Viv Groskop: 'Confidence isn't a gendered issue, but the context for women is different'

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Comedian and author Viv Groskop will deliver a keynote at Computing and CRN's Women in Tech Festival in September
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Comedian and author Viv Groskop will deliver a keynote at Computing and CRN's Women in Tech Festival in September

Stand-up comedian, podcaster and author Viv Groskop on what she'll be sharing with delegates at the inaugural Women in Tech Festival

From touring the Edinburgh Fringe to hosting book tours for Graham Norton, Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French, stand-up comedian Viv Groskop has spoken in front of large audiences across the country.

"I learned to fail hard and really die up there," she laughs, reminiscing about her initial experiences putting herself in front of audiences.

Groskop has put what she's learned to use, coaching senior execs and hosting a podcast: 'How to own the room'. Recently she also became an author, publishing a book on the same subject: How to own the room: Women and the art of brilliant speaking.

As part of that objective, Groskop has signed on to deliver the keynote at Computing and CRN's first Women in Tech Festival, at the Brewery in London on 17th September.

"I'm really excited to be involved in this event because I have been meeting hundreds of women, and talking about how women can own their power and status, especially in the digital space.

"What I mean by this is that there are so many opportunities opening up for women in tech, and they really need to take advantage of them. And that means taking advantage of support, advice and practicing public speaking and pitching."

Groskop says that a lot can be learned from looking at the skills of a variety of acclaimed women, from Michelle Obama to JK Rowling, to pinpoint exactly what it is they do to get their audience to sit up and listen.

Being willing to fail hard

What she wants to impart is how women in tech can apply those qualities to their own careers.

"I'm in my mid-40s. Ten years ago, I started performing stand-up comedy, which was a dream. But I had to learn the hard way.

"I learned a lot of really difficult lessons about making mistakes and getting things wrong and putting yourself out there. And that's what led me to stepping up to doing five years of solo shows at the Edinburgh Fringe, and tours for people like Graham Norton.

"So, I've realised that I really wanted to help other people find their way to doing what they love, to finding their voice, without them going through the same hell that I've been through."

Reaching out to help others succeed is a key theme for Computing and CRN's Women in Tech Festival.

Avoid the formulaic

More than just about celebrating successful women in the IT industry, the one-day event will provide insights from high-flying execs, as well as focus on contributing factors such as mentoring, mental health and wellbeing.

Groskop will deliver one of the keynotes.

She's clear that the main thing she wants people to take away from her speech is that people should move away from thinking there is a formulaic or "ideal" way of nailing public speaking.

"I want people to see that it's so important to find out what your own presenting and public speaking style is. How you show up in the space is completely personal and subjective. To find that out, you have to be able to take risks, and to feel comfortable with failure.

"For example, I think it's pretty obvious that somebody like Michelle Obama is not the same kind of speaker as Joan Rivers, who is not the same kind of speaker as Emma Watson, speaking at the UN…and it's my job is to give people confidence to find out what their style of power and authority is."

Why women?

So why the focus on women? The challenge of exuding confidence in business is a universal issue.

"Yes, this is a really important question," she says.

"It's true that it is not an entirely gendered problem, and there are lots of men who've been reading my book and listen to the podcast. It is really not so much about a gendered question, but rather that there is this issue that an alpha culture is very prominent in the workspace, especially in tech, which affects both genders.

"What I'm talking about is the phenomenon of very charismatic people being very good at pitching or very confident in themselves, and willing to lead.

"However, I do think that the context is different for women, because the numbers are so heavily weighted against them.

"The reason I wrote a book with the subtitle ‘Women and the art of brilliant speaking' is because there wasn't a resource out there that was aimed specifically at women on this. And most of the resources out there about pitching, presenting, public speaking, and even about comedy, seem to be written by men, for men.

"It's almost like they had a silent subtitle, ‘Men and the art of brilliant speaking'…

"I do feel very strongly about the context. And I think every woman understands that."

The Women in Tech Festival will take place on Tuesday the 17th September at the Brewery in London. If you would like a ticket, or to learn more about who will be attending, check out the latest here.

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