Unveiling the Power of AI in Enhancing Court of Master Sommeliers, Americas’ Excellence

As a board member of the Court of Master Sommeliers, Americas (CMS-A), I had the privilege of addressing my fellow board members during our board meeting on January 23, 2024.

The discussion wasn’t solely focused on the potential of AI; it emphasized our commitment to harnessing technology to redefine excellence within CMS-A.

In my presentation, titled “Unlocking CMS-A’s Impact with AI: Small Steps, Big Impact,” I shared the significant strides we’ve made since September 2024, and the incremental steps we are taking to achieve our organizational vision.

Group photo of CMS A Board members
With fellow CMS-A Board members during our January 2024 Board meeting

My Personal Awakening to AI’s Promise:

My journey with leveraging Generative AI began earnestly in January 2023 upon discovering ChatGPT. This experience was a revelation; AI is not merely a tool for innovation, but a means to democratize influence, leveling the playing field for nonprofits, solopreneurs, and traditionally underrepresented groups. Throughout my roles as an educator, speaker, and social entrepreneur, I have witnessed AI break barriers, save time, enhance content creation, and increase accessibility, thereby facilitating deeper engagement with stakeholders.‎

CARE: CMS-A’s Pathway to AI Integration

In my presentation, I introduced a structured framework known as the CARE steps, which outlines our comprehensive strategy for integrating AI within CMS-A. This framework serves as a roadmap to ensure that our use of AI aligns with and supports our organizational goals effectively.

  • C: Case for Leveraging Generative AI to Amplify CMS-A’s Impact: Here we explore the transformative potential of AI in enhancing our operational capabilities and extending our influence within the hospitality industry.
  • A: Accessible Definitions and Case Studies of AI and Generative AI: We demystify AI technologies by providing clear explanations and showcasing real-world applications that demonstrate their impact.
  • R: Realizing the Value of Generative AI with Tools to Amplify CMS-A’s Impact: Discussing the specific tools and technologies we are implementing to harness the full potential of AI in our operations.
  • E: Empowering Your Impact with Generative AI Resources: Highlighting resources and training available to our members to help them leverage AI in their roles and responsibilities.

Below, the image vividly illustrates the first step—making the case for leveraging Generative AI to amplify CMS-A’s impact, showcasing the direct benefits and strategic alignment with our organizational goals.

Presentation Screenshot: Case for Leveraging Generative AI to Amplify CMS-A’s Impact


First Case Study: Strategic Planning with AI

Background: In preparation for the Diversity Committee’s first in-person strategic planning meeting at CMS-A, there was a need to efficiently synthesize diverse inputs to shape the committee’s strategic direction.

Objective: To streamline the strategic planning process, ensuring effective integration of input from various committee members to develop a cohesive strategic plan.

Process: In September 2023, I introduced ChatGPT to assist with this critical task. Partnering with the then-Committee Chair, Vincent Morrow, MS, we utilized ChatGPT to refine the strategic planning presentation deck. During the session, the AI was leveraged to synthesize outputs from the group and breakout sessions, accelerating the formulation of the committee’s plan and key messaging.

Outcome: This AI-driven process enabled us to fast-track the development of the committee’s strategic plan and key messaging, which were successfully presented to the Board of Directors the following day.

Impact: The image below showcases the Committee, output from ChatGPT, and the key messaging developed for the board, illustrating the effectiveness of AI in enhancing our strategic planning capabilities.

Image rapresenting 3 stages of results of Diversity Committee Inaugural In-Person Strategy Session
Presentation Screenshot: Diversity Committee Case Study


Second Case Study: Breaking Language Barriers with the Wordly AI Pilot

Background: To enhance inclusivity and ensure all CMS-A members could fully engage with our educational programs, irrespective of language barriers.

Objective: To pilot a real-time translation technology that would allow non-native English speakers to equally participate and benefit from our educational offerings.

Process: In October 2023, we initiated the Wordly AI pilot at Cornell University Nolan School of Hotel Administration. Fellow board members Douglass Miller and Christopher Bates MS, with whom I share alumni ties, and Douglass, a faculty member, collaborated on this project along with CMS-A Executive Director, Julie Theobald and Education Director, Melissa Monosoff, MS to address language barriers. The pilot aimed to validate the effectiveness of this technology in providing real-time educational translation.

