FARGO - For 17 years, Robyn Benincasa made a career out of adventure racing by competing in some of the most extreme circumstances imaginable: jungles in Borneo, mountains in Tibet, deserts in Namibia and brush fires in southern California.
These days, Benincasa translates the leadership and teamwork lessons she learned in each of those situations to a more relatable setting: the business world.
After traveling the globe during her career, Benincasa will head to a place she's never been before to share those lessons: Fargo, North Dakota.
"I believe this is a first," Benincasa said in an interview from her Arizona home last month.
But she's excited about the opportunity to offer her insight at the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce's Women Connect anniversary event on Jan. 23. She says attendees can expect a high-energy presentation with several clips of incredible video footage.
"They can expect to be genuinely and deeply inspired to tackle whatever that next big challenge is in their business or personal life," she says. "And they can expect to walk away with a deep understanding of how to be the best leader and teammate they can be in their business or family."
She explains that no matter what circumstance a person faces, the common denominator is people and obstacles.
"It's something everyone has in their life," she says. "You have to find ways to finish lines. That's the same whether you're in an adventure race or in an office getting through the day's challenge."
Overcoming those challenges isn't a solitary journey. Her racing career thrived thanks to the partnerships she developed with her teammates, and she'll share common traits and attitudes of high-performing teams during her presentation.
"The connection, cooperation and partnership aspect is very important," she says. "I always had the idea that this sort of magic we discovered in these races can not only be applied to races and leadership but also to the realization that we're not superhuman athletes - we endured and relied on our teammates."
Women Connect committee chair Kristi Huber, who also leads the United Way of Cass-Clay team, says Benincasa's inspiring message was the "perfect fit for starting the year off on the right foot."
"We always need to be inspired by something, and sometimes it's a larger-than-life story," Huber says. "Robyn certainly fits the bill. Sometimes we deal with extreme situations in our businesses and in our personal journeys."
Huber says attendees will see firsthand how they can use the tools and experiences Benincasa will share to maximize their own teams at work.
"I think the women who come to the event will walk away with a refreshed view of what is possible for 2018 ... and I think a lot of energy is going to come back to their companies," Huber says.
While Benincasa's energy and exuberance were clear when the committee was discussing her presentation with her, Huber pointed out that the world champion racer isn't afraid of being vulnerable, and she is excited for event attendees to hear that message.
"A lot of times women believe that to be a leader, they have to have a certain persona, but more and more the research being done shows there is such value in being authentic," Huber says.
She loved that Benincasa shared with the committee a story about how she broke down during a tough race but that showing her vulnerability helped develop a deeper level of trust with her team.
That development will come across in the videos Benincasa shares during the presentation, and Huber says she's excited to see them.
"I think those images will truly inspire us all to look at our teams in a different way," she says.
If You Go
What: "Why Winners Win" Women Connect anniversary celebration
When: 2:30 to 4 p.m. Jan. 23
Where: Delta by Marriott, 1635 42nd St. S., Fargo
Info: Tickets are $45 for Chamber members and $60 for non-members in advance; $55 and $70 at the door. Attendees are also encouraged to bring gently-used athletic apparel, shoes or a Scheels gift card to donate to Elevate Human Potential's new women's empowerment program. www.fmwfchamber.com.