Walking the Talk

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Robyn Henderson has a passion for building relationships and connecting people and with five books under her belt and recognition from the speaking industry she is firmly established as Australia’s networking guru.

From a background in the hospitality industry and sales, Robyn’s speaking career evolved in the early 90s when Robyn worked for a couple of unethical companies who ‘over promised and under delivered’. “I realised there was a better way of doing business in the community and thought as a speaker, I could show companies how to do it a better way.”

Robyn was holding onto a sales manager job four days a week and speaking about goal setting on the fifth day to whatever audience she could get, when she heard speaker Lisa McGuinness Smith talk about walking your talk. “I realised if I was walking my talk, I should leave my job and believe in my dreams. So I resigned and became a speaker,” says Robyn.

Robyn had honed her speaking skills in previous years as a sales executive when she had joined Toastmasters International so she could make a presentation without ‘stuttering and stumbling. As her confidence and her passion for speaking increased she joined and became heavily involved with the National Speakers Association of Australia. Robyn attended the Associations conferences in the US to be inspired by the best of the best in the world, and gauge how she compared. ” realised I had a long way to go, but I could make a living as a speaker as long as I always spoke about something I was passionate about,” says Robyn.

Like any business, staying afloat long enough to get known was tough and in the speaking industry most presentations are freebies while establishing a profile. “I certainly had ups and downs with cash flow in the early days but I was determined to make it work. I took lots of risks developing products and running public seminars. Some ideas worked and some didn’t – I learned as I went,” says Robyn.

Robyn’s main topic as a guest speaker is mastering the art of networking – everything from talking to strangers and generating referrals through to building relationships. “Being authentic and setting realistic targets for my audience is very important to me. Its no good inspiring people and then leaving them with a game plan that they can never hope to achieve. I encourage people to implement small changes into their lives, to introduce networking as a life skill. I want people to think ‘If she can do it, I can do it too’,” says Robyn.

Robyn’s speaking career blossomed and she was invited to speak overseas, firstly in New Zealand in 1994 and Singapore in 1995, which lead to speaking engagements in Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Jakarta, Bahrain, Japan and the US. “I haven’t exactly sought overseas engagements, they just happened,” says Robyn.

Robyn speaks to a diverse range of organisations especially in the banking and finance area as well as law firms, small businesses, direct selling companies, real estate groups, government departments and associations. “Probably one of the most diverse groups was the Arabian Society of Human Resources Management in Bahrain in 1998,” says Robyn. “I spoke to 500 Arabs – 480 men in their long white robes and only 20 women. I was terrified initially, but the session was a great success, so much so that I was invited back in 1999. “

During 1995-6 Robyn was giving over 200 presentations a year and during 1996-7 Robyn spent around 170 nights out of Sydney, half of those being international trips. Robyn has since halved the number of speaking engagements as she becomes more aware of creating a balance in her life.

“I consciously decided in 1999, after my fathers death, to get a life and give myself more time out,” says Robyn. “I have been working consciously for the last 18 months on getting healthier and fitter and go to the gym regularly – a great network itself! – , meditate twice a day, massage every week, and spend time appreciating nature too. I like to take photos of sunrises, sunsets and trees, and make time each week to catch up with positive, like-minded friends.

“My focus now is on working just in New Zealand and Australia, because I love both countries and I find the audiences very receptive, lots of fun and keen to try new ideas.”

Robyn’s career within the speaking industry is firmly established. She is a Certified Speaking Professional with the NSAA, which means she has achieved a certain level of income, number of clients, a n d presentations over a number of years. Only nine women in Australia and 104 women globally share this accreditation.

Robyn was recently awarded the prestigious 2000 Nevin Award from the National Speakers Association of Australia. The award is awarded annually to the member whose accomplishments reflect outstanding credit, respect, honour and, admiration of NSAA and the entire speaking profession. Robyn is only the third woman in Australia to receive the award. “it was an honour to receive the award – it was the culmination and certainly the highlight of my eight year speaking career,” says Robyn.

Robyn has also authored five books, including ‘How to Master Networking, ‘Networking Magic – 366 Hot Networking tips’, ‘Be Seen, Get Known, Move Ahead’ and ‘Are You the VIP in your Life?’

“I decided to write my first book after attending my first National Speakers of America conference,” says Robyn. “I saw that most of the speakers on the platform had books or tapes, and realised I had better write a book if I was planning to be up there one day.”

Most of Robyn’s books are self published because it was the quickest way to get a book out when she was keen to establish herself as a ‘networking expert’. “Initially I was a speaker who wrote and now I see myself as an author who speaks – it is only a slight shift, but creates a different focus.”

Robyn’s inspiration for her books comes from her audiences and her life. “I think I represent the typical single businesswoman who has plenty of balls in the air and at times drops a few…” says Robyn.

