free Enterprise team at Northwest Arkansas Community College were on hand to help with the conference. Standing (left to right) are Brandon Wood, Angie Francis, and SIFE President Becky Hudson. Seated (left to right) are Chris Starnes, Allisha Ralston, and Heath Jones.

General Session Speaker Walt Pavlo talks with Kerry Robertson about his role in the MCI fraud that sent him to federal prison. Pavlo now travels the country talking to companies the dangers and warning signs of white-collar crime.

Attendees had the chance to browse the conference book store which featured the speakers books and audio CDs.

Local professional speaker, Willie Johnson, presented “If It’s To Be, It’s Up to Me.” Johnson is a 13-year Toastmasters International Veteran who turned professional speaker this year.


Professional Speaker Kerry Robertson spoke to the audience on the Facts about Living Better at Work. Robertson is a former Oklahoma City talk show host who consults with companies on improving their communication.


Conference Sponsors


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What Attendees Said About Soar Higher 2005

“I’ve told everyone I could about this great conference I was able to attend . I have never attended a conference of this type that targeted business from this perspective. It was great. The variety of speakers was wonderful. I learned something from each one. I’ve talked to my friends and co-workers today and said it was hard to pick out my favorite part. I think some of the best parts were the quality of speakers and their organization and delivery of information. I also was very impressed with the timing. Every minute was put to good use. Even our break time was used visiting with the educators and browsing the bookstore. You did not waste one second of my time.

I’m also excited about the books and CDs I bought. I want to learn more from these educators and I can do that as I drive to work.”

Sara Lou Manning, Hairlines

“The day was extraordinary! I wasn't sure what to expect. It started our great and went up from there. It was very uplifting and thought provoking! I would recommend it to anyone and everyone! ”

Joy Rendon, Lenders Title Company

“The conference was a WONDERFUL professional development day for me!”

Jean Anderson, NorthWest Arkansas Community College

“The conference was a DELIGHT! What a great job you did! I am anxious for the next one and will tell everyone I know that they need to attend!”

Terry Allen, Lenders Title Company

I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed Soar Higher 2005. The speakers were so dynamic! I was motivated to think of ways to revise and improve my business for the upcoming year. Soar Higher is a fabulous way to reflect, learn from the past year, and prepare for the next. I’ve been emailing my notes from the conference to all my friends and colleagues. They are eagerly awaiting Soar Higher 2006!

Lana Ginn, Harris McHaney Realtors

“I was sincerely impressed with the quality of the conference as a whole and the speakers in particular. It was as useful a conference as similar conferences I have attended in Dallas, Saint Louis, and Washington DC and I didn’t have to spend travel money to attend. I applaud the committee and Soar with Eagles for bringing such a superior conference to Northwest Arkansas.”

Cyndi Bilyeu, HOPE, Inc.

“I thought the conference was great! I got a lot of great info and affirmations! You really have set a precedent for conferences in years to come. The sessions were informative and inspirational! I look forward to next year and already got you another attendee! My guess would be that your attendance will triple next year.”

Brenda Bailey, Boom Boom Enterprises

“The conference was very beneficial. The speakers were great and so enthusiastic! The conference gave me ideas that I can start using today!”

Jennifer Vandiver, Literacy Council of Benton County, Inc.

“I enjoyed having the opportunity to listen to two wonderful speakers, Tom Bach and Darren LaCroix, and look forward to applying the skills I learned in these seminars to not only my professional life but to my role as a volunteer as well. I look forward to applying the skills I learned in these seminars to not only my professional life but to my role as a volunteer as well.”

Stephanie Austin, Northwest Arkansas Member Services, Arkansas Hospitality Association

“I thought it was great. Many of the sessions were too short and I wanted to see them all.”

Mardis DéVore, Wal-Mart

“The conference was awesome and provided me with a lot of good information (and motivation) that I will be able to use to further our agency’s cause. I really appreciate all you do for the community and for your commitment to helping area non-profits be successful.”

Danny Burdess, Our Farm

Want to know more?

Please contact us for more information on the Soar Higher 2005 Professional Development Conference.

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