An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Know Your Audience.

I can’t stress how important it is to know your audience. You must know who you’re talking to and tailor your message accordingly. Otherwise, your message — and you — becomes irrelevant, awkward, uninteresting, or aggravating. And on that last one, unless you mean to be a provocateur in your public speaking, try to avoid audiences that are clearly going to be aggravated with your worldview. It will save you from a life of negativity.

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 Michael Stickler.

Michael Stickler is the author of four best-selling books and a respected professional speaker. He is also the CEO of, a publishing company dedicated to coaching non-fiction authors from concept to completion and guiding experienced authors to higher book sales and financial success.

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?

One unique thing about my life is that I grew up on an island off the coast of California called Catalina Island. It was in the 1960s when my mom and dad moved our family there. My dad was a lobster fisherman and a taxi driver. And my mom did a whole bunch of things to help make ends meet. So, I too became an entrepreneur at a very early age and discovered ways I could make money. I dove for coins, hauled tourist’s luggage in my wagon, swept up the local A&W, and retrieved shopping carts from around town for 25 cents each.

One of my early entrepreneurial gigs during the wintertime was to collect rocks from Moonstone Beach, which was three coves away from Avalon, the only little town on the island. aI’d pick the prettiest ones, polish them up, and then make them into jewelry. Then during the summer I’d approach one lady after another and talk them into buying them. What I learned from that experience was all businesses begin and end with people. So, you must be a great listener. You need to understand how people think. And whether it’s a sales transaction or a management process, you should only move people forward in increments, not in giant swaths of change.

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

I was a pastor for 19 years, so I had lots of practice as a professional speaker. And what is so unique about being a pastor is that you must come up with a unique and inspiring message each and every Sunday. Now this differs vastly from how a motivational speaker, or a keynote speaker operates. They usually develop about five messages and then deliver one of them based on what they’re hired to deliver. They make some changes to them to be unique to the audience, but they get so much practice delivering those same five messages, they know when people are going to laugh, cry or sigh.

The really good professional speaker can shrink or stretch any one of those five messages according to the circumstances. So that means you need to have enough content for anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. That way you are covered whether you are doing a five-hour coaching and training session, a 20-to-50-minute keynote address, or a two-minute elevator speech. And it’s like any other skill, the more you practice it the better you get. So, I credit all my training in the pulpit for helping me perfect the ability to speak in a precise manner in the time allowed.

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

Here’s a story that I found interesting. I was at the airport leaving a city where I had been doing some speaking. There was a couple right behind me in the ticket line who told me they had heard me speak and wanted to thank me. They went on to say complimentary things and then asked me how they might develop some of ideas I’d discussed. When we parted ways, I was still in the line and a woman who had overheard our conversation asked, “Hey, are you famous or something? Am I supposed to know you?”

I got a chuckle out of her question because I don’t think of myself as famous. But the more I thought about it, the more it made me realize the incredible dynamic between a speaker and each member of the audience. And as I repeatedly teach the authors and speakers I coach; it underscores the vital importance of being sensitive to your audience. Here’s what I mean by that.

If you are standing on stage speaking to a big group of people, you might only see five rows out because of the blinding stage lights. But you know what? You are building a relationship with everyone in the room. And that relationship must be managed. It must be valued. It must be shepherded. Because even if the people are all the way in the back row behind a pole, they’ve developed a relationship with you, and you must be sensitive to knowing you have that with them.

What’s different about speaking versus acting is that when you’re acting, you’re pretending to be someone else. But when you’re speaking, you’re being authentic. You’re being who you are. You’re being real. And people, unseen and unknown by you, are identifying themselves as being in a relationship with you. So, you must be mindful to treat that relationship with courtesy and respect.

The same principles discussed for your audience apply to your readers if you are an author. They believe they know you and therefore believe in what you say. So, whether the message comes from the page or over the auditorium speakers, you should never be divisive and you should always be genuine. Because if you are one thing in print or onstage and another thing at home, people will find out. They always find out. And they will be very disillusioned with you and prone to discard all the good advice you’ve shared.

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?

