Going With the Flow: Zoe Carmichael



by Bri Kilroy • photography by Two Eagles Marcus

Grand Rapids is a city that exposes locals and visitors to infinite mediums of art through paintings, sculpture, music, food and anomalous creativity. Even after we wash our brushes and retire the paint-splattered apron for the night, we continue to be a walking masterpiece through the presentation and delivery of our personality.

Zoe Carmichael, of Zoe Carmichael Consulting, works with teachers, trainers, speakers, businesses and students to instill the strong confidence needed for a successful presentation.

“I’ve always enjoyed leading a conversation,” said Carmichael. “I offer a deep level of empathy that translates into my classroom and throughout my consulting.”

With over 17 years of teaching and training experience under her belt, it’s safe to say education is deep in Carmichael’s blood. Growing up in Indiana, Pennsylvania with a father who worked as a psychologist and a mother who taught students in the gifted program, Carmichael was surrounded by an educational influence but sought another path.

“I swore I would never be a teacher,” Carmichael said. It’s an intriguing statement considering she runs her own consulting firm, teaches a Dialogue & Personality course at Kendall College of Art and Design, and volunteers as a speaker coach for TEDxGrandRapids, TEDxMacatawa in Holland, FAILURE:Lab and ArtPrize.

Carmichael moved to Grand Rapids to study telecommunications at Calvin College. Her outgoing personality got her a job selling radio advertising, and she spent the next six years in communication sales. Tired of the commissioned sales life, Carmichael began a new venture. She continued her education by attending graduate school at Western Michigan University, getting a master’s in human resource development with an emphasis on educational leadership.

Carmichael started working for GRATA (which we know today as The Rapid) in the rideshare department upon completing her program. Teaching was not yet on Carmichael’s radar until she found an ad in the Grand Rapids Press for adjunct professors at Davenport. “I thought, that’s me right there,” she said. “I’m going to throw my hat in this ring.”

The day-long interview process had Carmichael prepare and teach a “mock” class, relying on her strong personality, boundless energy and organization skills to stand out to the selection team. She taught her first class as an adjunct professor at Davenport College in 1998, discarding her original declaration that she would “never be a teacher.”


Carmichael’s passion for helping people achieve their goals with effective communication radiates into contagious confidence and makes her students look forward to your their presentation.

Thanks to one of the newer programs at Kendall, Carmichael brings the art of communication to the palette of artistic mediums. “The class is all about personality types,” said Carmichael, speaking of her dialogue and personality class taught for the Collaborative Design Department.

The class challenges students to work with different personalities and learning styles to understand how each affects the problem-solving process. Carmichael creates an environment where extroverts and introverts can come together and flourish in creativity. The students use their individual disciplines and varied communication styles to collaborate on a final project that is presented to key stakeholders, faculty and students at the end of the semester.

While final projects are always a challenge, the journey the students take to develop empathy, equality and setting aside assumptions toward each other to work together is the true course take-away. Carmichael notices a change in her student’s approach to each other as they begin considering what the audience needs to hear and listening to their peers.

“A big reason people don’t see themselves as a leader is because they never had that opportunity,” said Carmichael. “College is a place to learn, explore, test and repeat.”

When she is not in the classroom, Carmichael can be found training local professionals in writing and delivering powerful presentations. Her “short and sweet, concise and complete” approach to speech coaching has brought powerful results and earned her a reputation for being tough, but honest when it comes to feedback and recommendations for improvement.

Dip your brush in the emerging art of collaboration and experience the value of authentic dialogue. Visit ZoeSpeakerCoach.com. Carmichael will be happy to chat with you!


Bri Kilroy is a Grand Valley and AmeriCorps alumna who learned to type through vigorous Mavis Beacon trainings. She also passes as an artist, illustrator and author of this bio.




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