Blog, book review, Book Reviews

How To Own The Room

Do you dread public speaking?

Do you find it difficult to be heard in a group of people?

Do you dread those masculine put-downs?

Then I have the answer for you in the book How To Own The Room by writer, comedienne, podcaster and TV and radio presenter Viv Groskop.

As I started to read this book, in order to review it, I found myself putting bits of paper between every page and realised that I was likely to be giving you the whole book but as a review.

The book opens with a question what does it mean to own the room. As Viv says

“Anyone can speak but you have to want to”

Two very different views are given about women speaking or preaching. One by a man, and the other a woman, and they’re hundreds of years apart. Sadly in some sectors of society the male attitude is still the same today.

 ” A woman’s preaching is like a dog’s walking on its hind legs- it’s not done well; but you’re surprised to find it’s done at all.” Samuel Johnson

“Women don’t need to find a voice. They have a voice. They need to feel empowered to use it and people need to encouraged to listen.” Meggan Markle 

The book is full of fine examples of women who can and do hold the room. 

As Viv points out 

I don’t pretend for a second that this stuff is easy. It’s undeniable that traditionally there have been fewer speaking opportunities for women. In her speech “We should all be feminists” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie quotes the environmentalist and Kenyan Nobel prize winner Wangari Maathai 

: The higher you go, the fewer women there are. 

This book is not here to diagnose the problem but to encourage women to focus their efforts and to create their own opportunities. 

 At the end of each chapter is a list of tips and tricks for example how to stand, how to monitor your breathing, how to ignore your inner critic. 

I love Viv’s expression Happy High Status  – the inner quality that is essential for an electric public speaking performance. You will need to read the book for a full meaning of this state of being. Michelle Obama is a good example of a person with this quality, but it wasn’t always so. Michele like the rest of us had to learn. There is plenty of evidence that Michelle Obama worked hard to get to this level of confidence. 

Because Viv has done hours and hours of watching the speeches of famous people she has analysed what works and what doesn’t. We, her readers, are getting the benefit of her research. However this is not enough on Its own. The one thing all the good and great speakers have in common is practice. To become a good, and then great, speaker it’s advisable to watch the best of Ted talks, to do the exercises suggested in the book, and to take every opportunity to talk in public even if it is a small thing such as proposing a toast at a party. Then as you get more used to public speaking try longer speeches. Record yourself and listen back. Do the exercises suggested in the book. If you are short of time read, and inwardly digest the books appendix. But do read the rest of the book it’s brilliant.

Published by Penguin at £12.99 in hard back and also available as an ebook

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