An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Many people in the business world resist it when I say that public speaking is a performance. Many professional speakers also refuse to accept that they are performers. This is a baffling mindset to me. We’re happy to use the word “performance” for almost every other situation where a person stands up and presents “material” (what we call “content” in business) to an audience: storytellers, singers, stand-up comedians, poets, TV presenters, clowns, actors, acrobats, … but for some bizarre reason business presenters want to make themselves different.

At some point in our lives, many of us will have to give a talk to a large group of people. What does it take to be a highly effective public speaker? How can you improve your public speaking skills? How can you overcome a fear of speaking in public? What does it take to give a very interesting and engaging public talk? In this interview series called “5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker” we are talking to successful and effective public speakers to share insights and stories from their experience. As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Alex Owen-Hill.

Alex Owen-Hill is The Voice Speaker. As a voice and performance coach, he teaches people how to bring their authentic voice to the stage so that audiences like and trust them. He also works with business owners and tech companies to help them to uncover the unique Voice of their Business — a voice that supercharges brand communications, improves company culture, and attracts the people they most want to work with.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I grew up as the only introverted engineer in a family of actors and acting teachers. Most of the adults I knew as a child were performers, but I wanted to be an inventor and create robots. As a result, my story is a bit “upside down.” Many performers have the opposite story — they say “I wanted to be a performer but all my family had serious business careers.” I wanted to be serious, but my family were all performers. Ours was a noisy household — our family bursts into song at every available moment, we have strong vocal control so can project our voices across the entire house, and our emotions tend to burst out rather than keeping them hidden. I was, and still am, one of the most shy members of my family. But, my background taught me an immense wealth of fundamental performance skills that most people in the world do not learn.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

From between the ages of about 6 and 23 years old, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life — build robots! At aged 12, I had already chosen my university degree. Yeah, I’m a geek. I did a 5-year undergraduate Masters in robotics and then a 3-year PhD in robotics.

But my life’s purpose wasn’t as strong as I had thought.

Around the time of my PhD, my purpose started crumbling like a cheese. I developed a strong cynicism for robotic technology and how most researcher groups approached their research. Most research applications I read about claimed to help humans in some way, but I could see the researchers had made little attempt to actually understand the people their technology was supposed to help. And the standard of communication in technology was terrible compared to the performers I grew up around. Academics almost never burst into song mid-presentation!

Years later, I now feel this cynicism is part of what makes me valuable to technology companies — I never get “dazzled by the technology” as tech investors, founders, and customers often do. I always focus strongly on the practicality of the company’s products and the genuine needs of their customers.

The question became: Now what do I do with my life!?

I started a business creating online content for technology companies. At the same time, I started learning to become a professional speaker and a voice teacher, which is my mum’s profession. Over time, it has become clear that my strengths lie in helping business owners and non-performers by teaching them the performance and communication skills of professional performers.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

One thing that always fascinates me is how dramatically a minor change can affect our ability to communicate. I imagine this will be familiar to both teachers and managers. I was working with one coaching client on her voice, to improve her pitches and presentations. In recent weeks, we had been working on breathing and “grounding” her voice.

After a few sessions, she told me she had used one technique during a difficult meeting in her company. The meeting had gone a lot better than she expected because of one “silly” little grounding exercise. Simply applying one minor change I had offered her for a completely different reason had now transformed how she handled hard conversations. I didn’t do that, she did!

As teachers, especially in the world of business, I think we often get stuck by assuming we know exactly how people will apply our teaching. But the real power of our teaching has almost nothing to do with us — it comes from how our students creatively connect the teaching with their own lives.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I started pitching businesses for my content writing and strategy services, I was waaay too keen! I would meet a prospect at a local networking event or see an advert online. I’d enthusiastically think “I can make them my client!” Then, I would spend days on a proposal, I might visit the company, and I’d basically just make a nuisance of myself. One time, I saw a job advert for a company looking for a full-time marketer. I thought, “I want to work freelance, not on a salary. But I’m going to convince these people they need me as a freelance marketer.” For my proposal, I basically created an entire content strategy for this company. I also redesigned their business model… because clearly I — a new freelance copywriter — knew more about their business than they did. I spent ages created a ton of content ideas and new directions for them.

Obviously, I didn’t get the gig! At no point had I talked with them about what they were looking for… I had just decided what they needed, then spent days creating the content for it. It was a good learning experience for me, but what a big ego I had!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I’ve had a lot of guiding help in my life, though until recently I’ve been extremely bad at actually asking for help when I need it!

My close family (my mum, dad, and sister) has been an immense help to me. Over the years, they have been my reminder of the joys of performing and the skills that performers have.

In particular, my mum, Cathie Owen, was a great help when I started my journey to being a professional speaker and voice coach. Together with a fellow voice teacher, Marion Scott, we spent hours and hours reviewing the voice content I was writing. That would later become the fundamentals of my entire voice coaching methodology. I’m very grateful for all that time and work Cathie and Marion gifted to me then. I might not have become a speaker or performance coach without it.

