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How to Own the Room: Women and the Art of Brilliant Speaking

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'Inspirational.' Mary Portas 'Indispensable ... written with style and wit.' Mishal Husain Most books about public speaking don’t tell you what to do when you open your mouth and nothing comes out. And they don’t tell you how to get over the anxiety about performance that most people naturally have. They don’t tell you what to do in the moments when you are m 'Inspirational.' Mary Portas 'Indispensable ... written with style and wit.' Mishal Husain Most books about public speaking don’t tell you what to do when you open your mouth and nothing comes out. And they don’t tell you how to get over the anxiety about performance that most people naturally have. They don’t tell you what to do in the moments when you are made, as a woman, to feel small. They don’t tell you how to own the room. This book does. From the way Michelle Obama projects ‘happy high status’, and the power of J.K.Rowling’s understated speaking style, to Virginia Woolf’s leisurely pacing and Oprah Winfrey’s mastery of inner conviction, what is it that our heroines do to make us sit up and listen - really listen - to their every word? And how can you achieve that impact in your own life? Here’s how.


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'Inspirational.' Mary Portas 'Indispensable ... written with style and wit.' Mishal Husain Most books about public speaking don’t tell you what to do when you open your mouth and nothing comes out. And they don’t tell you how to get over the anxiety about performance that most people naturally have. They don’t tell you what to do in the moments when you are m 'Inspirational.' Mary Portas 'Indispensable ... written with style and wit.' Mishal Husain Most books about public speaking don’t tell you what to do when you open your mouth and nothing comes out. And they don’t tell you how to get over the anxiety about performance that most people naturally have. They don’t tell you what to do in the moments when you are made, as a woman, to feel small. They don’t tell you how to own the room. This book does. From the way Michelle Obama projects ‘happy high status’, and the power of J.K.Rowling’s understated speaking style, to Virginia Woolf’s leisurely pacing and Oprah Winfrey’s mastery of inner conviction, what is it that our heroines do to make us sit up and listen - really listen - to their every word? And how can you achieve that impact in your own life? Here’s how.

30 review for How to Own the Room: Women and the Art of Brilliant Speaking

  1. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne

    A well-known rule of thumb for career advancement is that you need to make you and your work more visible. In fact, one researcher found that visibility (or what he calls "exposure") counts towards 60% of your success. This causes a conundrum for women who stereotypically prefer to share the credit and also expect their work to speak for them. At the same time, there's been a growing demand for conference organizers to ensure there is more diversity in their presenters, but one conference organi A well-known rule of thumb for career advancement is that you need to make you and your work more visible. In fact, one researcher found that visibility (or what he calls "exposure") counts towards 60% of your success. This causes a conundrum for women who stereotypically prefer to share the credit and also expect their work to speak for them. At the same time, there's been a growing demand for conference organizers to ensure there is more diversity in their presenters, but one conference organizer told me a few years ago that she had to work really hard to persuade women to come and speak. Time and again, women said No to her, citing they were too nervous or not ready. Cue Viv Groskop and her book "How to Own the Room: Women and the Art of Brilliant Speaking. Groskop is on a mission to help women push through their fear and step up for speaking opportunities. Her approach is essentially 'get out there; everyone makes mistakes (including these awesome women and we all still admire them); the more you do this, the better you will be." It's like spending time with your best friend as she encourages and inspires you to stand up and take the spotlight. She does this by walking you through speeches by famous women (and a few men), showing what they did well and pointing out how they weren't perfect (no one is!) but still won the audience. She weaves in advice throughout her commentary and wraps each chapter with a section on Tips & Tricks and Exercises. I conduct presentation training and coaching, and I like to read books about presentations for new ideas and ways to help improve both my own and other people's performances. That means I have a pretty high bar and, unfortunately, there are a lot of books out there that I wouldn't recommend. Groskop's book makes the cut as she's written this for "those who want to speak or get better at it but feel a tiny bit sick and/or don't know where or how to start. It cannot take the anxiety away. But it does give you some tricks for living with it or lessening it." It definitely delivers. Full disclosure: I once had the pleasure of sitting next to Viv at a publishing event dinner about 5 years ago. She's as witty and charming as you'd imagine someone to be who's been both a journalist and stand-up comedian! When I saw she'd come out with this book, I asked for an ARC to review. My opinions in this review are all my own, even if it did take me way too long to get around to write them.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Claire Fuller

    This has been sitting on my tbr shelf for far too long, and I should have got it down before I had to do all those talks about my books, that speech to sixth formers, that videoed interview. Groskop looks at a series of women who have made speeches, from politicians to writers to comedians, and analyses their delivery in a way that can easily be applied to how the rest of us might have to give speeches. It's accessible and very implementable (is that a word?), and I highly recommend it for anyon This has been sitting on my tbr shelf for far too long, and I should have got it down before I had to do all those talks about my books, that speech to sixth formers, that videoed interview. Groskop looks at a series of women who have made speeches, from politicians to writers to comedians, and analyses their delivery in a way that can easily be applied to how the rest of us might have to give speeches. It's accessible and very implementable (is that a word?), and I highly recommend it for anyone looking at delivery (rather than content).