Click the video below to watch the pilot in action at Cornell University.


Watch the video below to see Wordly AI’s real-time translation on students’ screens.

Outcome: The pilot laid the groundwork for subsequent trials and culminated in the successful launch of our first-ever Japan Introductory Sommelier Course & Exam in February 2024.

Photos from CMS-A’s First-ever Japan Introductory Sommelier Course & Exam in February 2024

Impact: This initiative transcends mere technology adoption—it embodies a profound commitment to inclusivity.

By effectively dismantling language barriers and accommodating diverse hearing abilities, we are expanding our global reach.

This ensures that all students, regardless of their native language or auditory capabilities, potentially have equal opportunities to enhance their wine knowledge and advance professionally within the hospitality industry.

Third Case Study: Developing the Strategic Plan Video Script with AI

Background: As part of our efforts to articulate and communicate CMS-A’s strategic objectives, there was a need to create a compelling video that could effectively convey our vision to a broader audience. The challenge was to ensure the script was not only informative but also resonant with our core values and goals.

Objective: To develop a persuasive and engaging video script that aligns with CMS-A’s strategic plan, enhancing clarity and impact through the use of generative AI.

Process: I utilized Anthropic’s Claude AI to assist in this critical task. The process began with a draft text that incorporated key elements from our strategic plan. Using Claude AI, we transformed this initial draft into a polished script tailored for our speakers. The AI’s capabilities were leveraged to refine the language and ensure the content was both compelling and strategically aligned.

Watch the video below to explore the Strategic Plan Video case study in detail.

Outcome: The final video script produced was instrumental in effectively conveying CMS-A’s strategic direction and goals. The development of this script not only demonstrated AI’s capacity to enhance persuasive messaging but also served as a testament to the potential of AI in streamlining content creation processes within our organization. Click to Explore CMS-A’s Strategic Plan Video Playlist

Impact: This AI-enhanced script was used in the CMS-A Strategic Plan video, which has been crucial in increasing awareness about our mission and strategic initiatives. The video has been well-received, indicating the success of integrating AI into our communication strategy.

Reflection: This case study underscores the significant role that AI can play in organizational communication. By using AI, we were able to achieve a high-quality output that resonated deeply with our audience, proving that AI can be a valuable partner in achieving strategic communication goals.

AI: Amplifying CMS-A’s Impact

Beyond the three case studies I spotlighted, I also shared other ways AI has helped us. For instance, I illustrated how Read.AI facilitated easy and accurate post-meeting correspondence during a Zoom call with a prospective partner. ChatGPT was instrumental in developing a core messaging document for the Diversity Committee, ensuring consistency and ease of access for committee members charged with communications. These examples underscore our deep dive into AI, from automating routine tasks to creating persuasive messaging, highlighting our steadfast commitment to innovation, operational excellence, and, most importantly, to our vibrant community.


Our Vision: Strategic, Inclusive Growth

CMS-A’s strategic objectives mirror its aspiration not just to lead but to transform the beverage and hospitality industry. AI is not merely a tool; it’s a partner in our quest to increase awareness, set the gold standard in certification, and foster a dynamic, inclusive professional community.


Exploring AI Further: Resources and Tools

I am particularly enthusiastic about the suite of AI tools we’ve adopted—ChatGPT, Claude AI, and Read.AI for stakeholder engagement; Wordly AI for real-time translation; and more. These tools have proven essential in guiding our strategy and operations towards greater effectiveness.


The Road Ahead

As we delve deeper into the AI landscape, maintaining a balance between leveraging cutting-edge technology and adhering to our core values and mission is paramount. Ethical considerations, data privacy, and continuous team development are our top priorities.


Invitation to Explore Further

Join us on this fascinating journey as CMS-A leverages AI to achieve its strategic goals and redefine the possibilities within the hospitality industry. We are not just adopting new technology; we’re setting a course for a future where CMS-A leads with innovation, inclusivity, and excellence.


Learn More

Discover my insights on AI applications in the hospitality industry through this article: Leveraging AI in Hospitality: Insights from Cornell’s Groundbreaking Guest Lecture by Elizabeth (Liz) Ngonzi


In this evolving narrative, AI is more than technology—it’s our ally in crafting a more inclusive, efficient, and impactful CMS-A.

