How To Own The Room by Viv Groskop

The Blurb On The Back:

Why are we completely blown away for the whole nine minutes and forty seconds of Oprah Winfrey’s speech at the Golden Globes?  What is it about the power of Virginia Woolf’s 1928 lecture, which grew into A Room Of One’s Own, that makes it resonate with us nearly a century later?  Why do people quote Michelle Obama’s ‘When they go low, we high?’ Rather than any speech from her husband’s eight-year presidency?  What is it that women do when they make us sit up and listen – really listen – to their every word?  And how can we all get a bit more of that in our own lives?

How To Own The Room explores the presence, performance and authenticity of recent history’s great women speakers, and reveals what they do when they deliver those game-changing moments, so that you can apply their qualities to your own life.  From political leaders and stand-up comedians to campaigners and feminists, this is a powerful book about what happens when women find their voice.

You can order How To Own The Room by Viv Groskop from Amazon USAAmazon UK, Waterstone’s or Bookshop.org UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

Viv Groskop is a writer, stand-up comedian and presenter.  In this useful book that’s aimed at women and has plenty of practical tips and advice on how to give a presentation or speech, she uses examples of successful speakers like Michelle Obama to help the reader find their own style of speaking and give themselves confidence but constantly refers to TED talks so that readers will need to do further research to understand some of her points. 

The book is well organised with each chapter focusing on a different speaker (Michelle Obama, Amy Cuddy, Virginia Woolf, Oprah Winfrey, Joan Rivers, J K Rowling, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Angela Merkel) with Groskop referring to a speech or speeches that each has given to point out their different styles or techniques and drawing out how the reader can use this themselves.  I liked the mix of speakers used here and Groskop does well at drawing out different lessons that you can take away – for example those of us who are not particularly flamboyant can take a lot from looking at Merkel’s style of speaking by focusing on facts and adopting a more statesmanlike stance.  She’s also good at pointing out disadvantages of particular styles of speaking, e.g. how Joan Rivers’s outrageous approach brought her as many brickbats as it did plaudits and – critically – Groskop shows how you need to be a particular kind of person to withstand that.

The book doesn’t just focus on style – there are practical tips for how to stand, breathe etc – and Groskop is good at getting you to look at what you are looking to achieve from a speech, which I thought was very important.  Each chapter ends with a set of tips and tricks that you can use as a shorthand checklist, mixing and matching what works for you but as Groskop says, you only really get better by going out there and doing it and in this respect, she also has words of encouragement on how to make and get your opportunities. 

My only real criticism of the book is that it does require you to check out TED talks or the specific speeches she cites.  This is a churlish point because I think the only real way of dealing with this subject is to refer to examples, which means the reader will need to go and take a look to get the full benefit, but it does mean that there’s a homework element to the book that some readers may not like.  Saying that, I should also say that Groskop gives enough sense of the delivery for you to avoid doing that if you really want to.

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