Episode #2: Kate Gondouin - Own the room when public speaking

Season #1: Personal Performance

Sketch note by Sam Warburton

Sketch note of a Books In Action episode with Kate Gondouin

Episode show notes

Kate Gondouin is a Possibility Coach and Mentor with 20+ years of professional experience in HR, Procurement, and Change in international companies. Kate helps organisations and individuals to unlock their potential and take control of their incredible life, wherever they are in the world. Own the room know matter what setting you’re in with ideas from Viv Groskop’s book, How to Own the Room.

More about Kate Gondouin

Kate Gondouin is a Possibility Coach and Mentor who understands the challenges of moving to a new country while navigating key life stages. As an accompanying partner and working parent who relocated to France with Airbus while pregnant, she has first-hand experience of expat life. With 20+ years of professional experience in HR, Procurement, and Change in International Companies, Kate is passionate about empowering people to unlock their potential and take control of their incredible life wherever they are in the world. She combines her love of photography, storytelling, nature, science, and spirituality to create a personalised coaching experience for each client.

Kate’s coaching and mentoring programs help you eliminate costly mistakes, confusion, and overwhelm, ensuring that everyone benefits at every stage of life and career. Whether you’re an individual or an organisation seeking to support international families, Kate has the expertise and experience to help you thrive.

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Podcast introduction - Books In Action podcast

Rhiannon Gibbs:

In this episode of the Books In Action podcast, I met with Kate Gondouin to chat about how she’s put book theory in action.

I’m your host, Rhiannon Gibbs, and this season I’ll be chatting to guests about how they’ve applied ideas from books to improve personal performance. This podcast is for professionals, leaders, and anyone who wants to continuously improve performance by putting business & self-help books in action.

Kate Gondouin is a Possibility Coach and Mentor with 20+ years of professional experience in HR, Procurement, and Change in international companies. Kate helps organisations and individuals to unlock their potential and take control of their incredible life, wherever they are in the world.

In this episode, we chat about how Kate has applied key ideas from Viv Groskop’s book, How to Own the Room. Just a quick fact. Kate knows the Author and attended University with Viv. Here’s our conversation.

Welcome Kate. Thank you so much for joining us on the Books in Action podcast.

Kate Gondouin:

Thank you for the invitation. Really excited to be here and looking forward to this conversation.

About the book: How to Own the Room, by Viv Groskop

Rhiannon Gibbs:

Can we start by you telling us a little bit about the book that we’re discussing today, and the central theme in particular?

Kate Gondouin:

Yeah, of course. With pleasure. The book is about how you can own the room. The central theme of it is around communication and how you get comfortable with yourself to be able to own the room, whatever room that may be that you’re in. And there’s some key elements that come through that Viv shares, which is about happy high status, being true to who you are, and a load of different examples of how people can get across different messages using stories and just making it really come alive so that people are engaged and involved with you so that your message is powerful.

Rhiannon Gibbs:

Fantastic, and you have a very special connection to this book. You want to tell us a little bit about that?

Kate Gondouin:

Yeah, sure. This was one of the first books I listened to on Audible, and I chose it because I was at university with Viv, many, many, many years ago. She was in the year above me. And when I saw her name on the list, I thought, “Ooh, I’ll check that book out. It sounds quite interesting,” but I knew her before she was probably as well-known as she is now, when she was starting out in the standup comedian area. So, it was a great choice for me. But yes, I know from many moons ago.

Rhiannon Gibbs:

I love that you like listening to things on Audible. I’m a big fan of audio books and it’s no secret that instead of reading books with podcasts, I do listen to them. And what’s particularly good about this one is it comes with a multi series podcast that accompanies it where she talks to all these amazing women about how they own the room. Celebrities, politicians, all sorts of different people, which I highly recommend. Do you have a favourite episode from that, Kate?

Kate Gondouin:

To be honest, I don’t. I have I’ve read the book or other I’ve listened to the book, but I haven’t had a chance to listen to the podcasts. But it’s one of my I’ve got this huge long list of podcasts to listen to. I just need to spend a few more hours outside walking because that’s my favourite time for actually listening to them, so I will check them out, definitely.

Own your presenting style

Rhiannon Gibbs:

What was the first thing that hit you when you read How to Own the Room?