Reflecting on a Journey of Silence and Discovery

A decade ago, my transformative three-month stint as a Karma Yogi at Sivananda Ashram Yoga Ranch laid the foundation for a profound journey I embarked upon this past January—a 10-day Vipassana silent meditation retreat. This pivotal experience has profoundly deepened my understanding of myself and significantly enriched my endeavors in transformative speaking, coaching, and social entrepreneurship.

During this period of introspection and silence, I unearthed invaluable lessons about resilience, interconnectedness, and the essence of focus—insights that continue to shape my life and professional approach. These revelations offer a distinct perspective on the power of mindfulness and the importance of self-reflection in achieving personal and professional fulfillment.

Discover the Transformative Lessons Learned

For those intrigued by the transformative potential of silence and meditation, I delve deeper into the journey and the pivotal lessons learned in my detailed article on LinkedIn: Read the detailed account of my transformative Vipassana meditation retreat on LinkedIn. This piece not only chronicles my experiences and the insights gained but also illustrates how these lessons can serve as a catalyst for personal and professional growth.

Watch My Transformative Journey

To gain further insight into my journey before the retreat, I invite you to watch my talk from TEDxCornellU, “Want your enterprise to change the world? Start with yourself! Liz Ngonzi at TEDxCornellU.” This talk captures the essence of transformation that begins from within, a theme that resonates deeply with my Vipassana experience.

Join the Conversation

I’m eager to hear from others who have embarked on similar journeys of self-discovery through meditation or those curious about the process. How have your experiences shaped your personal and professional paths? Share your stories and insights by connecting with me on LinkedIn or 𝕏 Twitter to continue the discussion.

Let’s explore together how the lessons of silence and meditation can inspire and transform our lives and work.


Navigating Uncertainty: 7 Essential Lessons for Building a Successful Career

Hello, Class of 2023! As someone who graduated during a recession, I understand your concerns about stepping into the professional world during these uncertain times. I’m Elizabeth Ngonzi, and today, I’d like to share with you seven essential lessons that have guided my career. I hope they can provide you with a roadmap as you embark on your own journey.

1. Own Your Value

Never allow anyone to define your worth, be it professional, personal, or spiritual. By giving others the power to determine your potential, you risk limiting your own growth. Embrace your unique attributes and trust in your intrinsic value.

2. Choose the Right Life Partner

Seek a life partner with whom you share a genuine bond and aligned values. Find someone kind-hearted, someone who matches your ambition to make a significant impact on the world. A supportive partnership can enrich your personal and professional life in ways you can’t even imagine.

3. Balance Work and Life

Life extends beyond the confines of work. Cherish the company of your loved ones and immerse yourself in experiences that broaden your horizon. Hobbies, travel, or learning about diverse cultures can nourish your soul and widen your perspective.

4. People Matter in Job Selection

When considering a job, don’t solely focus on the company’s reputation or the salary package. Assess the people you’ll work with and those you’ll report to. A supportive team fosters a productive environment, driving your career satisfaction and growth.

5. Harness the Power of AI

Stay competitive by understanding and employing Generative AI in your line of work. Embracing such advanced technologies can boost your innovation capabilities and enhance your performance.

6. Network Effectively

Invest time in nurturing relationships with colleagues, mentors, and professionals in your field. Your network is a treasure trove of support, guidance, and opportunities waiting to be unlocked.

7. Take Calculated Risks

Embrace calculated risks. The courage to venture outside your comfort zone often leads to rewarding experiences and personal growth.

In essence, I encourage you to own your worth, find a meaningful partnership, balance your professional and personal life, value the human aspect in job selection, leverage cutting-edge technologies like AI, network effectively, and embrace calculated risks. Remember, these lessons are not rules but guiding principles that can help you navigate your career with confidence and purpose. Forge your own path, Class of 2023 – the future is yours!

Unlocking Your Personal Brand Story: Insights and Strategies from an Experienced Coach

In today’s competitive job market, building a personal brand is essential for professional success. In this booklet, Elizabeth (Liz) Ngonzi, an experienced international speaker, trainer, and coach shares her personal journey in developing her brand, offering practical tips and strategies for readers to apply in their own lives and careers.

