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Opinion: How to motivate during staff meetings

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A business partner of mine mentioned he was looking for a speaker for an upcoming company meeting.

Have you done something like this? In addition to regular departmental and individual meetings, you bring the troops together for a special event. You hope it’s a big hit. While you can’t motivate anyone – motivation is an inside job – you can offer new voices and experiences.

My partner, Jim Criniti, found Nick Santonastasso. Nick is an internet sensation, fitness athlete, model, engaging speaker and the CEO of his own company, Raw Mettle Motivations. Because of a rare genetic disorder – Hanhart syndrome – Nick has no legs, and only one arm, with an underdeveloped hand. 

Prior to the event, Nick had requested a raised platform. As the event kicked off, he got himself on stage with the grace of an elite athlete and launched into his presentation.

It’s clear the love and support of Nick’s family contributed to his phenomenal capabilities. One day, his mom put his clothes in front of him and said, “Figure it out.” He did. And he kept expanding the boundaries of what he could do. He learned to skateboard. A video of Nick as a child doing an arm stand on his skateboard went viral. Nick says, “The video doesn’t show how many times I fell off.”

Nick doesn’t see failure as a negative; he sees it as the path to success.

Embracing his physicality, he would dress as a zombie and startle shoppers at the supermarket. When the Vine app came out, Nick and his buddies posted 7-second videos of Nick’s pranks. He developed a following online, which led to a high-profile prank with the cast of “The Walking Dead.”

He made the varsity wrestling team – in the 106-pound class – his senior year of high school. He competed onstage in the 2017 NPC Iron Bay Classic bodybuilding event. He’s garnered a sponsorship with Kaged Muscle health supplements. Reebok asked him to be part of its Be More Human fitness campaign. As an up-and-coming model, he made the cover of New York Fashion Week magazine. 

Oh, and he is only 22 years old.

As you plan your next company event, here are a few tips. 

• You are in a position to expose your team to business and personal development experiences. A powerful guest speaker is a good way to do that.

• Let go of your expectations for what each person will gain from the program.

• Springboard from the event to find out more about your team members. Use the speaker’s talking points as an introduction to the conversation. Perhaps the best part of the day for me was asking others to share their thoughts about Nick’s presentation. One fellow told me he also wrestled in high school and found confidence in his training and matches. We talked about setting goals and exceeding expectations. It was a lovely moment.

• We are all dealing with something. There is community and solidarity to be found in our shared humanity. Tell your story, and invite others to tell theirs.

Ellen Rohr is an author and business consultant offering profit-building tips, trending business blogs and online workshops at Her books include “Where Did the Money Go?” and “The Bare Bones Weekend Biz Plan.” She can be reached at


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