Talk to strangers. You never know where it may lead. Some of my best relationships and opportunities have come out of starting a conversation with a stranger whether on a train, at a conference or in line at the store. More people should get out of their comfort zone and talk to strangers
As a part of our series about Inspirational Women of the Speaking Circuit, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Jennifer Lynn Robinson
Jennifer Lynn Robinson, Esquire is the CEO of Purposeful Networking. Her services include consulting, moderating, serving as an emcee, keynotes and workshops. Her expertise is in strategic networking, communications, public speaking, and workplace relations. Jennifer also does motivational speaking centered on the themes of storytelling and resilience following her own recovery and reinvention after a near death accident.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I am the oldest of three daughters born to immigrant parents. My mother was from Morocco and her family fled the country due to anti-semitism. My father was born in Poland at the end of WW2. My grandmother and one sister were the only survivors of the concentration camps. She and my grandfather came to Ellis Island with nothing to start a better life. My parents always told us growing up how thankful we should be to be born in America and how important it was to get an education. Those ideals definitely shaped my upbringing. My parents separated when I was a teenager and I watched my mother struggle financially, physically and mentally. It made me very determined to get through law school and know I never had to make life choices because I was dependent on others.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I had a near death accident in 2008 when I was struck by a truck as a pedestrian and pinned underneath it. I suffered very serious physical and mental injuries including a traumatic brain injury which took me out of my career as a litigator. I had to reinvent myself and even though I was told to reconsider a career that involved public speaking I decided to start a business pursuing speaking anyway.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I set a goal for years of doing a TEDx talk and was rejected multiple times. Finally, I was selected and set to deliver it mid March of 2020. And then the country shut down and it wasn’t safe to fly. I ended up giving the talk in an empty studio in June during the pandemic. It was surreal and not the experience I had dreamt about but I am still very proud.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I did my first national webinar as a speaker a third party was handling the tech from another location. As it turned out, there were issues and I couldn’t see my own slides I had prepared. I did not think ahead and print out my slides so there I was live with no slides or notes. I ended up having to keep asking the attendees things like, “Can someone tell me what the next topic is on my slides?” I never made that mistake again. You have to anticipate technical issues and have a Plan B.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My sister Karen. She is my biggest cheerleader. I’ve had many moments over the last decade where I had doubts due to my lingering cognitive impairments and she always reminds me to be proud of how far I’ve come and to share my story.
You have been blessed with great success in a career path that can be challenging and intimidating. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?
You can be impactful without being perfect. People relate to authenticity and vulnerability rather than perfection any day.
What drives you to get up everyday and give your talks? What is the main empowering message that you aim to share with the world?
My entire network was in the legal community when I had to give up being a lawyer. I saw the value of building a network through building my own business and I know I can help so many others do the same. With my TEDx talk I hope to do more motivational speaking helping people deal with change after upheaval or trauma in their own lives which has never been more timely given the events of 2020.
Can you share with our readers a few of your most important tips about how to be an effective and empowering speaker? Can you please share some examples or stories?
The most important thing you can do is read the room and/or research your audience. Years ago I was giving a talk to kids that had problems and hadn’t completed high school. They were enrolled in a program to obtain their GED and get back on track. I arrived with all my bullet points about networking more effectively. I met with the director before my talk and heard about some of the background and challenges of these students and decided to abandon my speech. Instead I gave a talk which included very personal topics such as being addicted to pills during my accident recovery, having to declare personal bankruptcy and calling the cops to find my mother deceased in her home after a passive suicide. It was so much more impactful because they were able to see something other than a successful entrepreneur in front of them and realize if I could overcome things they could as well.
As you know, many people are terrified of speaking in public. Can you give some of your advice about how to overcome this fear?
Only look at those in the audience that are “with you.” Meaning those that are nodding and smiling and engaged. It does not benefit you to look at those that look disinterested, are nodding ff or are on their phones. You are not there to convince them.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Never attend a networking event in a bad mood. Example: I did not utilize the time at the event well or make a good impression.
- Don’t join an organization without attending an event first. Example: I joined organizations early on people said would be a good idea and realized after attending the people they attracted were not my audience or did not resonate with me. And then I had already paid for the membership and it was too late.
- Spend the money for professional branding photos regularly. Example: When I was homebound for various surgeries I still had polished images for marketing and social media to put out when I couldn’t be visible myself.
- Listen to your instincts. Example: There were several times I took on clients knowing they would be a problem and they were. Bad clients take up all your time and energy.
- Have unscheduled time to focus on your business. Example: Early on I only made time to go to events and do my work. I realized you need open time to generate new ideas and look at your bigger goals.
You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?
I am working on a book about overcoming upheaval and trauma and how to enact change. I am also doing a lot of virtual interactive networking and employee engagement sessions with companies that are looking for ways to keep their employees productive and engaged from home.
Can you share with our readers any self care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Please share a story for each one if you can.
- I box. I like starting my day getting out a lot of energy and aggression and it helps me to feel empowered throughout the day. Find an outlet that helps you do the same.
- When I am not up against a deadline and don’t feel like working I don’t force it. I may spend an afternoon on my couch with my dogs eating chocolate and watching mindless TV. I always come back to my work more productive.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Happiness never goes out of style.” -Lilly Pulitzer. I realized during my recovery after years of prescribed meds and therapies that it was up to me to find my own happiness again. No one could do it for me. I am also a fashion girl and pretty obsessed with the Lilly Pulitzer brand with its bright colors and focus on giving back and happiness so this quote really resonates with me.
You are a person of huge influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Talk to strangers. You never know where it may lead. Some of my best relationships and opportunities have come out of starting a conversation with a stranger whether on a train, at a conference or in line at the store. More people should get out of their comfort zone and talk to strangers.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
Serena Williams. I am such a groupie. I love her work ethic, passion and determination. And she has become an amazing activist and humanitarian as well.
Are you on social media? How can our readers follow you online?
Yes. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram at @areyounetworked.
This was so informative, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!