The booklet also introduces two purpose-driven frameworks to guide individuals towards a fulfilling and purposeful career, emphasizing the importance of activating one’s network and stakeholder engagement to create a positive impact. Whether you are a seasoned professional or just starting out, this booklet provides valuable insights and strategies to help you differentiate yourself and achieve your personal and professional goals.


Read the booklet by clicking here »


Balancing People, Planet and Profit Series: Activating Conscious Consumers Online and In-person Part III

NY NOW hosted the third and final installment of the “Balancing People, Planet, and Profit” series, developed by The International Social Impact Institute® (The ISII) on December 14th, 2022. Titled “Activating Conscious Consumers Online and In-person,” the webinar was moderated by NY NOW’s Senior Producer Dondrill Glover and presented by The ISII’s Founder and CEO, Elizabeth (Liz) Ngonzi.

The webinar focused on the importance of connecting with buyers and consumers, both online and in-person, through a brand’s digital storytelling ecosystem, booth design and messaging, and in-person engagement. Liz shared best practices, case studies, and practical tips on how to create an unforgettable experience for consumers by balancing people, planet, and profit in one’s product and business model.

Liz highlighted that it makes business sense for brands to focus on people and planet, citing a study by Burrelles that revealed 66% of consumers want brands to take a stand on political and social issues, 64% make purchasing decisions based on whether a brand represents their beliefs, and 60% want companies to take a stand on social issues. She emphasized the importance of marketing and sales, reiterating how buyers and consumers feel when interacting with a brand.

Attendees were offered advice for balancing people, planet, and profit, and for engaging with consumers, with Liz and Dondrill facilitating an interactive conversation. They underscored that balancing people, planet, and profit and developing a complete story around this balance while conveying that message to consumers in-person and online can create significant brand differentiation and inspire brand loyalty.

To conclude, Liz invoked Dr. Maya Angelou’s words,

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”


You Matter And So Does Your Story; How To Attract The Right Opportunities To Live Your Best Life

On September 22nd, 2022, Nelson Mandela University and The International Social Impact Institute held an inspiring workshop titled “You Matter And So Does Your Story; How To Attract The Right Opportunities To Live Your Best Life,” in collaboration with the Nelson Mandela University Student Employability and Entrepreneurship Development (SEED) project. This initiative aims to help students develop entrepreneurial thinking, improve their employability, and collaborate with like-minded individuals, while engaging with experienced peers through a customized mentorship program.

The workshop, presented by Elizabeth (Liz) Ngonzi, Founder and CEO of The International Social Impact Institute and facilitated by Jonathan Najoe, Community Engagement Officer at Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator, discussed the importance of defining one’s purpose and values to develop a compelling story that can create real impact. Nelson Mandela’s story and legacy continue to inspire not only South Africa but humanity at large. His bravery, resourcefulness, and perseverance against oppression had a tremendously positive impact on his country and the world.

The workshop offered tools and knowledge to empower Nelson Mandela University students to create the kind of impact that can change the world. Although primarily designed for students, the material presented has relevance for professionals looking to engage with clients, investors, or donors.

The discussion centered around the idea of Purpose. Ms. Ngonzi emphasized the importance of defining one’s purpose and values, which will ultimately help inform the story. A personal SWOT analysis, a digital storytelling ecosystem, and methods of developing a network of collaborators and partners were presented as important tools to use in this process.

Ms. Ngonzi concluded by referring to a Ewe-Mina Proverb:

“Until the lion has his or her own storyteller, the hunter will always have the best part of the story.”

This workshop offered lessons and tools to help audience members move forward with the process of becoming their own storytellers. By crafting their unique story, students and professionals can attract the right opportunities to live their best life, just as Nelson Mandela did.


Learn More About the Session Here »


Optimizing Stakeholder Engagement Through Events

On August 14th, 2022, The King Baudouin Foundation United States hosted an interactive webinar on optimizing stakeholder engagement through virtual and in-person events. The webinar was delivered by The International Social Impact Institute and focused on providing its successful, repeatable framework for planning, marketing, and executing an event, along with case studies that illustrate key concepts and methods to ensure strong stakeholder engagement.