You have been blessed with great success in a career path that can be challenging and intimidating. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?

Take advantage of your strengths, and lean into your weaknesses.

Like many people, I tend to gloss over my strengths. They don’t seem like a big deal to me, so I don’t take full advantage of them as much as I should. For example, I have skills as a singer, writer, musician, comedian, and improv actor. I’ve actively developed these skills over the years, but I started with a decent base level of skill thanks to my upbringing. As a professional speaker, I don’t always use these skills, often trying to be more “serious.” But, the more I bring my humor, writing, and performance skills into my own speaking, the more audiences like it!

When you notice that one of your weaknesses is holding you back, lean into it. For example, I’m quite a strong introvert. Naturally, I don’t really enjoy talking to people and I comfortably can go for a long time without social interaction. In the world of business, this isn’t acceptable — we need to network, speak, and regularly follow-up with our contacts. No successful company has been built by a hermit, as far as I know. I work very hard to always improve my skills in this area.

The more I lean into my weaknesses, the better I understand myself and the better I can operate as a businessperson and a human being (I’m not saying these are mutually exclusive). In a way, my whole business has grown from my weakness — I naturally struggle with communication which means I work on it a lot. This makes me a much better communication coach and speaker than people who are just naturally good communicators.

What drives you to get up everyday and give your talks? What is the main empowering message that you aim to share with the world?

Like most professional speakers, I split my business between speaking and other income streams (for me, coaching and content strategy services). So I don’t give talks every day, which is normal in the speaking industry.

In all my work, one thing that drives me is the realization that we human beings don’t inherently understand each other… but we assume we do. When we work to deeply understand the people we’re communicating with, life and business become so much easier. In front of an audience, we succeed when we give most of our energy and thought to our audience. When creating content for your company, spend most time thinking about your audience. And successful leaders give most of their energy and thought to their teams.

As human beings, we find this very hard. Naturally, our tendency is to think of ourselves and our own ideas first.

You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?

I’m always coming up with new ideas and projects. Some of these I deem as hobbies, but they feed directly into my business. For example, I’m currently developing a street clown show, a stand-up comedy show, and preparing for a run of my family show Story Builders for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Story Builders is an interactive workshop I do with my sister and dad where we teach children how to create their own stories from nothing.

In business, I’m currently also working on a story project. It’s aimed at helping business leaders and speakers to create and tell better stories on behalf of their business. And I’m working to develop the framework I already use to help tech companies uncover a unique, authentic voice for their business.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“The beginner’s mind is empty, free from the habits of the expert, ready to accept, to doubt, and open to all possibilities.” Shunryu Suzuki

I like this Zen quote because it underlines so well the problem (and the solution) for most communication problems. One reason I gave up academia after my PhD was that I could see a hugely unhelpful culture around professors and other long-time academics. There was a culture of saying “I am the expert, so I am right.” which I thought restricted real creativity. I also see this culture in the world of professional speakers — we all have quite big egos and we think our expertise is “the best”… apart from me, obviously, because my expertise really is the best.

This quote reminds us that there is a disadvantage to expertise. The more experience and knowledge we gain, the less open our minds become. We need to continually ask ourselves — what would I think of this if I had no knowledge at all? When we can see the world through the eyes of a beginner, it becomes much easier to communicate in a way that others can understand.

I do a lot of clowning. One of the most powerful skills that clowning teaches you is how to look at the world through the eyes of a child that knows nothing. This is one reason I do it.

Ok, thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker?” Please share a story or example for each.

A lot of the advice and “quick tips” you can find online about public speaking are extremely unhelpful. Some common tips are actively damaging. They set you up with bad habits that ruin your chances of becoming a spectacular speaker.

Instead of giving quick tips, I try to focus on the underlying fundamental skills.

Here are 5 things you can focus on to raise your game as a speaker:

1. The Performer Mindset: View yourself as a performer.

Many people in the business world resist it when I say that public speaking is a performance. Many professional speakers also refuse to accept that they are performers. This is a baffling mindset to me. We’re happy to use the word “performance” for almost every other situation where a person stands up and presents “material” (what we call “content” in business) to an audience: storytellers, singers, stand-up comedians, poets, TV presenters, clowns, actors, acrobats, … but for some bizarre reason business presenters want to make themselves different.

What results from this “I’m not a performer” mindset? Most business presenters and even professional speakers actively shy away from skills and training aimed at performers that could help them improve their presentations. They think it’s “not for them.” As a result, the general standard of presentations in business is woeful.

Do you want to be good at public speaking? Then you are a performer. Now behave like one.

2. Audience Focus: Change how the audience thinks, acts or feels.

How will your presentation (or any other communication) change how the audience thinks, acts, or feels?

All performances should change the audience in some way. If you don’t change them, why bother doing it at all?

When I’m being a stand-up comedian or clown, my purpose is to make people laugh. My job is to give people a catharsis from the stresses of their daily life by laughing together. Therefore, I change how the audience feels.

When I’m training a room full of engineers on how to give better presentations in their company, I aim to change all three things. I want them to feel more confident and capable in their presentations. I want them to change how they think about presentations. And I want them to change their behavior around presentations.