Robyn is currently writing a book called ‘The Self Love Diet for Women’ – nothing to do with eating, but all about self esteem and confidence building, “It will also have a spiritual focus as I see many people today who are searching for answers and are spiritually bankrupt. With a combination of meditation, affirmations, and a variety of spiritual practices we can learn to value ourselves as much as we value others. And it’s important to look within for answers rather than constantly searching outside for things to make us happy,” says Robyn.

“I really encourage people to write books on topics that they are passionate about. I love reading and think I am privileged to read in an hour or two, many years of experiences, mistakes and lessons from someone else,” says Robyn. “And authoring a book is a great way to build your profile and gain credibility.”

And what’s the secret to writing a book for any budding authors? “I don’t write every day. When I decide to write a book, I work on that project and complete it quite quickly. I think the frame of mind you are in helps enormously when you write and I have a ritual of aromatherapy oils, soft music, no distractions, total focus – and the words just flow,” says Robyn.

As a networker and speaker to everyone from high profile organisations through to small businesses, Robyn has her finger on the pulse when it comes to current challenges in the workplace. “The main problems are caused by accountability to shareholders and major stakeholders,” says Robyn. “The enlightened companies are becoming more conscious of the three P’s – People, Profits and the Planet. They realise that investing in their people as well as giving back to the community and caring for the planet actually transfers to profits.

“The key to growing a small business into a larger business is to form strategic alliances with like-minded people. It’s very hard for small businesses to make the connections they need without networking. They need to get out there and meet people and be proud of promoting the product or service they provide. “

In recent years Robyn has developed a strong interest in spirituality and where it fits in the business world and is now an a accredited Angel Therapy Practitioner. “I am now doing one on one angel sessions showing people how to connect with their angels, how to tap their intuition and their inner knowing.”

Robyn upskills herself by sitting in on, and learning from, other guest speakers during a conference where she is also a guest speaker. “I also believe in paying professionals to teach me what I don’t know – whether that’s coaching in voice, presentation skills, or computer skills. Learn from the best, or the best that you can afford,” says Robyn.

To keep herself motivated Robyn revises her goals each year and
decides what she wants in her life and what she has to do to get it, who she could bring in to the loop to work with her and who she can help along the way. “I then basically work project by project,” says Robyn.
Robyn is also involved with community work – works she says is incredibly humbling and very grounding. “Two years ago after a radio interview I was contacted by a half way house in inner Sydney, which lead to monthly sessions at the centre with young men who had been in prison, on drugs or recovering from alcohol or gambling addiction. We do everything from goal setting, self esteem building and numerology to affirmations,” says Robyn.

“I have learned so much from these guys about life and about overcoming adversity. It’s quite extraordinary what belief in someone can do to change their behaviour. I am incredibly grateful each time I drive home from these sessions that I have such a blessed life, and that I have the opportunity to do work with these guys and share the learning.”

Robyn’s latest project is her involvement as a contributing author to the book ‘Masters of Networking’. The book was released in the US in October and is currently number three on the New York Times list. Other authors who share networking ideas and tips include Mark Victor
Hansen, Bill Gates, Harvey Mackey, Colin Powell, and Deepak Chopra.

Robyn has also secured the rights with Business Network International Australia to publish Masters of Networking in Australia. (The book is available in bookstores early March, retailing at $27.50 including GST.)

Robyn is looking forward to semiretirement in Kingscliff in a couple of years, to travel and write at leisure. “I realise that quality of life is far more precious than dollars in the bank – you are a long time dead,” says Robin. “I also want to develop the angel work and create a network of lightworkers in Australia that can teach others how to tap into their inner strength and intuition.”

And of course there’ll be more books, both fiction and non fiction, and even a television show interviewing people who are out there doing great things.

Finally, Robyn shares her best networking tip; “Have heart to heart conversations with people – that doesn’t mean sharing your deepest darkest secret. Rather, it is being in the moment, focusing on the person you are speaking to and listening attentively. Have quality not quantity conversations and you will remember things more easily. Listen with your heart as well as your ears.

Passion: Networking – connecting like minded people together and seeing what happens.

Currently reading:
-The Indigo children by Lee Carroll and Jan Tober
-The Lightworkers Way – (awakening your spiritual power to know and heal) by Doreen Virtue

Role model:
-Tina Turner for her fantastic body. Buddhist religion practice, love of life and no plastic surgery
-Nelson Mandela – for his calmness, humility and perseverance
-Oprah Winfrey – for her positive influence on the media and courage to change television as we know it

Power food:
Protein (nuts, seafood, stone fuit) – not chocolate….

Best advice ever received:
My father said be prepared to walk away in negotiations, rather than going lower than you originally were prepared to go.

Personal motto:
Energy follows thought – what you think about is what you create in your life.

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