NON-FICTION//How to Own the Room: Women and the Art of Brilliant Speaking- Viv Groskop*



I am chatty. It’s well-known and much commented on that I like to talk and I am good at it. I can talk to you about anything. I’m also not bad at standing up in front of a load of teenagers and teach them- something I did most days for a decade.

But ask me to give a speech? Naaaah.

Last time I gave a speech was for Year 13 as they left school. I had in my head a brilliant version of Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Sunscreen’. What came out was a garbled message about being kind and look after your teeth (seriously underrated in the under-30 market.) I, a seemingly confident and slightly gobby grown up who spoke in front of these kids on a regular basis, lost it.

This is where Viv Groskop’s new book comes in. By looking at the speaking styles of some of our most famous and influential female speakers such as Michelle Obama, Ellen DeGeneres and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, she helps us understand different ways to approach the thorny issue of public speaking. After all, it’s a rare person who says they love speaking to a room with all eyes on them, right?

I found this book so useful; although my current job no longer requires I speak with all eyes on me, I do speak to lots of people- sometimes in difficult circumstances. There are tips in this book about dealing with nerves, how we project ourselves and how to prepare for speaking events; all of these are things that can be woven into our lives as women at work, whether you’re planning a presentation, giving a leaving speech or negotiating a pay rise, there’s something here for you. Advice is delivered in a friendly, witty way- it’s like having a supportive mentor guiding you through all this stuff over a coffee and helping you find the right technique to fit you: are you ‘happy high status’ like Oprah or more nervous in the same way J.K. Rowling?

It’s still not always easy as a woman in the workplace and anything that helps us be more confident and assertive in achieving our career goals/navigating the place where we spend most of our waking hours is very, very welcome.

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