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About mindfulness, improv, and being freakin’ smart: Interview with Karen Lynch

Iosetta Santini

June 12, 2024

Centre Stage is an interview series aimed at empowering women in insights with the confidence of being in the spotlight.

I had the pleasure of asking some questions to one of my favorite thought-leaders in the industry. Karen Lynch, Head of Content at Greenbook, made the stage her second home. Her experience as public speaker is second to none. Karen is a contagious force for change, dedicated to truly promoting and supporting diversity on (and off) stage.

Continue reading for her great advice on how to build your confidence and feel empowered when you’re in the spotlight.


Iosetta: Hi Karen, thank you for sharing your journey with WIRe. You’re an inspiration for women in our industry. Public speaking is your bread and butter, what drives you to be on stage?

Karen: As an extrovert, I’m energized by people. I’ve always loved the mantra, “the more the merrier,” and I really feel that sense of merriment on stage. I feel a connection with the audience. I consider it an honor and a privilege to be able to share that connection with others.

When I present, I find it fulfilling to share a nugget (as simple as a message, a takeaway, or something useful and inspiring) that can resonate with people. I feel like I can positively impact their personal growth or their careers; that’s satisfying at a higher level.

Different formats of public speaking also require different approaches and spark different emotions; when I’m chairing an event, I feel a certain amount of responsibility for the audience’s experience. I know that when I kick things off, or wrap things up, I’m in a way caring for them.

It’s similar when I’m interviewing someone on stage. It’s a part of my job to make sure I engage the audience while at the same time helping the speaker feel comfortable.


I: How did you take your first steps as a presenter? Can you talk us through your journey?
K: When you are a focus group moderator, as I was for so many years, you are “on stage” simply in your day-to-day role. Working in front of a one-way mirror means getting comfortable in front of groups of strangers; that was really my first step. That, and presenting to clients. So, my original mentors in that field probably shaped my comfort in this space.

I think the shift from presenting to a client team to presenting on a stage can be an easy one. But then again, I have never had stage fright. I felt the emotional reward early on and just ran with it; leading workshops and giving presentations became second nature to me.


I: You’re a very confident speaker, and you have a lot of experience. Do you still get moments of self-doubt and if so, how do you handle them?

K: Applied improv workshops helped me get comfortable with making mistakes. I think the greatest thing those can do for you (besides bring you more laughter than you bargained for) is to teach you how to take chances. Everyone doing improv is literally making it up as they go along. Once you get comfortable doing that, you realize that’s what many of our presentation skills are...improvisational skills.

On the other hand, being prepared is at the core of feeling confident, and delivering a successful presentation. I tend to make sure I know my stuff, and I do affirm myself sometimes, by saying to myself, “You’ve got this,” if I feel less prepared than I’d like. If I haven’t made enough time to review or rehearse, I make sure I give myself at least a few minutes to get into the right mindset. And that mindset is one that is relaxed and well, mindful, with a lot of deep breaths and quiet in a solitary space.

So, my top confidence-boosting tips are to take improv classes, mentally rehearse, and give yourself space and breathing room before taking to the stage.


I: It is certainly a balance between being able to think on your feet but still feel prepared. For those who are still hesitant, what would you say to encourage them to step forward and take on speaking opportunities?

K: We are equal! Men do this ALL. The. Time. And we are as smart and as experienced as them. Don’t believe men have more innate confidence than us; usually they’ve just had fewer times when they’ve been beaten down. This means, as women we must put ourselves out there exponentially more. Remember how smart and capable and wonderful you are - get on up there!


I: Well said. When talking about opportunities, what steps do you think companies in MR should take to actively foster and support women's talent?

K: Well first, encourage females in your organization to submit to calls for speakers. And if your company has a sponsored speaking spot, find a female to take the stage for that spot. I can’t tell you how many suppliers with sponsored speaking spots send a male in sales, not thinking about what the audience wants. Spoiler alert: It is not. Most industry event attendees would LOVE to learn from a strong female researcher rather than another pitch from a male in business development. (And don’t get me started on why women don’t take or aren’t offered sales positions. Sigh.)

I: You’re right, I find seeing women or fresh voices on stage extremely motivating. What do you find motivating? Is there anyone in or outside of the industry who inspires you?

K: I mean ... can I just say Oprah? I was always inspired by her journalism accomplishments. But then I saw her live, just before Covid, speaking to an audience of 30,000 people a few years ago when she went on tour. She oozes self-confidence. And I mean, she interviewed Michelle Obama on that stage, as if it was nothing. Sure, it’s largely her innate talent. Her experience. But it’s also her authenticity. She’s genuine. She’s mastered the art of making people think she’s just like them. And that’s how I try to be on stage myself.I think most people find I am who I am on or off stage. For better or worse (I say with a smile).

I: Thank you so much for all your precious advice. Anything else you’d like to share with WIRe?

K: I just think women, in general, don’t give themselves enough grace. To be human. To be flawed. To make mistakes. To try new things. We don’t have to be perfect. We just have to be us. Because being a woman is totally enough. We’re freakin’ awesome.



About Karen

As Greenbook’s Head of Content, Karen leads content vision, strategy, and production across our platforms. She also hosts The Greenbook Podcast, co-host their weekly livestream The Exchange. She’s often on-stage as a lead chair at IIEX events, facilitating fireside chats, presenting GRIT data and/or moderating panel discussions.

Greenbook is a leading voice in market research and consumer insights. They inspire, inform, and connect insight professionals across the globe through their online directory, webinars, virtual learning, trend reports, articles, and the InsightInnovation Exchange (IIEX) conference series.

About the Author

Iosetta Santini

Iosetta, Account Director at Keen as Mustard, is a creative and enthusiastic professional in the B2B marketing industry. Having supported international clients across multiple sectors, Iosetta knows how to turn complex messages into interesting stories. After starting her media career as a reporter in Italy, she went to London for an MA in Comms and never left. With Keen as Mustard Iosetta has consolidated and deepened her knowledge of the insights sector, she contributes to the “Mastering Insights Communications” blog channel on Greenbook, and has been shortlisted for prominent industry awards such as the Greenbook Future List and Significant Insights’ 30 under 30.

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