How To Own The Room: Women and the Art of Brilliant Speaking
There are hundreds of books out there on Public Speaking (trust us, we’ve read nearly all of them), but Viv Groskop has written one specifically aimed at women. I have a real interest in helping empower women to use their voices and to be heard in all areas of their life which is why this one appealed to me in particular. Groskop also comes from a performance back ground (stand-up comedy) so that was another draw. Keep reading to find out what I made of her approach…
ONE LINE PITCH ~
A guide full of inspiring examples and practical exercises for women who want to feel more confident and at ease when presenting, or in those moments when they are made to feel small.
SWOT ANALYSIS ~
This book is super accessible. Groskop writes with humour and draws from her wide-ranging experience as a speaker and a coach to give some useful insights into the pressures on women when speaking and how these may differ from those that men feel (#notallmen etc etc etc).
Viv’s suggests practical exercises throughout the book. These cover adjusting thought process, breathing and grounding, speech prep and challenging yourself. She also rounds the book up with an appendix of Dos and Don’ts for ‘owning the room’. Her approach is actually very similar to ours here at COR - a focus on the anxiety and the negative thought processes that can get in the way when we are trying to communicate. She shares our ethos of practice, practice, practice and discusses familiar theories such as Power Posing. A lot of what she is says in so inline with our workshops that I questioned whether or not to review the book...
Groskop uses inspirational female speakers such as Michelle Obama and Oprah to illustrate her points throughout the book and whilst I think it’s important to have aspirations of speaking like the greats, for someone who is incredibly nervous of speaking publicly then consistently being given examples of incredibly successful women could have the opposite effect than that desired. Even though Groskop acknowledges this, I can’t quite relate JK Rowling giving a commencement speech at a university to my every day experiences in meetings, interviews or presentations. This means that the anecdotal nature of the book left me a bit frustrated. That’s all well and good for Michelle and JK but what about me?!
Also, whilst the guidelines for practical exercises are useful, I question how easily they are implemented for someone who is overcome with anxiety around speaking. They ask you to be very self aware and self reflective which can be difficult when working in isolation from a book. Sometimes we need feedback and conversation to help us identify bad habits or moments of negative thinking. I’m also the type of person who gives up on exercises in books pretty quickly, especially if I find them hard. My tip - sign up for a public speaking course…(I can recommend a really good one!)
First, this book provides you with an opportunity to start thinking about what is holding you back as a speaker. By actively acknowledging what’s not working, you can begin to find approaches that can work.
Secondly, Groskop references lots of brilliant Ted Talks and books and I think that this is one of the main opportunities this book provides - an opportunity to study other speakers, to see what works for you and what doesn’t, to discover what kind of speaker you would like to be. Groskop’s focus on authenticity is right up my street, and whilst the previously mentioned focus on other celebrated speaker’s could move you away from this, she does give advice on trying to communicate as you. Are you formal? High status? Funny? Passionate? Introverted? Extroverted? There is room for every type of speaker out there and Groskop’s discussion of speakers like Susan Cain (author of Quiet) gives permission to those of us who aren’t flashy, gag a minute presenters. How To Own The Room gives an opportunity to be curious, which is no bad thing in my humble opinion.
My favourite tip from the book is to ultimately have realistic expectations of yourself! By acknowledging the reality of our speaking opportunity it may be easier to control our anxieties and also to ensure that we remain authentic to ourselves and our message, rather than feeling like we need to transform into Gloria Steinam (or someone equally as inspiring).
As Groskop says ‘…be honest and realistic about the impact and reach of what you’re doing. If you’re talking to twenty people at a work presentation, don’t treat it as if you’ve been asked to give the Gettysburg Address’
STANDOUT QUOTES ~
“You can’t get around fear. You can only go through it. And the way to go through it is to speak in public and get more used to it.’
“We all need to figure out our own idea of presence.”
KEY LESSONS ~
Everyone gets nervous. Everyone can make steps towards overcoming their anxieties around public speaking. Everyone has to work hard to improve their skills as a communicator and presenter…even Michelle Obama.
I think that the accessibility of this book makes it a good one for any woman who is dipping their toe into self- improvement and who wants to begin to build confidence in public speaking. It is a useful guide and can provide some funny insights into a much written about topic. Ultimately though, I think a well chosen workshop can give you all that this book does and so much more…