Kate Gondouin:

For me, the first thing and the central message for all of it, is that there is not one size fits all. There’s not one approach that is relevant for everybody. And what Viv does really well, is to highlight real cases of people who have very, very different styles. So it’s very easy to understand and to check them out online to see for yourself – OK, what are they doing? What do I like? What do I not like? Rather than other recommendations that I’ve had before, which is everybody has to be doing this or that or not doing that.

And one of the things to me, is that many years ago when I started working, I did a presentation skills course, and I was told to keep my hands still. I, like a lot of people, use my hands and gesture quite a bit, and I was told it was too distracting and I was asked to keep my hands very very central. And I felt like I was in a strait-jacket, and I couldn’t concentrate on what I was saying. And I felt wooden and all the rest of it.

And that stuck with me in terms of, if I want to present and I want to be professional, then I can’t move my hands. And that stayed with me for probably about 20 years. Until I came across Viv’s book. Viv’s book was the permission to be who I am. To be able to use my hands, be aware of the impact, but then to make a conscious choice in terms of, OK, is it helping or hindering, and just to be more relaxed rather than being in the wooden straight jacket that I was in before.

Rhiannon Gibbs:

Absolutely, and Viv very much has an animated style when she presents. It’s the stand-up comedian I guess element in that as well. Her arms are all over the place and it’s a style that I also mimic. So much so that my business partner, G Gurdeep, when we talk together for anything, he’s very subtle about it. He’s such a such a cheerleader, bless him. And what he does is, I always see him moving all the water and all the coffee away from me because he knows that if he doesn’t and I start talking, something is going to go flying across the room. And it has happened dozens of times including yesterday when I was presenting by myself and I didn’t have G there to prepare the room for me. And I sent coffee flying.

So yes, it’s good to have people that understand and appreciate your style rather than, as you say, try and put you in a strait-jacket while you’re presenting is very archaic advice, isn’t it. Viv’s book frees you and celebrates the individualism of everybody’s style, which is fantastic.

Kate Gondouin:

Yeah. And I think the other thing is, some people don’t like to move. They want to stay very still and very centred and very grounded. And it’s having that awareness of how do you feel? One of the things that I really appreciate, and I’ve done quite a lot especially since I started my own business, is I’m doing more videos.

One of the things is like most people, I don’t like the sound of my own voice but the more you listen to it, the more normal it becomes. But it’s that ability to just get comfortable with who you are and to really embrace all of who you are. If you do want to move your arms, fine, but just prepare it. And if you want to stay more centred and grounded, you know, she suggested some people holding a pen just gives you that route. But for other people, clear the decks, make the space or to do it standing, sitting down, whatever. It really is just about making it work for you in the situation that you’re in with the message that you’re wanting to get over.

Helping others to put ideas in action through coaching

Rhiannon Gibbs:

And in your role, coaching people, you have to pass on these messages. So, you’ve received this advice from Viv’s book, and you’ve implemented it. It’s made a difference to the way you own the room, but you’re now helping other people to own the room. Tell us more about that.

Kate Gondouin:

I think the key thing is really about giving people the permission and the confidence in themselves to actually connect with what’s really important to them. What is it that they’re trying to achieve? And once you’ve got that as the foundation, then everything else is actually easier. I think the problem is when you come to it with, okay there is a right and a wrong way, the very black and white.

I think that’s when it causes problems. For a lot of people that I’m coaching, it’s around their confidence and their ability to take up the space that they’re intended to take up, either in a personal situation or in a professional situation. And you can’t do that until you actually really know who you are. By knowing who you are, the communication then is easier.

It’s also around, being more at ease about sharing elements of who you are as a person. Using the stories as well and the value of those stories and how to choose those stories in a way that emphasises and helps your messaging of your capabilities, your confidence, your ability to perform the role that you’re being asked to perform or to inspire people.

It’s that connection with who you are intrinsically to then be able to own the room, whatever size that room may be. There’s a lot of people that I coach who on paper are incredibly powerful, competent, they know their stuff. You put them in front of a room of people and they just become jellies.

And it’s helping them to reconnect with who they are and their strengths, to be able to then share that in a way that the audience can see their capabilities and competence and not be scared for them. Because if you’re watching somebody who’s petrified, it makes you in the audience really, really petrified. And it’s hard. It’s helping people bit by bit go through the process to get more comfortable and confident.