  3. 5 out of 5

    Catrinel Bianca

    Greatly inspiring and empowering! Fun, actual with a holistic approach on the public speaking from body language, message to attitude tips. The book is with exercises that can be followed every day or just when you I also recommend Viv's Instagram page and podcast where she continues the stories and examples of inspiring and empowering talks from the present.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Emma (escapetothebookshelf)

    This is a really impressive and original book. Each section of the book takes a different female speaker and analyses their style of speaking and why it is effective both for them and generally for others. As someone who finds public speaking a terrifying thought, this book contains so many useful tips. It casts the idea of speaking in front of others in a positive light and is extremely encouraging towards women speaking out no matter how big or small the situation is. The range of speakers dis This is a really impressive and original book. Each section of the book takes a different female speaker and analyses their style of speaking and why it is effective both for them and generally for others. As someone who finds public speaking a terrifying thought, this book contains so many useful tips. It casts the idea of speaking in front of others in a positive light and is extremely encouraging towards women speaking out no matter how big or small the situation is. The range of speakers discussed also means that you can definitely take something from the book to apply to yourself, no matter what type of personality or what type of speaker you are. Disappointingly, there are a few moments in the book where I felt the tone comes across a little patronising. For example - Groskop describes how JK Rowling was giving a speech whilst holding the microphone and her clutch bag - she ends the chapter by saying "Give someone the clutch bag to hold, love, next time, OK?". Yes, she does have a valid point but the tone comes across a little condescending to me and is in stark contrast to the otherwise general tone of encouragement throughout the book. There were a couple of other comments like this which, for me, took away from the heights of empowerment that the book could have otherwise achieved. However, despite these moments, the book is still inspirational and is still very supportive and encouraging. These moments do not pervade the book; they are really just a 'few moments' and others may interpret the comments differently - Groskop is just being honest at the end of the day. Furthermore, my interpretation probably says more about my lack of confidence than it does about Groskop's writing; she sets out to inspire and encourage which in my opinion she does overwhelmingly achieve despite these minor comments. Nonetheless, they are what held me back from giving the book 5 stars.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Shirley Bateman

    What an inspiring book! A must read for any woman who wants to master the art of public speaking and conquer the dreaded nerves it entails. I loved the examples of great speeches delivered by women. They show that you don’t have to be a fabulous orator (although it helps if you’re Oprah) and you definitely don’t have to be perfect. Ok, time to channel Michelle Obama...

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Bentley

    Speaking in public is hard. It can be made even harder when your gender is an additional factor into why you may be judged, not listened to or respected. Viv Groskop’s brilliant book How to Own the Room is a powerhouse of a book. It is empowering and give amazing information, advice and real life stories on how to build up your confidence and to be able to give amazing speeches.  I took a lot from this book. I work in a school and I don’t really have a problem with speaking to my students but I   Speaking in public is hard. It can be made even harder when your gender is an additional factor into why you may be judged, not listened to or respected. Viv Groskop’s brilliant book How to Own the Room is a powerhouse of a book. It is empowering and give amazing information, advice and real life stories on how to build up your confidence and to be able to give amazing speeches.  I took a lot from this book. I work in a school and I don’t really have a problem with speaking to my students but I  know I would feel very different if I was speaking to my peers. If I am ever asked to address people on my level or higher I know I will return to How to Own a Room to help me with the delivery of my speech. Additionally, it is the stories of well known people and how they deal with making speeches that makes you feel a little bit better about your own nerves. How to Own a Room is a practical guide and an enjoyable read. How to Own the Room – Women and the Art of Brilliant Speaking by Viv Groskop is available now.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Clara Smeaton

    Not just for people who’re scared of public speaking. As a person who does public speaking almost every day for work, I enjoyed this book for some quick tips on finding your own style and considering the differing styles and successes of other women speakers.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Linda Ilonze

