Bridging Knowledge: Dr. Robyne Hanley-Dafoe’s Path from Academia to Keynote Speaking
Dr. Robyne Hanley-Dafoe
Dr. Robyne Hanley-Dafoe

Stress, change and the pursuit of growth are enduring aspects of both individual and organizational journeys. This demands more than mere coping; it further necessitates finding ways to adapt, thrive and emerge stronger from challenges. Building resilience and fostering overall well-being are essential for navigating life’s uncertainties with purpose and direction.

Dr. Robyne Hanley-DafoeFounder, Speaker, Writer, and Educator of Dr. Robyne HD Inc., specializes in resiliency and wellness, addressing intersections of stress, optimal challenge, navigating change, and self-identity. With a robust background in post-secondary education, Dr. Robyne brings a wealth of experience in professional development, research and authentic change practices. Her commitment to innovative solutions fosters positive learning relationships and environments for students, teachers, families and organizations.

Dr. Robyne approaches resiliency from diverse perspectives, ensuring accessibility to everyone regardless of background or prior knowledge. Her work is relatable, approachable and grounded in personal reflection and humor. She offers research-informed best practices that individuals can adapt and adopt in their lives.

Available for keynote speaking, consultation and training, Dr. Robyne tailors her services to one-on-one sessions or company-wide initiatives. Based north of Toronto, Ontario, Dr. Robyne HD Inc., established in October 2019, exemplifies a dedication to fostering resilience, well-being, and growth in both individuals and organizations.

Democratizing Insights

Dr. Robyne’s journey into keynote speaking emerged from a rich background in academia spanning over two decades. “I recognized the importance of moving this knowledge outside a university setting,” she explains the need to extend valuable insights beyond academic confines. With a focus on psychology, human development, and behavior, Dr. Robyne observed how valuable information often remained out of reach for many. Motivated by the belief that everyone deserves access to such knowledge, she sought broader avenues.

Transitioning from university to public speaking, Dr. Robyne’s mission was clear—democratizing valuable insights. “My motivation stemmed from a deep-seated belief,” she emphasizes.

Today, her career resonates with diverse audiences offering transformative ideas beyond traditional educational boundaries. By bridging academia with broader communities, Dr. Robyne inspires and empowers individuals to engage with essential concepts of self and society.

Vision for Resilient Communities

In 2016, Dr. Robyne received an unexpected invitation to present at her first TEDx Talk on short notice. “I only had a few days to plan my 18-minute talk,” she recalls. Drawing from years of teaching and student feedback, she crafted an impactful narrative. Her mission as an educator is distinct yet complementary—to share timely knowledge and be useful. Dr. Robyne believes in life’s preparatory nature, stating, “We are always being prepared for what lies ahead of us.”

The TEDx Talk marked a turning point, catapulting her into a career she hadn’t envisioned. Venturing outside academia, she now empowers others with vital tools and insights. Dr. Robyne aims to navigate life’s complexities, foster self-understanding and cultivate a more compassionate society.

Today, her speaking engagements resonate widely, reaching diverse audiences. Dr. Robyne exemplifies the transformative power of education outside traditional settings. She continues to inspire with her belief in the value of accessible knowledge, affirming that readiness for life’s challenges begins long before we face them. Through her work, Dr. Robyne invites others to embrace preparation and clarity, equipping them to engage meaningfully with the world.

Navigating Life’s Challenges with Hope and Resilience

Dr. Robyne advocates for hope as a strategy, emphasizing its role in fostering resilience. “When we cultivate practices that keep us hope-filled, we can unlock our resiliency to navigate whatever comes our way in life,” she asserts. Central to her philosophy is the belief that individuals can accomplish difficult and remarkable feats by prioritizing what truly matters.

Her conviction underscores the transformative power of intentional focus on meaningful priorities. By embracing hope and resilience, Dr. Robyne encourages individuals to approach challenges with optimism and determination. Through her work, she inspires others to discover their inner strength and capacity for greatness.

Adaptive Storytelling

Dr. Robyne emphasizes the stability of truth-based knowledge in her presentations. “Thankfully, when you present knowledge that is based on truth, it doesn’t shift significantly in terms of content,” she notes. However, she customizes her delivery by selecting relevant examples for different audiences.

Storytelling plays a pivotal role in Dr. Robyne’s approach, enabling her to communicate complex scientific research effectively. She explains, “Storytelling is the oldest method of pedagogy.” Leveraging this innate human tendency to remember stories from oral traditions, she tailors her narratives to resonate with her listeners.

