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4 easy ways to be a boss at public speaking

Does the thought of standing up in front of an audience fill you with dread? Do you dream of delivering impactful, Oprah-like speeches? VIV GROSKOP, author of How to Own the Room, shares her four top tips for making your peers sit up and listen

Oprah gave a rousing speech at the 2018 Golden Globes touching on racial discrimination, sexual harassment and attack of the free press

Harness ‘happy high status’

“Happy high status is very close to charisma. It really means being comfortable in your own skin; allowing yourself to be confident and assertive without being angry and aggressive. It allows you to say controversial things, to introduce conflict, to be argumentative, but to do so with grace and elegance. It’s a real mastery of your emotions that takes a lot of practice and patience to achieve. Happy high status is about being the ultimate diplomat. One way to master it for yourself is to start looking at other people and think, who has this quality? How do they operate? When do they interrupt people? How do they show praise? And then you can start to emulate their style and tweak it to suit you.”

Use relaxation exercises

“There’s this thing called ‘tapping’ that lots of speakers use. You tap on a meridian point in your body – I would use the wrist bone – and you repeat a mantra, such as: “Although I feel nervous, I will perform well.” The tapping serves to distract you from your thoughts and relocate you in your body. The other technique I love is ‘put your brain in your stomach and breathe through the soles of your feet’ – just imagine your brain dropping down into your stomach and pretend that your nostrils are in the soles of your feet, and that’s where you breathe from. Stand or sit and do that for a few minutes. It also works well for insomnia; it’s a mind trick to get you out of your head.”

Be authentic

“Showing ourselves from a place of weakness can be very powerful because it’s authentic. At the time Emma Watson gave her speech about feminism at the United Nations, she was one of the most successful and wealthy actresses in the world. Clearly, she has [had] very strong acting training and if she’d wanted, she could have pretended to be Michelle Obama, or Oprah, and given a powerhouse performance. But instead, she decided to deliver the speech as herself. She’s faltering, she is hesitant and she is very vulnerable. She stumbles over her words, is visibly nervous and, as a result, the speech is a million times more powerful. With that message, at that moment, it was so important for her to show how much it meant to her and not to hide behind a veneer of professionalism.”

Practice, practice, practice

“Obviously, there is something special about Oprah Winfrey, but the important thing to remember about her is that she is probably the most practiced speaker on the planet. If you look back at the footage of her when she was a very young presenter, she was completely different in style to how she is now. She has clearly honed her talent. Finding opportunities to speak up when there’s no pressure helps you practice. I think it’s really important to remember that the opportunity to be heard in a powerful way is always there, no matter how small and seemingly insignificant the opportunity.”

How to Own the Room by Viv Groskop is out now


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