Kady Sylla, Senior Advisor at The King Baudouin Foundation United States, opened the discussion by introducing KBFUS and its focus areas. She emphasized the importance of collaboration and highlighted the ongoing KBFUS partnership with The International Social Impact Institute and its founder and CEO Elizabeth Ngonzi.

Ms. Ngonzi presented core principles for optimizing stakeholder engagement and shared examples of successful stakeholder engagement across different types of organizations, donors, and events. She stressed the criticality of personalizing events and knowing the audience. She shared a strategic event management framework and an event support analysis framework, covering various types of support and how to align this to different supporters with a wide range of interests.

Ms. Ngonzi also discussed the importance of understanding the audience and their priorities to successfully market and engage donors. She concluded the webinar by sharing resources and creative ways to elevate stakeholder engagement, including follow-ups, thank-yous, and aligning events with special days on the calendar. She emphasized the significance of partnering with others, applying core principles, and using the frameworks outlined in the webinar to optimize stakeholder engagement across both in-person and virtual events.



Balancing People, Planet and Profit Series: Integrating Generosity into Social Impact-Driven Brand Stories

On June 28th, 2022, NY NOW hosted the second installment of their three-part social impact series, “Balancing People, Planet, and Profit,” titled “Integrating Generosity into Social Impact-Driven Brand Stories.” Moderated by NY NOW’s Senior Producer, Dondrill Glover, the webinar featured Elizabeth (Liz) Ngonzi, the Founder and CEO of The International Social Impact Institute® (ISII), as presenter. The webinar focused on helping participants integrate social impact into their brand’s mission statement, using practical examples and showcasing the ISII’s Impact Story Development Framework.

The webinar built upon the first installment of the series and aimed to help participants identify which aspect(s) of the social impact equation – people, profit, and/or planet – they wanted to incorporate into their brand’s mission. Liz Ngonzi shared case studies of organizations that have successfully developed purpose-driven mission statements and corresponding brand stories. She emphasized the importance of having clear values that drive the brand’s story, attracting aligned stakeholders, including consumers, investors, and philanthropic partners.

The case studies presented highlighted the impact of having a mission statement that broadly aligns with the organization’s work and core values. Liz Ngonzi discussed the importance of identifying the challenge, offering solutions, and showing impact when developing an impact-driven mission statement and brand story. She shared multiple real-world examples of this template in practice and the impact it can have on an organization’s success.

In conclusion, Liz Ngonzi highlighted how these principles can affect stakeholder engagement, most importantly in finding and attracting stakeholders with aligned core values. The webinar offered a template for building a social impact-driven mission statement and brand story, providing significant advantages to organizations. The speakers highlighted simple and straightforward ways to get started incorporating social impact into brand stories.


Watch the recording of Part 2 HERE »



Balancing People, Planet and Profit Series: Developing Social Impact Driven Brands

On November 22nd, 2021, NY NOW kicked off its three-part social impact series titled “Balancing People, Planet, and Profit” with a webinar titled “Developing Social Impact-Driven Brand Stories.” The webinar was hosted by NY NOW’s Senior Producer, Dondrill Glover, and featured presenter Elizabeth (Liz) Ngonzi, Founder and CEO of The International Social Impact Institute® (ISII). The series is designed to help individuals and organizations create a balance across people, planet, and profit, with the first session aimed at developing social-impact driven brands.

During the webinar, Liz Ngonzi stressed the importance of an organization’s brand, emphasizing that it’s the primary driver of consumer purchasing decisions. She shared statistics from PwC indicating that the majority of consumers prioritize purchasing from trustworthy, environmentally and socially responsible brands. Liz Ngonzi went on to explain the importance of an organization’s ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) story for consumers, highlighting socially and environmentally responsible retailers, labor practices of suppliers, environmental impact of production and delivery, and retailer’s diversity and inclusion practices as some of the most important factors.

Liz Ngonzi showcased six companies from different industries and geographic locations that have successfully balanced people, planet, and profit, and have strong brands that reflect their commitment to these values. She also emphasized the importance of long-term results and investing in the communities where an organization operates, as well as taking care of employees and understanding an organization’s environmental impact.

Liz Ngonzi concluded the webinar by introducing GivingTuesday as a way for organizations to integrate their values into their brand, and previewed the upcoming sessions in the series, which will focus on integrating generosity into social impact-driven brand stories, and activating social-impact driven consumers online.