    Once in awhile a self-help books (can this book be called one?) to improve various aspects of one’s life. This is a book that was bought on such a whim but it has proven to be better than anticipated. Viv Groskop the author is also the creator of a podcast of the same title that I already listen to so suffice it to say that I was already a huge fan of her interviews and post-interview analysis and how to encourage women to effectively put their best foot forward in life. The book follows a similar Once in awhile a self-help books (can this book be called one?) to improve various aspects of one’s life. This is a book that was bought on such a whim but it has proven to be better than anticipated. Viv Groskop the author is also the creator of a podcast of the same title that I already listen to so suffice it to say that I was already a huge fan of her interviews and post-interview analysis and how to encourage women to effectively put their best foot forward in life. The book follows a similar theme, she analyses some famous speakers who are her models and teaches you a couple of things that you can learn from them. She makes it abundantly clear that these people are not goddesses but in-fact has a school of writers, body language specialists, teleprompters and other fancy gadgets so it's hardly likely that you would give a ‘We should all be feminists’ style speech at your next team meeting so you have got to be a realist. She does have such useful “tips and tricks” to help you feel instantly grounded and relaxed that are so simple but we all forget a deep breath, shoulders back, feet shoulder-width apart and let your brain fall into your stomach. Remember that the nerves are never going to be gone 100%, some level of nervousness is healthy. My favorite trick and it was a hard choice is the one she draws from Michelle Obama, ‘Be more Happy High Status’ which for me translates to being so comfortable in your self ,your circumstances, your contribution to the world that you no longer doubt whether the world wants to listen to what you have to say because you have gotten to such a level with yourself that you are no longer afraid to say what needs to be said. The only criticism is that it should have been longer! More women should have been included in that book, but I guess that’s what the podcast aims to tackle.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    Viv Groskop’s book is a one I enjoyed reading a lot. Since I’m in academia, I must do public talks quite often and the anxiety and fear of public speaking are an issue I can deeply relate to (btw, I am not an English mother speaker so in case I have to give a talk in English, multiply the anxiety factor by ten). First, what I really appreciated is that it is not a feminist book. It is addressed to women speakers, and it relates to issues that mainly women face, but it also stresses the point that Viv Groskop’s book is a one I enjoyed reading a lot. Since I’m in academia, I must do public talks quite often and the anxiety and fear of public speaking are an issue I can deeply relate to (btw, I am not an English mother speaker so in case I have to give a talk in English, multiply the anxiety factor by ten). First, what I really appreciated is that it is not a feminist book. It is addressed to women speakers, and it relates to issues that mainly women face, but it also stresses the point that womanhood is not the only aspect that defines you as a speaker. Each chapter is based on the speaking style of a famous female speaker, for example, Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey and Angela Merkel and how they accomplish to own the room. At the end of each chapter Groskop gives practical advice and proposes exercises (that I did not do but I will consider them when preparing my next talk). What this book does not provide is what you should speak about and how to structure your talks. The central message is that you have to find the speaking style that suits you well (what will take some effort) and dare to be compassionate about your topic. For me personally, the book took pressure off from myself and my own expectations. I had not realised before that even trained speakers use a variety of styles and techniques and ultimately it is their passion that captures the audience. Reading this book lifted my spirits and I feel more motivated now to work more on my presentation and speaking skills and I would definitely recommend this book to every woman who feels insecure with public speaking and who needs some inspiration to find her own style.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Fiona Erskine

    To read this book is to receive a and stiff drink and a warm hug just before you go on stage. Viv Groskop shows you how to pull the oxygen up through your feet, to quell the jelly in your legs, to slow your heartbeat, clear the brain and free your voice. Your message is up to you; this is a book to ensure that the delivery doesn't let you down. Such a useful book. Tremendously simple, but then the best ideas often are. Confidence holds us back, and this is a confidence boost in book form. Funny and e To read this book is to receive a and stiff drink and a warm hug just before you go on stage. Viv Groskop shows you how to pull the oxygen up through your feet, to quell the jelly in your legs, to slow your heartbeat, clear the brain and free your voice. Your message is up to you; this is a book to ensure that the delivery doesn't let you down. Such a useful book. Tremendously simple, but then the best ideas often are. Confidence holds us back, and this is a confidence boost in book form. Funny and engaging too!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Cathy Hayes

    Loved this really practical book about how to increase your confidence when speaking. One to read regularly to remind myself of the great tips and hints from the author. Highly recommend if you avoid speaking up at work and don’t put yourself forward for more formal speaking engagements - you know it is holding you back.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Pauline Narvas

