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The Power of Oprah and of Personal Style: Interview with Ellen Koronet

Iosetta Santini

March 25, 2024

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

With over 40 years of experience, Ellen Koronet, Principal & Chief Creativity Officer at LNK Creative, shares her journey from starting in a very competitive workplace to speaking on platforms such as QRCA, Florida Creativity Conference, On Purpose Woman Global Community, and this year Qual360 NA and IIEX NA, where she’ll be talking about introversion/extraversion - very fitting for with this topic! (You can take her quiz here).

She is a vibrant, creative, and confident woman who welcomed our conversation with great energy, precious advice, and a warm smile.


Iosetta: Hi Ellen, thank you for agreeing to speak to the WIRe community. I’ve always been lucky to work with inspiring women, who supported me and gave me the confidence to put myself out there. But not everyone has this privilege, so thanks to inspiring people like you, my hope is to instill some of that confidence in others too. How did you take your first steps as a presenter? Talk us through your journey…

Ellen: I wish that when I started out, I had this kind of outlook and environment at work. In some ways, I think we are light years ahead of where I was, I was really in a man's world. There were a lot of women, but they were hard-edged. I never had any mentors, there was nobody I could really look up to, and feel safe with. So, I think you're in a whole different world. And I love it.

My journey as a presenter started when, early in my career, I was sent by my company to take a course in New York City. It was extremely practical and motivating, even with the uncomfortable tasks we had to do (e.g., watching playback on video, presenting more than once to the same critiquing audience, and reworking ingrained habits).

As I progressed, I found that focus group moderating and delivering research results to any size audience was thrilling. I loved the challenge, the act of listening and pivoting, and the sense of accomplishment when insight gets integrated into initiatives.

I: What would you say to people that still don't have the privilege of having someone that supports them? How did you navigate that?

It's a really good question. As a business owner, I gravitate towards the clients and the collaborators who are willing to be alongside me. I’ve had to learn to step back when people lose sight of the mutually beneficial goals to get ahead for themselves (men and women alike). It’s important to keep your values in mind while maintaining the drive to be successful - but also at what price? On the other hand, I am very grateful for people like Karen Lynch at Greenbook. She is not only opening doors for younger women, but she’s showing them how to do it.

I: Speaking of shared values, who inspires you and gives you confidence?

E: A lot of inspiration and confidence comes from my family. My father was a professor of Political Science who encouraged me to pursue marketing research as an applied social science after I graduated in Anthropology. He passed in 2010 but his voice is always encouraging me, especially with public speaking.

I also carry my cousin Sylvia’s encouragement everywhere. Before she passed, we pushed each other to step up and shift the old boy networks and stodgy approaches to business and life. She was an actress – her love of acting was incredibly inspiring. She taught me a lot!

In the more public realm, my friend Leslie (Stein) Riley inspires me from a distance. She is a Leadership/Team BuildingFacilitator, and she did a TEDx talk in 2015. Leslie is so grounded, she’s an excellent storyteller, and so real and vulnerable. She publicly shares so many parts of her beautiful journey in life, all with humor and raw emotion.

I: Having examples to follow is so important. What other tips can you share on how to be on stage and deliver a successful presentation?

E: My favorite tip is to watch Oprah for excellent delivery! As an interviewer, she could ask the tough questions, but she knows how to listen and then be provocative. We may not be having an actual conversation on stage, but we can activate the same give and take.

When rehearsing, think about the physicality of a presentation as well. Channel any nervousness into intentional gestures, pauses to draw a calming breath in, adopt a very solid stance and focus from the waist up. It’s so calming. Also practice how to make your presentation interactive. Pick your questions well and use them sparingly. You can game-ify, bring in humor and light-hearted play. Using story mechanics, such as a literary hero’s journey arc, is also a great way to keep the presentation engaging and memorable.

I: How do you handle moments of self-doubt or imposter syndrome as a woman presenter?

E: I grapple with concerns that someone in the audience may have even more expertise than me. My “inner wound” is that I’m taking up their spotlight, they’re going to call me out and shut me down.

The best tools I’ve found to face self-doubt are about thorough preparation: I do my homework way in advance, and practice, practice, practice. I also, work with accountability partners to debunk the myth that I don’t know what I’m talking about (that is NEVER true!).

Create an affirming outfit/wardrobe, think about how do you find your sense of style? What makes you feel confident? I hired a stylist for two talks this Spring (Sam Smith at SamWasHere.org). What she helped me with is to stay consistent with my own style. So, wear your favorite clothes and be yourself, don't worry about the heels, just get comfortable.

I: This is great advice! Drawing from your personal experience, what would you say to encourage more women in our industry who may feel hesitant to step forward and embrace speaking opportunities?

E: Not that gender stereotypes are ever 100% true, but our superpowers can include empathy, gentle encouragement, grace, ability to find a way around barriers. This can complement messages delivered by men, who may be more direct, confrontational, or authoritative.

I: What steps do you think companies in MR should take to actively foster and support women's talent, ensuring they have equal opportunities to showcase their expertise on stage?

E: Regardless of title or experience, walk the walk when offering support or “mentoring.” I’ve often been directly managed by people(mostly men, but also women) who did not understand or appreciate me and my approach. The tell-tale sign that I was mismatched is that my clients awarded me with compliments, and - more importantly - repeat business, while my boss(es) at the time shut down communication and only delivered criticism.

I struggled to find true “mentors” within my own organization. I left the corporate environment 20 years ago to start my own business. I’m hoping it is better, but I suspect women still need authentic, psychologically safe outlets to try ideas out, brainstorm, and get support in challenging situations.

I: Any other words of advice for the WIRe community?

E: I’m inspired by the rising generations…Keep going, with your compass always pointed at “True North!”


About Ellen Koronet

Ellen Koronet has been active as an Applied Anthropologist, a Qualitative Research Consultant (Focus Group Moderator), and a Full Service Marketing Research Consultant since the early 1980’s. Her clients, articles, guest blog posts, and conference presentations span the globe. She is seen as an expert in many topics, including “Gamification, Customer Journey Mapping” using proprietary creativity techniques, “The Art ofAsking Big Questions,” and “Using Archetypes Personally & Professionally.” Ellen is currently the Principal at LNK Creative, a Research Service Firm specializing in qualitatively informed social scientific quizzes and assessments.

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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