Jen Oleniczak Brown
Check out Jen’s new class on Skillshare: Small Talk 101: How to Master Any Networking Situation. She’s incredibly gifted with teaching and impromptu, and is looking to help prepare men and women for top-notch communication in the workplace.
Residing in Winston-Salem with her husband, Jen is the founder and artistic director at The Engaging Educator (EE), using improv-based continuing education for communication, presentation and social skill development, as well Fearless, a shared space model for women’s empowerment and formation. She is the author of Improv(E): Using Improv to Find Your Voice, Style, and Self (2018) as well as the forthcoming Think on Your Feet: Tips and Tricks to Improve Your Impromptu Communication Skills on the Job (McGraw-Hill, 2019).
Since 2012, Jen has given three TEDx Talks on the power of Improv, grown EE to three locations in NYC, Winston-Salem, NC, and LA, and recently began The Engaging Educator Foundation, which offers free and low-cost Improv workshops for educators, at-risk adults, teens and students on the Autism Spectrum. EE’s pedagogical approach of ‘Improv as Continuing Education’ has reached over 25,000 people–all non-actors.
City/State: Currently: Winston Salem, North Carolina
Describe your writing and how you came to work with Weronika: I’ve always been a writer that writes very much how I talk – for better or worse. The conversational and growth/inspiration style connects my heart with my words. Late 2018, I got an email from McGraw-Hill Business, asking me to set up a call about a potential book proposal. Thinking I was being punked by a friend (especially since it came through my company’s website, and through the contact form!), I returned the email, had a call, and ended up signing a contract with McGraw-Hill for a book coming out Fall 2019. About a week later, my contact reached out to me to let me know that an agent was interested in setting up a call to discuss representation.
Skeptical still, I set up the call after looking Weronika up – and truth be told, the only reason I was so keen to set up the call was because she was Polish as well! After the conversation, I realized how we saw eye to eye on quite a bit of the work I do, and am interested in doing, for and with women. The rest is history!
Favorite TV show: Anything on Food Network
Favorite book of the year: My comfort book of every year will be any one of the Devil Wears Prada books!
If I could have dinner with anyone (dead or alive, fictional or historical), it would be: Brene Brown and Amy Cuddy – same night please!
If I were to hang a quote or an art piece above my fireplace, it would be: A Calder mobile that I would stare at for hours on end.
Three things to ask me about: 1) Thai Food (really, food in general); 2) My dog; Drumstick 3) How I want to teach everyone the power of And versus But.
Most interesting idea I’ve encountered in the past three years: Using green apple in place of papaya in Som Tum salad.
Learn About Jen’s Work
How did I get into the discipline within which I am working? Or: What is the particular body of personal experience from which I am drawing or about which I am writing?
This is a doozy! I started off as an actor, many moons ago. Performed improv in Chicago and NYC, then went back to school for art history and worked at the Guggenheim Museum and Frick Collection, among other museums, and ended up teaching presentation skills classes for other educators, as well as improv classes that helped educators with their flexibility ‘in the moment’. After a few in house workshops, I realized it was a real need: improv classes for professionals, and specifically ones that weren’t mixed in with people that wanted to be actors or improvisers.
I made the professional angle very clear, and soon after we were getting recognition by places like CBS for being the place to take improv if you had no desire to be on stage. From there, I’m always looking for ways to reach more people with our style of improving presentation, communication and social skills through improv. Fast forward over 6 years, and here I am, still doing the thing!
If I had to teach a core principle to a group of elementary school students, what would I teach? How would I teach it?
This is funny because I do teach elementary school students improv – for different and similar reasons! I work on their social, problem solving, team and public speaking skills. We generally don’t have a polished performance at the end, but we DO all of the same activities that the adults do. Sometimes, the kids are a lot funnier than the adults because they aren’t worried about what other people might think.
Say I am asked to give a lecture about my area of expertise. Podium or no? Hand mic or clip-on mic? PowerPoint presentation or no?
Absolutely no podium – that’s my death. I would much rather have a lav (clip on) because I’m a gesture person, and the one time someone asked me specifically to have a PowerPoint, I made three slides: One that said Hello, one that said I’m not Pizza, and the final one with my contact information.
If I can point to a writer whose research or writing or otherwise has inspired me to pursue my own work, it is…
Describe the most important lesson you’ve learned from another human person in undergoing your work.
You can only change the way you communicate with other people, and how you interpret their communication. You can’t change how they communicate.