It’s been a minute.. But I am back with one of my favourite activities;reading and writing about reading. “How to Own the room: Women and the art of public speaking” by Viv Groskop has been on my bookshelf for a couple of months and decided to add it to November reading list as it’s not too bulky.
It was a book filled with really practical tips on how to be present and carry an audience along when speaking. I really liked the relatability of the scenarios presented.
The author highlights that public speaking is not just about giving once in a lifetime speeches or TED talks and tries to help readers see that public speaking is not something meant for “just a few talented ones”.
She acknowledges that we are not all going to be in front of the biggest stages but shares ideas that anyone can adapt to whatever ‘stage’ they have to speak on. From presenting in a work meeting,facilitating a panel, giving a vote of thanks at a wedding,the book contains really actionable tips to help conquer the irrational fear most people have about speaking in front of other people.
It is a book written for women but the practical tips and exercises at the end of each chapter would really benefit anyone.The book is divided into 11 chapters with 8 of them highlighting the very different public speaking styles of women like Michelle Obama,Chinamanda Ngozi Adichie,Oprah Winfrey Susan Cain, Angela Merkel,Joan Rivers, Christine Lagarde, Emma Watson ,Virginia Woolf etc . The author gives an analysis of their speaking styles and how we can all adapt or refine our speaking styles based on personality, context or ideas we are presenting. The author illlustrates with her character study that there are powerful speakers out there in every personality type. She successfully shows that introversion is not a good enough reason to avoid public speaking.
I particularly loved the conversational style of writing and reading it felt like listening to a good friend or coach giving you advice and sometimes telling you off for not believing in yourself.
Some of my favourite quotes and ideas that really resonated were the headers of the sections that the chapters were divided into. These are just a few of them;
“Your imperfect presence is enough”- To own the room does not mean you need to blow everyone away with your charisma and greatness. It means that, instead of being overwhelmed by the speech and trying to mould yourself into something you are not, you find ways of being yourself and making the speech fit around you even if you are a quiet modest person.
“The more complex your ideas,the slower your speech”- As a rule, going more slowly than you think you need to is a good idea. Those who pause naturally 3.5 times per minute,are the most successful at influencing their audience.
“Take an attitude towards criticism:either embrace it or ignore it”
“You don’t have to be a great speaker to give an amazing speech”
“It’s ok to speak from notes”
“Show us what we have in common with you”
“Holding back can be just as powerful as holding forth”
“Be prepared to get it wrong”
It is not really a book geared to the content or “what” makes a great speech but more geared to the “how” to make a great speech.
As the author herself states “It is a book about how to be powerful in your speaking”.
It was a really great read and is one I would recommend to anyone (women especially)who is uncomfortable with the idea of public speaking and is looking for helpful tips on how to become confident in speaking to an audience of any size.
As usual thank you so much for reading.