3. Strong Rehearsal Strategy: Over-rehearsal is a myth. Learn to rehearse.

If any presentation trainer tells you to “avoid over-rehearsal” run away quickly!

Over-rehearsal is a pervasive and dangerous myth, in my opinion. It actively stops newer speakers from ever increasing their skill. When you hear a speaker who sounds “over-rehearsed” what’s really going on is a failure in their rehearsal strategy, and perhaps a lack of good coaching.

Forget about over-rehearsal. Rehearsing more makes you better. Instead, focus on learning proper rehearsal strategies. And if a presentation trainer tells you to avoid over-rehearsal, this may be a warning sign that they don’t have the expertise to troubleshoot and fix your current rehearsal strategy.

4. Voice and Body Mastery: Become an instrument of communication.

When I was growing up, I learned how to use my voice properly. I couldn’t avoid it — my mum was a voice coach.

As young children, my sister and I used to sit in on my mum’s classes. We watched how she taught the next generations of young actors to use their voices. When I became a voice coach myself, this experience was part of my foundational knowledge of voice.

What’s the difference between the training for business presenters and for actors? Actors and other performers learn “voice and movement” from day one. Business presenters usually don’t.

People think that rehearsing a theater show is mostly about “learning the lines.” This is nonsense. Directors often require actors to learn all their lines before rehearsals begin. During rehearsals (which are often 3 weeks long at least) most of the time is spent applying skills related to voice and movement.

In business presentations, people spend almost all their time on content (which is like the actor’s lines) and nothing on voice and movement. You can improve your presentation skills hugely by developing your voice and movement skills.

5. Continuous Improvement: Never stop developing your craft.

It might seem strange that my final recommendation comes from the world of manufacturing — continuous improvement. But I am an engineer by training.

As a professional speaker, I continually find ways to improve my own performance skills. In the first half of 2022 alone, I’ve attended various workshops and courses in clowning, stand-up comedy, comedy writing, street performance, and improv acting.

My dad is an actor and has been almost all his life. He is 72 this year, and he is joining me on a 6 week intensive clown course this summer. If he doesn’t think that he has had “enough training” so far, why should you think you’ve “had enough training”?

There are always new skills to learn and hobbies you can take up that will can help you improve your communication skills. These won’t just help you improve your presentations, they will help you communicate better in all aspects of your life. Given that we spend most of our lives communicating with others… why would you not want to continually improve your skills?

As you know, many people are terrified of speaking in public. Can you give some of your advice about how to overcome this fear?

I have social anxiety, so I completely understand the fear of speaking in public. For me, standing on stage is less scary than talking to people in social situations. I know it’s the opposite for many people.

I offer 2 pieces of advice for dealing with fear of public speaking:

1. Accept the fear. It will not go away. Don’t try to make it go away or it will just come back stronger. Instead, find strategies to channel that fear into something useful. Many people talk about “reframing the fear as excitement” which is a good approach. But don’t just mentally think “this is excitement, not fear.” Also, find ways to move your body to channel that excitement. What do children do when they’re excited? They run around! So, try dancing to music, going for a run, or otherwise just getting your body moving before a presentation. This really helps channel your fear/excitement.

2. Rehearse your presentation fully and with good rehearsal strategies. When you have fully rehearsed your presentation, it doesn’t really matter if you are afraid. You’ll still be able to give a good presentation. Ideally, you should know it well enough so “your body can take over” if the fear blinds you for a moment. I had a panic attack in the middle of a show once. Because I was well-rehearsed I could keep going “on autopilot.” Eventually, I calmed down and turned off autopilot so I could re-engage with my performance properly.

You are a person of huge influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I would teach people how to use their voice. Vocal health should be taught just as much as any other health-related topic. These days, we know a lot about how our muscles work when we exercise. But most people have no idea how their voice works and how to use it in a healthy way.

Even making slight changes in how we use our voices can be hugely powerful. When I was living in Spain, I heard the word “afonica” a lot. It translates as “hoarse” and people often lose their voices on a weekly or even nightly basis. With my knowledge of voice, I could see why this might be happening. Just making a minor change to their vocal technique could reduce this huge, damaging situation.

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

I’ll admit, as an introvert, this question fills me with a bit of fear. What if the person does respond!? What if they contact me!? (answer: I’d be tickled pink and I’d handle it in the professional and charming way that I usually do… but the fearful thoughts are still there!)

I’d love to have lunch with Sacha Baron Cohen. He’s an extremely interesting person and I’m rather in awe of his ability to go out and “bring his clown” to every situation. I’m currently making my first foray into street theater and it’s scaring the hell out of me. Maybe I could “absorb” some of his courage over lunch, like a courageous sponge. Also, I’m currently preparing myself to be taught by the clown-teacher Gaulier and I hear he is a past student, so I’d love to hear about his experiences.

Are you on social media? How can our readers follow you online?

You can find me at all these places:





This was so informative, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

Alex Owen-Hill On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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