While the core concepts of resilience remain consistent, Dr. Robyne’s use of stories varies to ensure comprehension and engagement. By personalizing her presentations, she connects with diverse audiences, making valuable insights accessible and memorable. Through her adaptive storytelling, Dr. Robyne enriches her teachings, empowering individuals to grasp essential principles and apply them meaningfully in their lives.

Inspiring Action and Reflection

Dr. Robyne views keynotes as a form of service, focusing on how they benefit the audience. “Keynotes are most effective when a person is sharing original information or offering their critical perspective,” she prioritizes the presentation of unique insights over self-promotion or unattributed content.

For Dr. Robyne, a great keynote adheres to a structured approach:

  • What: Introduce the big idea or concept.
  • So What: Explain why it’s important or relevant.
  • Now What: Encourage action or reflection on how to apply the knowledge.

She believes impactful keynotes resonate through storytelling, making complex topics relatable and memorable. “I love it when people are excited to tell their loved ones about something they learned,” she shares. This enthusiasm signifies successful communication and engagement. By emphasizing the audience’s connection to the material, Dr. Robyne ensures her keynotes inspire action and reflection. Through original insights and compelling narratives, she strives to empower individuals to see themselves in the knowledge, fostering a sense of shared learning and growth. Ultimately, her goal is to leave audiences informed and eager to share as well as apply newfound wisdom in their lives.

Preparing for the Unexpected

Dr. Robyne recognizes the complexity of event logistics and the need for adaptability. “Events have many moving parts and require enormous orchestration,” she acknowledges. Having encountered sudden changes like a 60-minute talk being shortened to 30 minutes just before stepping on stage, she underscores the importance of preparation and flexibility.

Being well-prepared and deeply familiar with the material enables Dr. Robyne to navigate unexpected adjustments seamlessly. “When you know your material so well, you can shift a 60-minute talk into a 30-minute talk with ease which helps reduce the stress of the unexpected,” she explains. This level of readiness reduces stress and ensures effective communication even under challenging circumstances.

Speaking as Service

Dr. Robyne’s commitment to her work stems from its profound impact on people’s lives. “Speaking is a form of service,” she asserts, emphasizing that being called to serve transcends profession—it’s a way of being in the world. With an impressive track record of over 1,000 keynotes delivered in the last 4 years, Dr. Robyne approaches each opportunity as an honour and a chance to make a difference.

Her motivation remains unwavering because she believes in the transformative potential of her message. “I trust that there is someone in the group who needs to hear what I can share,” she explains. For Dr. Robyne, it’s a responsibility to connect with her audience and impart meaningful insights. Through her dedication, Dr. Robyne exemplifies the profound impact of service-driven work.

What role do you believe keynote speakers play in driving positive change and inspiring others to reach their full potential?

Dr. Robyne sees speakers as educators with a profound responsibility to share knowledge and insights authentically and with practical applications in mind. She clarifies, “I am not an influencer but a scientist who believes in sharing valuable information for the greater good.”

Her perspective ensures the importance of integrity and altruism in knowledge sharing. Dr. Robyne believes that by sharing knowledge selflessly, individuals can achieve personal greatness and contribute positively to their communities.

She envisions herself as a lighthouse, illuminating a path forward with the lessons and knowledge she has acquired over time. In her words, “I want to be a lighthouse for others to shine a light on a path forward from the lessons I have learned and the knowledge I have been entrusted with.”

Through her approach, Dr. Robyne embodies the essence of meaningful contribution and mentorship. By prioritizing the dissemination of valuable information over personal gain, she inspires others to follow suit and pay forward the benefits of shared wisdom.

Shining a Light

Dr. Robyne values storytelling as the essence of effective keynote presentations. “I appreciate that people are chasing technology and the latest communication mediums,” she acknowledges. However, she prioritizes the clarity and impact of storytelling over the allure of flashy technology.

For Dr. Robyne, the key question is whether a technological element enhances or distracts from the main message. “Is this piece of technology helping the story and main idea to be understood or it is distracting from the main message?” she asks. Her preference leans towards clarity over cleverness, emphasizing the importance of ensuring that the audience connects deeply with the core message.

Crafting Engaging Presentations

Dr. Robyne emphasizes audience-centric preparation to enhance engagement during presentations. “When you think of the audience first, it helps with engagement,” she advises. To ensure relevance and value, she poses key questions when crafting her talks:

  • What problems do they face, and what solutions can I offer? Dr. Robyne focuses on addressing real challenges with practical insights and solutions.
  • How can we work on the problem together? She fosters collaboration and interactive dialogue, encouraging active participation from the audience.
  • What unique insights can I share to shift perspectives? Dr. Robyne aims to provide fresh perspectives that resonate with her audience’s experiences.
  • What knowledge gap can I bridge? She identifies areas where audience awareness may be lacking, aiming to educate and empower.

