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How to Own the Room – Women and the Art of brilliant speaking by Viv Groskop

Updated: May 16, 2020

I have to give a speech. I’m well prepared. I’m ready! But what if I'm not? Can I deliver my knowledge and my passion? How can I control my nerves and anxieties? Am I able to connect with my audience? How will I own the room?

I love to speak but I’m always nervous and my voice gets wobbly when I have to speak in front of a lot of people. So I decided I have to do something to change that. I watched a lot of Ted Talks, I signed up for vocational training and I was searching for a good read that helps me to calm my nerves and to get rid of self-doubt and insecurities. Well, I’m pretty sure I found a good one (Booyah!)

Viv Groskop’s book “How to own the room” explores the presence, performance and authenticity of recent history’s GREAT women speakers, such as Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Virginia Woolf and Angela Merkel. It reveals what they do when they deliver those game-changing moments and provide the reader (it will hopefully be you, soon) with useful thoughts and words of wisdom on the mechanics and processes of public speaking.

I’m pretty sure everyone’s question is: Will I own the room after reading this book? It depends. It will depend on how much time and energy you are willing to commit to your personal development. The book gives you the tools and the practical support you need to improve your stage performance. From body language, breathing exercises, developing the right mindset, planning the content and the personal story, watching experts, recording yourself, delivering challenging information and beating the anxiety that every public speaker experiences at some level or another…What the book can’t do is make you reflect on yourself or give you feedback like a coach could. It also can’t provide the public-speaking opportunities needed to develop those skills. But what I liked about this book, after every single chapter, it gives some pretty good, valuable tips and tricks for public speaking like:

  1. Think about what your limiting beliefs are? Make a list of all the things you believe are holding you back. Write them down. Spell them out. Admit them to yourself.

  2. Start with looking after your body: Shoulders back. Chest forward. Monitor your breathing. Breathe, smile and pause. Let your brain drop into your stomach.

  3. In every situation you’re in, think: What would someone happy high status be doing now? During your speech, try to show openness, a strong spine, relaxed gestures, stillness of the head.

  4. If you want to project presence, you need to focus on how you feel internally. Think about something you would like to share in a speech that is special to you or makes you feel vulnerable. Show your audience why the topic of your speech matters so much to you. Talk about a personal memory; show your emotions about what you do. It will create warmth and empathy.

  5. Record your speech. Listen to it over and over whenever you have a spare minute (on the train etc.). Get used to hearing your voice and start analyzing yourself.

  6. Tie together personal experience and universal wisdom: What’s the most important life lesson you’ve learned? What’s the best (and worst) advice you received growing up? What have you learned from failure? What did you wish you knew at the age of twenty-one that you know now? What is your passion? What is the change you want to see in the world? What do you know most about?

  7. Do watch TED Talks, YouTube speeches and listen to Podcasts as much as you can. Find favourite speakers. Use them for inspiration, not to beat yourself up. Find a speaker whose style closely mirrors what you’d aspire to.

  8. Finish strong. Be direct with the audience. Say a definite “Thank you” as you finish. Walk off calmly and confidently.

I loved this book because it is full of talented, able, but ultimately flawed women who felt the fear and did it anyway, despite their negative thoughts, feelings, and ums and ers. It’s a shame we still need such books aimed at women, but the truth is we still need them and the world would be poorer without them.

I would describe this book as a literary confidence booster, like a self-help guide for public speaking that shows you that whatever your personality is, you’re capable of giving a great speech. Therefore I recommend this book to every woman and men, who prepare for an important presentation or speech, and need an extra self-confidence shot.

For me, it’s once again beautiful to see what can happen when women finally find their voice, their speaking style and finally speak up.

All you need is a voice and an idea of what you might like to say. No more excuses. Go and own the room.

So who is now ready to own the room and to deliver high-status glamour like Oprah at the Golden Globes speech? #TimesUp

About the author:

Viv Grokop is a British journalist, writer, TV and radio presenter and comedian. She has written for publications including The Guardian, Daily Mail, Evening Standard. She mainly writes on arts, books, popular culture and current affairs, often with a feminist slant.

My favourite quote:

"Power is not given, it is taken. Attention is not given, it is taken."
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