    A fantastic book all about public speaking! What sets this book apart to all the other speaking books I've read before is the focus on female speakers, I am wildly inspired by them all. My favourite message from Viv is that although we should all be like these fantastic speakers, we also need to find what works for us as individuals. I highly recommend it!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Cecile

    I am not too sure why I read this book

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sam

    I actually rather liked this, I found it easy to read and encouraging without being condescending with Groskop reminding the reader why a book focused on women and speaking is needed and that it is not to do with women being unable or incapable (basically society needs to accept that loud and pushy is not the only way). Groskop pulls together examples of publically visible women and their speeches and identifies the approaches and techniques they use as part of these. She then goes on to breakdo I actually rather liked this, I found it easy to read and encouraging without being condescending with Groskop reminding the reader why a book focused on women and speaking is needed and that it is not to do with women being unable or incapable (basically society needs to accept that loud and pushy is not the only way). Groskop pulls together examples of publically visible women and their speeches and identifies the approaches and techniques they use as part of these. She then goes on to breakdown how these can be applied by the reader on various scales be it small-scale gatherings or large-scale conferences. There is potentially contradicting advice but this is to be expected as Groskop is giving different options and approaches and pointing out that those who do it effortlessly now, didn't always find it so easy and they have really practiced for years. Groskop writes in an easy and friendly manner and summarises each chapter with a series of hints and tips and exercises designed to help apply the lessons to real-life situations, even if they are just for practice.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Hess

    3.5 stars, with the caveat that I am probably not the right audience for this book. How to Own the Room: Women and the Art of Brilliant Speaking is part you can do it and part here's what worked for other women. Commenting on the latter, Viv's analysis of the body language and tone of famous female speakers is insightful, if not interesting. That said, as she herself notes: It's great to look at these powerhouse speeches and be inspired by them, but perhaps even more inspiring is Janine from Acco 3.5 stars, with the caveat that I am probably not the right audience for this book. How to Own the Room: Women and the Art of Brilliant Speaking is part you can do it and part here's what worked for other women. Commenting on the latter, Viv's analysis of the body language and tone of famous female speakers is insightful, if not interesting. That said, as she herself notes: It's great to look at these powerhouse speeches and be inspired by them, but perhaps even more inspiring is Janine from Accounts giving a PowerPoint presentation that makes everyone sit up and take notice. Time to take notes on how she achieved that effect.Just so. I would love to see a follow-up effort that examines what worked for the Janines of this world. Overall, a practical, encouraging read for women who aspire to be public speakers.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Charlie

    A book for those who would like to be able to speak (publicly) better. It's really interactive; I was putting the book down to watch videos of the talks she was explaining while I was reading. Viv gives examples of a wide variety of women who have given different talks, and explains why that talk went well (and not so well in some cases!) Halfway through the book I did a talk that I'd signed up for, using some of the information gained from Viv's advice. I'm keen to find my next speaking opportu A book for those who would like to be able to speak (publicly) better. It's really interactive; I was putting the book down to watch videos of the talks she was explaining while I was reading. Viv gives examples of a wide variety of women who have given different talks, and explains why that talk went well (and not so well in some cases!) Halfway through the book I did a talk that I'd signed up for, using some of the information gained from Viv's advice. I'm keen to find my next speaking opportunity to try out the rest now. My only critique is that it's a shame it's aimed just at women (even though she explains and defends this); now I've finished I'll be passing it on to a male friend who is in real need of her advice but would never have bought the book due to the name. Women do need more help than men statistically, but I wish we could just have books on stuff without it having to be gendered, and dressed in pink.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Agnes

    Very interesting book, not about what we say, but how we say it. I have several public speaking events coming up and Viv’s book is a great read to start thinking about how I can prepare and control for whatever fear, anxiety etc, and also about how to find my voice, style and express myself in a truthful way. Lots of practical tips and exercise to put it all in action as well, which is extremely helpful.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Nina ( picturetalk321 )

