Robin Lickliter - Senior Vice President at Sparks

Lead by example, be a team player, and exercise accountability.

Robin Lickliter is the senior vice president of events at Sparks, a global brand experience agency. Robin has been with Sparks for more than 10 years, and in that time, she’s established events as a full-service offering. She’s responsible for leading the event division, overseeing all teams that deliver on programs, and playing an integral role in key client relationships such as Google. Hers is the fastest-growing team at Sparks, experiencing 70 percent growth in 2013.

In collaboration with the Sparks creative and event teams, Robin plays a large role in developing event and creative strategies for programs ranging from consumer activations to large-scale, multi-day conferences and C-level thought leadership forums. On average, Sparks creates and executes 2,000 projects and events in 37 countries each year.

Robin brings nearly 20 years of agency experience in event marketing, PR, and advertising to each program, providing the perfect experiential mix.

Where did the idea for Sparks come from?

Sparks is actually a family name. The company got its start in the 1920s in Philadelphia designing stage sets and retail window displays. Nearly 100 years later, we’re a large-scale marketing agency with fully integrated services. We’re constantly reinventing ourselves and evolving with the demand of the industry. It’s exciting.

What does your typical day look like, and how do you make it productive?

Emails, emails, emails. Calls. Meetings. Repeat. And, most likely, a surprise request that reprioritizes the entire day. I’ve become a morning person, and getting an early start helps me get a jump on the day. Not to mention that since I’m basically bicoastal, the earlier (quieter) hours yield the highest productivity.

When I’m traveling west, I try to stay on the same schedule, which allows me extra time in the morning. (I exercise more on the road than at home because it’s like I’m gaining hours.)

Agency productivity is all about flexibility, the ability to pivot, and being able to provide immediate creative solutions. I’m charged with making decisions quickly to direct teams, and I believe instincts are a big part of that success. I’m most productive when I can unplug and get away from the reactionary workflow, but that’s a challenge in the agency world.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Through collaboration with an amazing team that always takes the easy answer away. If it seems impossible to achieve, we push for it. That’s what clients are looking for. And there’s no bad idea in the brainstorming stage. Respecting people’s voices and ideas is crucial to a successful output.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Social. It’s fascinating to me. I’ve learned so much about so many people through social channels. It’s an entirely new layer of knowing someone — including a brand.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive?

I have to say multitasking. Although when I really need to concentrate and stay focused on one thing, it’s a challenge because there are so many things happening all the time.

What was the worst job you ever had, and what did you learn from it?

I was the marketing director for a medical office in Manhattan. I learned that I need to be in a creative environment and that I hate wearing suits.

If you were to start your career again, what would you do differently?

That’s a tough one. I’ve had some amazing opportunities throughout my career and really value where I am today. If I started over, I would pay more attention to networking. Relationships are everything, and the value they can bring in the most unexpected moments is astounding.

What is the one thing you do over and over in your career and recommend everyone else do?

Lead by example, be a team player, and exercise accountability. I really try to treat everyone with the same level of respect and value internally (within our agency) and externally (clients and valued partners). There’s no job too small to get involved in if the team needs support.

What is one failure you had in your career, and how did you overcome it?

Being afraid of failing was actually my biggest failure. I had the opportunity to take a lead role on a team but lacked the confidence to step up because I was afraid I wasn’t experienced enough. I learned immediately that the opportunities in life you miss are the risks you don’t take.

Tell us something about you that very few people know.

When I was 21, I traveled the world through Semester at Sea on a scholarship, and it changed my life forever. Special thanks to my late grandfather for believing in me and providing me the means to make it possible. He sent me $1,000 for the application, which started the process with a note that read, “Go see the world. It will change everything.”

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

I’m a Google girl. I use all of Google’s products: Gmail, Calendar, Google+, Drive, Hangouts, YouTube, Maps, Play, Keep, etc. They offer a great user experience, and I’m a brand loyalist. I use a few other things here and there, but this is my primary platform.

I also use a lot of apps to more easily keep up with life, including Uber, OpenTable, TripCase, NPR News, Pandora, WSJ, Epicurious, and Urban Dictionary.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t”  by Robert I. Sutton.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

People’s stories are inspiring to me — stories of success, failure, adversity, triumph, celebration, and sadness.

I’m a huge fan of “Ideas worth spreading,” otherwise known as TED Talks. One of my favorites is Kathryn Schulz’s 2011 talk, “Don’t regret regret.”

Another amazing outlet for inspiring talks and innovative minds is ZeitgeistMinds — a program I’ve been a part of since its inception.

I also love some random (or not-so-random) voices in the world, including:

• Leandra Medine, the fashion blogger behind @ManRepeller.
Chuck Klosterman
Anthony Bourdain
Arianna Huffington
Chelsea Handler
Diane von Furstenberg


Twitter: @robinlickliter