British comedian, author and performance coach Viv Groskop attracted an overflow crowd of 750 women to her sellout performance hosted by WeSpeak Bermuda.
Last Thursday’s masterclass gala event at Fairmont Southampton capped a year of successes for the nascent charity, launched in 2019 to build skills and promote more public-speaking opportunities for women across industries. Groskop, who spent last week on the island, also led a full-day “Coach-the-Coaches” event hosted at Argus Group headquarters in Hamilton, and WeSpeak’s first teen forum for local middle- and high-schoolers at Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute (BUEI).
“This was a dream collaboration, celebrating our mutual aim of empowering women,” said London-based Groskop, a journalist, stand-up performer, and author of the same-titled popular 2018 book and podcast, How to Own the Room: Women and the Art of Brilliant Speaking.
“If you need a blast of optimism, I really recommend getting into a room with 750 Bermudian women,” she added. “We saw it all from women of all ages who came up on stage: bravery, tears, laughter, soul-bearing honesty, heartfelt connection, swagger and sass. WeSpeak rocks!”
Groskop’s interactive theatre performance highlighted the oratorical success and differing delivery styles of women like former first lady Michelle Obama and Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and included tips and takeaways on how women can keep composed and focused when speaking, whether to a stadium, boardroom or classroom. She offered the crowd physical timeouts with breathing and meditation exercises, as well as comedic commentary on everything from current events to the island’s fabled exoticism.
“Viv was the perfect choice for WeSpeak’s first gala event—she is truly the embodiment of our mission, using her own unique style, insight and energy to equip and empower women to project their voices,” said WeSpeak Chair Kathleen Faries. “It was a memorable night and a great way to start off this year. We look forward to having more women join our network and we stand ready to support them along their own personal WeSpeak journeys.”
Groskop led a “Coach-the-Coaches” event Wednesday for WeSpeak’s growing network of women who have coached and been coached through a series of boot camps over the past year. The group also held a special event for teens at BUEI Thursday afternoon, sponsored by Aspen Insurance Holdings and attended by about 75 students aged 13 to 17 from seven local schools.
“The aim was to help build confidence in young women at a time when they are learning to define their identities and seek out careers,” said Jennifer Haworth, of WeSpeak’s Teen Committee. “We sought feedback from the teens afterwards to get a sense of what they would like to see going forward. We plan to review those comments to consider them, along with other ideas, such as boot camps, for future teen events.”
Groskop connected with WeSpeak early last year after the group’s board member Jo Stanton heard the comic on BBC Radio 4. Groskop later sent video welcome messages to both WeSpeak’s 2019 boot camps, and copies of her “How to Own the Room” guide were given to inaugural event attendees. Groskop’s second book, Lift as You Climb: Women and the Art of Ambition, is due to be released by publisher Penguin next month.
“We are thrilled our outreach to Viv resulted in such a great partnership and successful, engaging events this month as a result,” said WeSpeak’s Stanton. “We were overwhelmed by the positive response of so many women in Bermuda. It illustrates there is a huge need for the work WeSpeak is doing, and we look forward to working with them.”
An executive performance coach and TV and radio presenter, Groskop is also host of a Top-10 iTunes podcast, based on her best-selling book. She has performed five one-woman shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and is a regular Radio 4 guest presenter.
WeSpeak was launched by Faries and Kirsten Beasley, Head of Healthcare Broking at Willis Towers Watson North America, alongside a group of accomplished women in Bermuda. A survey WeSpeak conducted in 2018 identified reasons for female reluctance to speak publicly, including a lack of formal training, limited opportunities to practise, and little access to talented peers or mentors.
The charity has launched an inclusive programme of coaching, along with events to help women improve their presentation skills. A database of women who are ready and willing to speak on industry event panels and provide keynotes is also in its plans.
Corporate support for WeSpeak’s events w2ith Viv Groskop included: (Partners) EY and Butterfield Bank; (Silver Sponsors) Appleby, Athene, F&G Re, Markel, and Artex/Horseshoe; teen event sponsor Aspen Insurance Holdings; (Bronze Sponsors) Association of Bermuda Insurers & Reinsurers (ABIR); Hannover Re, MS Amlin, Orbis, RenaissanceRe, and Argus; and in-kind sponsor The Whitfield Group.
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