Dr. Robyne stresses the importance of demonstrating usefulness to capture audience engagement swiftly. She creates an environment where audience members feel valued and empowered by tailoring content to address specific needs and fostering meaningful interaction.

Speaking from the Heart

Dr. Robyne emphasizes the importance of authenticity and consistency for impactful speaking. “For a speaker to be useful, they need to be real,” she asserts. She believes in maintaining a genuine persona that resonates with audiences. According to Dr. Robyne, human beings are naturally attuned to sincerity, care, and connection. “People are drawn to real,” she explains, emphasizing the power of genuine engagement in communication.

Regarding vulnerability, Dr. Robyne expresses the need for speakers to prioritize the audience’s benefit. “The work is about them, not you,” she emphasizes. She advises against sharing personal challenges or topics actively being navigated, focusing instead on lessons that have been processed and resolved.

By staying true to this approach, Dr. Robyne ensures that her presentations remain focused on serving her audience’s needs. She states, “I don’t bring topics or examples on stage that I am personally, currently navigating. I only share what has been processed to ensure I am staying true to making it about them, not me.” Through her example, she encourages speakers to prioritize authenticity and empathy, fostering meaningful interactions and lasting impact.

The Power of Belief

Dr. Robyne reflects on the profound impact of her work as a speaker, acknowledging the inherent uncertainty of its influence. “We will never truly know the impact of our work, and I love that about this profession,” she shares. Despite this uncertainty, she finds gratification in the daily recognition received through applause and heartfelt messages from audiences.

The most significant feedback for Dr. Robyne is knowing she has restored hope in others. “The greatest feedback I have received is knowing that I helped someone find hope again,” she reveals. By sharing her personal story and journey of resilience, she has inspired belief in brighter futures for those facing challenges.

Dr. Robyne is deeply moved by stories of individuals who were on the brink of despair but found renewed hope after hearing her message. “I am awe-inspired by those who shared with me that they were in their darkest hours and about to make a permanent, life-altering decision to solve a present-day problem but did not follow through because they believed me when I promised them better days were ahead,” she shares.

She adds, “I believe our paths will cross with the people who needs us and being a speaker has put me in some very special places which I am forever grateful for.” For Dr. Robyne, being a speaker has led to meaningful encounters with people in need, and she cherishes the opportunity to make a positive difference in their lives.

Actionable Insights

Dr. Robyne embraces the wisdom of Dr. Wayne Dyer’s words, “You cannot fail at being yourself.” With a deep understanding of her identity and purpose, she approaches the stage authentically, presenting her work with confidence. “When I take the stage, I am me, presenting my work, and I trust that it will land where it needs to land,” she affirms.

As a behaviorist grounded in scientific principles, Dr. Robyne leverages her expertise to offer actionable insights. “My work is grounded in science so I know the actionable items I am encouraging people to take away will get them the results they are seeking if they put in the work,” she explains. By providing clear and evidence-based guidance, she empowers her audience to achieve tangible results through their efforts.

Message of Strength

Dr. Robyne’s goal is coherent—to be of service to those navigating life’s challenges and to spread her message that hope is a strategy. She seeks to reach as many people as possible with this empowering message, aiming to support and uplift those who need it most. Through her work, Dr. Robyne strives to help individuals handle life’s difficulties more effectively and inspire a widespread embrace of hope as a transformative tool.

Finding Your Voice

Dr. Robyne advises new speakers to prioritize their unique contribution and genuine connection over the noise of industry agencies and promises. She suggests, “Instead of getting lost in the noise, focus on how you can help people facing specific challenges.”

She underscores the importance of mastering the art, science, and craft of effective communication. “Start with listening before speaking,” Dr. Robyne advises the value of learning from established speakers in one’s field. By observing and engaging with experienced communicators, new speakers can gain valuable insights and inspiration.

Dr. Robyne encourages seeking mentorship from confident speakers who embrace collaboration over competition. “Find people who want to help and avoid those who see you as competition,” she urges, emphasizing the supportive nature of seasoned professionals willing to share knowledge and advice.

Ultimately, Dr. Robyne’s guidance emphasizes authenticity, continuous learning, and community-building within the speaking industry. She says, “Speakers who are confident in their lane and what they do, are not threated by up-and-coming players and are happy to be a mentor or at least answer a few good questions for you!”

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