And that’s basically what I do. I use a lot of the tips and hints that Viv shares and other aspects I’ve got from coaching as well, but it’s fundamentally to ground and root yourself into who you are and what you’re capable of.

Rhiannon Gibbs:

Sometimes it’s a bit of the unknown, the things you don’t know about the way you present. One of the things that when we’re training Lean practitioners who have to stand up in front of groups, we get them to present in front of each other and you learn your ticks. I remember when I did this as a junior consultant, I was told that when I get flustered, I touch my hair a lot. Sorry, people listening can’t see it, but I’m basically touching my hair a lot. And, and I’ve realised I do that if I’m getting flustered or irritated, but I also do it a lot anyway. For a long time, I stopped. But then I realised that was I was focusing more on stopping doing that.

But I did work with some practitioners once, and they were women. And I watched them presenting back to a senior leadership group. Every time they were asked a question or every time they said something that they were absolutely correct about, they would start with, “well, I think,” “it’s a bit like,” and I had to give them the feedback afterwards, which is “that’s great, but you’re saying those things and it makes you sound very unsure of yourself. And really, you are a professional. These are facts. They’re not up for debate. You have the information and the analysis.”

Again, that was about that confidence. If people don’t point these things out, you can’t act on them and sometimes you need to. Or consciously, not. Right? You’ve coached TEDx talkers as well, haven’t you?

Kate’s experience of coaching TEDx talks

Kate Gondouin:

Yes. I was very fortunate. I was a member of a Toastmaster group at my old company at Airbus. And as part of that, we were supporting some local students. So young kids, there were 16, 17, 18-year-olds who were speaking at TEDx, which was incredible. Just to see people of that young age who were a lot more confident than a lot of the older people who were also participating in the TEDx session.

But they obviously needed some speech coaches. I was nominated as one of the speech coaches and I was very fortunate enough to be able to help one of the girls who did a fantastic TEDxX. It was a very interesting experience, because I’ve not been involved from behind the scenes with TEDx before.

That was very new to me in terms of the whole structure, but also in terms of helping somebody else to prepare what it is that they’re wanting to say in a way that is powerful and impactful and also that is aligned with who they are. Again, it goes back to staying true to who you are.

There were, I can’t remember how many presentations were, but it’s probably about ten. And each one was very different. One of them was even in French because obviously I live here in France, and obviously there’s different ways of doing things. The subject matters were very diverse. But the experience of being able to help somebody who was already intrinsically very confident and capable to go that little bit further was a very powerful experience.

Kate’s top tip(s) from the book, How to Own the Room

Rhiannon Gibbs:

If you were to leave us with your top tip for how to own the room. Obviously, there’s so many in the book, but what’s the one thing you found most useful?

Kate Gondouin:

The fundamental thing for me, that I found most useful is, a couple to be honest, I’m going to cheat. The first one is to be yourself. You are unique. You are not like anybody else. Yes, you can take inspiration from other people and you can learn from other people. But you are you. So be you. Don’t be somebody else. Because the minute you try and be somebody else, is when things don’t gel properly and that’s when it causes problems. That’s the first one.

The other one, for somebody who has a tendency to race from one thing to another. One thing that I forget often to do, which is obviously very important when you’re speaking, is breathing. One of the tips that Viv shares is this idea of breathing from your feet or breathing through your feet.

And I’m still practicing. Can’t say I’ve got there yet. But this whole focus on breathing as part of the preparation and during a speech and taking the pauses that come with it, I think is really important. And they are the ones that if you forget everything else, they’re the two foundations that will help you wherever you are and whatever situation.

Always remember to be who you are, be honest and truthful with who you are, and remember to breathe through your feet. And if you can’t get to your feet and only get down to the bottom of your diaphragm, that’s good going.

Two great tips there. Be yourself, and breathe through your feet. Thank you so much Kate for joining me on the Books In Action podcast. For our listeners, you can find Viv Groskop’s book, How to Own the Room, from any good book retailer.

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Be a guest on our podcast

Email hello@ad-esse.com with the name of the book you’ve applied in real life, and introduce yourself. We’re more interested in stories & examples of how you’ve used book concepts in real life, rather than regurgitating the book itself. Looking forward to chatting with you soon.