The lesson I learned was always turn your microphone off when you’re not on stage. Even if you have the greatest people in the sound booth. Now, we’ve all heard the story of the guy who goes in the bathroom and he’s standing at the urinal and the entire audience is listening to the process. Well fortunately, that’s never happened to me. But I did engage in conversation that was not what the whole audience wanted to hear because I didn’t turn off my microphone. It was with my late wife who was busily trying to help me get the microphone wires tucked into my pants. And she said something kind of cute that only wives would say to their husbands, and the whole audience got to hear it. It wasn’t crude or vulgar. It was cute and appropriate. However, it still it wasn’t something I wanted a couple hundred people to hear. So, I’m guessing my face was just a little red when went out on the stage and apologized to everybody. Fortunately, it was a great — and understanding — crowd because we all laughed about it.

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 been blessed to have several mentors and they have all played different roles in my life. But the one who gave me a strong understanding of how worldview works in each of our psyche was Chuck Colson. If that name sounds familiar it is because Chuck Colson was involved in the Watergate scandal with President Nixon. In 1974 he voluntarily pled guilty to obstruction of justice and served seven months in Alabama’s Maxwell Prison. And as he wrote in his best-selling memoir, Born Again, he was drawn to the idea that God had put him in prison so he would see that he needed to do something for those he had left behind.

Later in his life he started a program called the Colson Worldview Center. And it was there that I met and was mentored by Chuck Colson and eventually went to work for him. It was that experience that helped me understand about worldview and why people make decisions based on how they see the world. This one tool revolutionized my speaking and writing career.

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?

Well, I’ve been an entrepreneur most of my life and I can tell you that failure is simply part of the process. And any entrepreneur who tells you they have never failed is not telling the truth or they’re currently in the process of failing and they don’t realize it. I remember my dad telling me that most successes come after a string of five failures. So, you can’t let failure be is directly related to your identity. You must simply view it as an important part of the process of becoming successful. Because sometimes failure is due to outside circumstances beyond your control, like the guy who has a thriving charter fishing business in the Caribbean and a hurricane comes along and wipes him out. That wasn’t his fault. So, I just think the way to overcome failure is to learn from it and move on, and don’t ever let it be tied to your identity.

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

What I primarily like to speak about is generosity. Whether it’s an entire message or just a portion of it, the lifechanging importance of generosity is always at the heart of my message. Now most people think of generosity as just pertaining to money, but it’s so much more than that. It’s time. It’s talent. It’s relationships. It’s wisdom. And when I’m successful in showing how giving away something valuable like that to others blesses everyone involved, I feel I’ve conveyed something truly important. So yeah, sharing the amazing power of generosity is what gets me up in the morning.

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?

Well, first and foremost, I’m an author. And what I’m working on now is a series of books that follows along my last book, Ghost Patriot. It is a work of fiction, so it gives me a platform to express how I see the world and how I think we can all make a difference. So, what ends up happening is people ask me to speak on what the book’s about and then that allows me to share much broader views. If people fall in love with the story or the characters, they want to know more about why I created them. And even if people don’t like my book, it gives me a great way to convince them that they can see the book in a different light. As for what I see myself doing in the future, I am a writer, so as long as I have the power in my fingers to press a keyboard, I will write.

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

Most people don’t know this about me, but I am a professionally trained horseman. I was fortunate to have apprenticed under two hall of fame horse trainers when I was a young man. One of them taught me a lesson I’ll never forget and have often repeated. I was in a stall, and I went to lead this very expensive horse out of the barn. But he stopped me by grabbing my arm forcefully, right at the elbow. My natural reaction was to resist. Then he said, “Now, let me try it this way.” And he grasped my elbow lightly in the same spot and just lifted it gently. My natural reaction was to let him have my arm and follow his lead. Then he said, “Let me teach you the most important thing you’ll ever know about horses. It is — Let the wrong thing be difficult, and the right thing be easy.”

This life lesson taught me how to lead powerful horses who have a unique personalities and temperaments and strong wills and emotions. And I found the same philosophy works with human beings. You might be able to physically force a human being to do something, but if you really want them to do something willingly, you need to look for ways to make the wrong thing difficult and the right thing easy.

Here’s how that might apply in business. Let’s say you want your frontline customer service people to be more pleasant in their interactions. Because when your staff is welcoming, respectful, and helpful, your customers, patients or clients are happy. And happy people keep coming back, give great reviews and will refer your business to others. Here’s a real-life example of how that works.