    A stupid book. It gets two stars for fangirling Christine Lagarde, Michelle Obama and Angela Merkel, and for making me google Joan Rivers and laughing out loud. It‘s why I bought this: I was seduced by the clever and cute device of titling each chapter “Be more Angela”, “Be more JK”, “Be more Oprah.” And yes, there are 2 or 3 useful pointers. But there is also a lot of repetition, trite advice (“breathe”), quotes pulled out of the ether (Plutarch? Really? Why?) and claims without evidence. Most a A stupid book. It gets two stars for fangirling Christine Lagarde, Michelle Obama and Angela Merkel, and for making me google Joan Rivers and laughing out loud. It‘s why I bought this: I was seduced by the clever and cute device of titling each chapter “Be more Angela”, “Be more JK”, “Be more Oprah.” And yes, there are 2 or 3 useful pointers. But there is also a lot of repetition, trite advice (“breathe”), quotes pulled out of the ether (Plutarch? Really? Why?) and claims without evidence. Most annoying were the self-contradictions, often within a few sentences of each other. E.g.: Advice on speaking with ease. “Why not be the one who says afterwards, ‘I didn’t even really prepare for that and I found it easy?’ Of course, the real reason Adichie can be so free and easy in herself is because she has prepared meticulously for years...” (p.166) So: prepare? Or take it easy? Which one is it to be? And this sort of prevarication goes on throughout the book. And after telling us we can learn and practise, the author frequently seems to invalidate all that by saying “but hey, she’s Hillary”, “of course, she’s JK, obvs people are going to love her.” Format: Typeset in a sans-serif font credited as Avenir. The publishers have chosen to format the tips and advice pages at the end of every chapter in white font on a black background. Have you ever tried to underline sentences ON A BLACK PAGE? This was the stupidest thing ever. “Null points”, Bantam Press.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lynda

    Closer to 4.5 stars. It is a light and easy read with practical advice. I enjoyed watching YouTube videos of the speeches and speakers referred to as I went through the book. I feel less afraid of the prospect of public speaking, though maybe not to the point that I would rather be in the pulpit than the box. And this point it is tie, whereas previously I overwhelmingly would have opted for the box.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ellen

    I sped through this book in 2 days because of how utterly engaging it was and its safe to say that considering I rarely look to non-fiction/ advice books, I may have been well and truly converted. Each chapter focuses on a different inspirational woman and discusses not only how to become a great speaker, but a more confident woman as a whole. A book that achieves more than you expect it to is always one that deserves acclaim in by book. Loved it!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Daisy Robyn

    "You do not need a drum to be heard. You do not need to become a priestess. All you need is a voice and an idea of what you might like to say. No more excuses. Go and own the room." Viv examines how to do public speaking efficiently with the use of other women's speeches throughout history. She also looks at the difficulties of being a woman and commanding a room. Each chapter ends with tips and tricks which are useful summaries. Really interesting books!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Nancy García

    I enjoyed this book so much, it’s perfectly illustrated with examples analyzed by a professional public speaking teacher. My favorite part was looking for all the ted talks and interviews mentioned, it goes through a lot of different styles so you can find one that suits you and then level up (with the happy high status) but also encourages you to create your own style and set a mark with it (It’s beautiful) We need more books like this.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Aleksandra Hertelendi

    Flawless structure and fantastic collection of great speeches by women who made it. I listened to the audiobook version of this book, which in my experience takes away the impact of the additional exercises that were weaved through the book. Hence when closing the book I still left feeling, it’s all great that Oprah and JK Rowling did it well, I am still not sure how to own the room, my takeaway being, practice, breathe, be authentic and tailor to your audience.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Becca Di Francesco

    This is a really accessible guide to public speaking and I want to give it to all the women I know. A healthy mix of things I didn't know and things I needed to be reminded about, such as: "If you find yourself thinking, But I don't have anything interesting or important to say, I'm sorry but that is utter bullshit"

  25. 5 out of 5

    Arrianne

    Probably nothing in this I didn’t know, but it put into words a lot of things that I have learned through experience. Really well written around some aspects of public speaking that aren’t always covered in sessions on presentation skills and I would definitely recommend to people wanting to give better talks. Well written and accessible.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn Terry

    I completely recommend this book and know I'll be dipping in and out of it again over the next few months and, I expect, beyond that too. It's a book, not about the content of a speech, but how to deal with the nerves and anxiety that come with public speaking. I love the references to successful speeches and the analysis of how different women achieved these. I completely recommend.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    Loved this book! A great read with fantastic stories, tips and lists of actions to improve your own speaking. The author makes excellent points and observations it isn’t too preachy, is achievable and with the stories means it’s also enjoyable to read. I will be taking forward lots of the points in this book 📚.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Georgina Heatley

    Such inspiring words! I loved reading this book and hearing about each of the women involved! I will be taking this new knowledge back to work with me once I return after furlough! Ready for a new chapter!! Thank you for your help, wisdom and kind words!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jacqui

    Useful book. I skimmed through a lot of it - especially the first couple of chapters, but I read enough to know where to go back to.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Shazia Miah

    Okay book - I did not finish - started to feel like a chore to read

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