Book Review: How To Own The Room by Viv Groskop

How to Own the Room

Viv Groskop has been on my radar for years.  Initially as the person who told me what to read in Red Magazine each month.  Then we had our 3rd children within weeks of each other and exchanged messages on social media about that.  (I had children 2 and 4 within days / weeks of Victoria Beckham, but she was a much less communicative pregnancy twin, although clearly we looked practically identical………)  I’ve always made a conscious effort to seek out Viv’s writing and podcasts (most recently for the dearly departed ‘The Pool’).   I was therefore aware she’d written this new book ‘How To Own The Room’ but had decided it wasn’t really relevant to my day to day life anymore (fool!) as I no longer have to do big presentations or sales pitches as I’d done in my previous working life.

Then my Nan died.

This did not  prompt a Damascene moment, when I decided I should try my hand at being a stand up comedian, or start giving Ted Talks – but I volunteered, as eldest of my sisters,  to speak at the funeral.  I have a 2 minute slot (strictly policed, as we will be fined if we run over at the crem) and I need to make sure I say everything without just weeping – so I was hoping for some advice from Viv’s book.

Here’s the blurb:

“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.”

 

And I wasn’t disappointed!  It was funny, informative, empowering, brilliantly written and really inspiring.  I liked the clever idea of bringing in a different public speaker into each chapter*.  Having just read Michelle Obama’s autobiography I was intrigued by that chapter and how Viv interpreted her changing speaking style over her husband’s tenure and as she gained experience.

But I also liked that the book was very much about finding your own voice – so JK Rowling has a very different, but still effective style to Mrs Obama – and then Angela Merkel is different again.  Even if you don’t speak German, you can guess she’s not going to be wise cracking her way through speeches – but speaks with an organised, calm, in charge demeanour.  I need to find a Mrs Merkel speech on Youtube to notice the finger temple Viv refers to as well!

There’s also practical help.  From power poses (to be done in private in advance of speaking, I don’t plan to be stood at the front of the crematorium like a power hungry politician!) to breathing through your feet.  Viv also talks about practicing loads (which I have done, and made my youngest sister cry on the phone when I practiced on her!) And also about recording yourself to watch yourself / listen to yourself back.  I haven’t done this as yet – and know I will be shocked at how Brummie I sound……

Similarly there’s practical advice about the structure of a speech.  My 2 minutes opens with a joke (Viv actually says a funeral speech is the one time you wouldn’t be expected to do that – but I think it will be fine!), has three themes and then a conclusion.  I am such a teacher’s pet………

Whilst I have memorised my 2 minutes (actually about 1 minute 50 seconds in case there are any LOLs from the congregation) I have it printed out as a security blanket.  Having recently attended Nan’s brother’s funeral – I know I, along with everyone else in the church, was willing his son and Grandson to get through their speeches without breaking down – and I know that it will be the same when I’m stood up there, that the other attendees will want me to speak well and are all there because they loved my Nan – but being prepared is also fundamental.

All in all, reading ‘How to Own The Room’ now has been perfect timing for me – but I can see how it could impact on so many areas of life.  There is the expected public speaking or work presentation – but I also think it would be really valuable at other times.  From a personal point of view I can imagine using the techniques when trying to have a forceful conversation with utility suppliers (admittedly somewhat niche, but the bane of my life at the moment) or to stop getting tearful at my kids’ parents’ evenings (not sure I will ever stop that happening – but I will try!)

I would thoroughly recommend that everyone reads this – female or male.

 

* since the first of January, Viv has been posting on Instagram her room owning women of 2019.  Some of them are from the book itself – but many are not, and are totally diverse.  It is totally worth following her Instragram for this alone.  I *may* have got quite excited the day that Tea Leoni (Elizabeth McCord in Madam Secretary) featured and brain dumped all of the facts I know about her………  And there’s a definite Brummie bent, with Jess Phillips and Malala (adopted daughter of Birmingham) featuring thus far! Some women I know of already, some are revelations and new heroines – but all are interesting and thought provoking.

 

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Book Review: Little Liar by Lisa Ballantyne

Little Liar

I spotted this book on Netgalley and applied to have an advanced review copy (although I am slightly confused by the dates – as they said it would be published in May 2019, but it appears to be on sale on Amazon already??) Anyway – it looked an interesting read – and the author has previously been on Richard & Judy’s bookclub lists – so I downloaded it to read.

Here is the Amazon blurb:

The accused
While Nick Dean is enjoying an evening at home with his family, he is blissfully unaware that one of his pupils has just placed an allegation of abuse against him – and that Nick’s imminent arrest will see the start of everything he knows and loves disintegrating around him.

Because, mud sticks, right? No matter if you’re innocent or guilty.

The accuser
When Angela Furness decides that enough is enough – she hates her parents, hates her friends and, most of all, despises what has recently happened at school – she does the only thing she knows will get her attention: calls the police. But Angela is unaware that the shocking story she is about to tell will see her life begin to topple.

Because, once you’ve said what you’ve said, there’s no way back, right? No matter if you’re innocent or guilty.

In a gripping tale of two families torn apart by one catastrophic betrayal, Little Liar illustrates the fine line between guilt and innocence, and shows that everyone has their secrets, even those we ought to trust the most…”

I was intrigued with the book from the start.  The chapters are told by different characters – so you jump around from different perspectives – but that adds to the momentum of the storyline.

I have to say I was unsure who to believe – just when you thought you’d got it straight, something else would make you question what you thought!  It really does twist and turn.

It’s also worryingly easy to see how such a thing could happen in real life – an accusation easily made could change someone’s life forever.  A few times I did want to shout at the characters to be honest with each other, as that would make life a lot easier for everyone (although possibly make the book more dull?!)

There is a twist towards the end – which I’d actually guessed beforehand – but that didn’t stop me wanting to read the book to see how it all panned out.   The end feels a little rushed – and not all of the loose ends are tied up – but overall I enjoyed it.

I would definitely read something by Lisa Ballantyne again.