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How to Be Like the Fearless Girl: Interview with Kelli Hammock

Iosetta Santini

April 29, 2024

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

Sharing her stage journey today is Kelli Hammock, Strategic Communications Director at L&E. From the shadows of the pandemic to the spotlight, she started presenting in 2021 at both in-person events and on webinars, including the Insights Association, Greenbook, and QRCA.

If you’re taking your first steps on stage, Kelli’s advice is gold dust!


Iosetta: Hi Kelli, thank you for sharing your experience with WIRe. I know you started presenting after the pandemic, and you are now on a roll. Could you start by walking us through your journey?

Kelli: Absolutely. I never had a desire to present. This isn’t inherently a natural drive for most people; it’s a unique talent, that only those with the mindset of wanting to perform have, like actors or musicians.

So, although I never had this desire, I was given confidence, and I was given trust. And that to me was pivotal. As you said, the pandemic presented a unique opportunity for virtual presentations, and my journey began when our CEO, Brett Watkins, approached me about presenting at a virtual conference. Despite my initial apprehension, I decided to take the opportunity.

Just like the Fearless Girl — symbol of gender diversity in the workplace — standing proud in the heart of NYC’s Financial District, to start presenting you have to be a little bit brave. You have to be willing to take a plunge and say, “You know what, this scares the hell out of me, but I'm going to do it anyways.” Because sometimes it's worth taking the risk, you never know what you can do until you do it. In fact, once I delivered that first presentation I received very positive feedback, so although you might start with zero confidence, you will be welcomed with positivity and that is such a booster.

So, this was not the path I chose; it was a path that was thrust upon me, but I’m glad I went with it as I'm finding some really great results on the other side.

I: In those “zero-confidence” moments, how do you handle self-doubt, and what advice do you have for others experiencing similar feelings?

K: Maybe this is where the female factor plays a part, I think that we tend to have a stronger sense of anxiety. I attribute this more to nurture than nature. It's not that we're inherently more anxious, but rather, it's the cumulative effect of life experiences, challenges, and triumphs that shape our disposition towards anxiety.

Self-doubt for me often creeps in after a presentation (or even a client meeting), but I've learned to accept it as a natural part of the process. It's important to acknowledge these feelings but also remind yourself that they are often exaggerated. Most people won't remember small hiccups, often it’s all in your head. So, focus on the positive feedback you receive to help counteract self-doubt.

For example, the first time I did a live presentation, I had an embarrassing moment. It was a panel presentation, which Brett was chairing. I was talking and I lost my train of thought, so I stopped and admitted that I lost track of what I was saying. At that point Brett had my back and very calmly said “It’s ok, it’s a panel discussion”. That just reinforced how important it is to have someone that supports you and encourages you in these moments of doubt.

I: Speaking of support network. Who are the people that inspire you and give you confidence?

K: Of course, Brett, but also Tracy Isacco, President at L&E, who constantly trusts me and inspires me. But even wider than that, my colleagues. It feels really good to be recognized by my peers ,not just my bosses, and to know that they’re seeing that what I'm doing is helpful to the organisation. This is something that drives me.

I: It's so motivating to receive appreciation about your work, and it’s great that you have such a supporting team. So, you’re clearly doing things right! What tips can you share about being on stage and delivering a good presentation?

K: I try not to focus on how many people are out there. In fact, when I presented at the QRCA, the room was gigantic, and the crowd was large. You would think that at this point, I was going to panic. But I felt prepared, and sometimes you can get confidence from the strangest places. In my head the fact that people were there to hear what I had to say, because they were interested, was a booster.

But this wouldn’t have happened without thorough preparation. The biggest takeaway is to prepare, prepare, prepare. Do not walk on stage if you have not practised at least five times. If you have not done five dress rehearsals, then you probably aren’t prepared enough. Being confident on stage is critical, but the only way to accomplish that is to make sure you know what you're talking about.

I: You talked about how important it is to have a company that has your back. So, what do you think that other companies in our industry could be doing to provide the same level of support and make sure that diversity on stage is a priority?

K: It seems so obvious, but just make it one of your company core values. Cultivating a culture of care, empathy, and inclusion is so important. Companies should actively promote the recognition and empowerment of all employees. Creating an environment where individuals feel valued and supported not only enhances collaboration but also encourages diverse voices and perspectives on stage. At L&E we have a phenomenal culture, we really like each other a lot, and I can't even tell you how much of a game changer that is.

I: Any final words of wisdom for the WIRe community?

K: I really appreciate the WIRe community. We are a female dominant industry, but I don't know if the statistics line up when looking at leadership roles. I’d also like to encourage men to join WIRe, it’s great to see when they stand by those same principles.


About Kelli

Kelli holds a degree in Mass Communication and joined L&E Research in 2019. She has worked in market research since 2005, with operational experience in recruitment, project management, and programming. Kelli currently supports L&E’s Client Solutions team by providing consultation, research design, proposals, and screener development. She manages L&E’s marketing by creating content and designing materials, producing webinars, planning events, and providing guidance for external communications.

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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