I wanted to make an appointment to see my doctor, but the process of setting that appointment was convoluted and frustrating. First, I called to make an appointment, but they weren’t available. Then they called me back at a random time when I wasn’t available. This went back and forth a few more times until I finally got the appointment. Then they start pinging me with all kinds of messages and follow-up calls. So, by the time I finally get there, I’m ticked off about the process. And assuming everyone is experiencing that same aggravating process, who is the person who gets the brunt of all their frustration? Why, the poor receptionist, of course.

I had a visit just two weeks ago and the receptionist was short with me. I looked at her and politely asked, “Are you having a bad day? Because you don’t have to talk to me like this.” She caught herself and said, “Oh, I’m sorry. You’re right. I got a lot going on.” And I gave her a compassionate smile and said, “I understand.” See, they set her up for that by making the appointment process difficult. She’s not a mean, angry person. She’s just placed in a position where everybody that walks in is mad at her. So how do we fix that? Make the right thing easy by simplifying the appointment process.

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.

Practice Makes Perfect.

Many public speakers never reach their potential because they rely on their talent and not their effort. But the ones who do exceedingly well do so because they put in the time and effort to practice, practice, practice. They practice in front of a mirror, their loved ones, a video camera, a trainer or coach, or a smaller audience. And it is through that practice that they really begin to master their speech and perfect their craft. A good analogy for this skill development would be an athlete who was gifted in sports but relied only on talent and not effort. Eventually he or she will get blown away by the competition who is willing to do everything it takes to excel.

Learn From Experts

If you want to be viewed as an expert, you must do what experts do. And that learning process starts by observing them. Watch how they present certain topics. See how they present their messages in different settings. Then use the techniques they used. It will take your proficiency to a whole new level.

Here’s how that observation process worked for me. I’ve had the benefit of being around some of the greatest preachers, pastors, and evangelists in the world. As I watched them, I realized there’s a big difference between the way they preach to a live audience of 300,000 people and how they preach on television. There is a subtle difference in the way they stand, the way they use their hands, the way they interact. And by noting those differences, I had the benefit of learning how to be better in my presentations.

Know Your Audience.

I can’t stress how important it is to know your audience. You must know who you’re talking to and tailor your message accordingly. Otherwise, your message — and you — becomes irrelevant, awkward, uninteresting, or aggravating. And on that last one, unless you mean to be a provocateur in your public speaking, try to avoid audiences that are clearly going to be aggravated with your worldview. It will save you from a life of negativity.

Dress For Success.

This one might seem a little odd, but you should dress one level up from your audience. If you are speaking at a convention where the dress code is business casual, then you should wear a suit and tie. If your audience is in flip flops and board shorts, you should be wearing a polo shirt and casual dress pants. Because the way you dress has to do with how your audience will perceive your brand. To that point, I’ve seen some speakers really go out of their way to solidify their brand. I was just speaking at the National Speakers Association and there was a guy there walking around in a cowboy outfit with shiny saddle bags thrown over his shoulder. I’m not sure what his message was, but I can only assume his outfit was another level up from what his audience was wearing.

Communicate With Your Host

It is so important to communicate with your host. Some speakers don’t get that, so they just show up and give one of their five messages. And because they didn’t take time to learn from the host who their audience is, their presentation sounds canned and flat. The audience is like, “Well, you might as well just have sent me a CD”. That kind of reaction will never make a difference for them or get you invited back to speak. So, communicate with your host, so you really understand what their expectations are. Find out how much money you’re going to make, when you’re supposed to be there, what’s the dress code, what the audience is about, what they want you to achieve with the audience, etc. It’s so simple and important to the process, and its mind boggling to me how few speakers utilize this valuable resource.

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

The answer is very simple. Find a good Toastmasters group and follow it. Toastmasters is designed to help you get through your public speaking fears. You may never do public speaking as your main profession, but what that skill will do for your confidence, poise, articulation, communication skills, etc. will bless every aspect of your life. And if you are required to do public speaking for work, Toastmasters will allow you to hone your skills in a supportive environment where it won’t cost you money, respect, or opportunity if you bomb. So, whether you need it as a career boost or just want to face down your fear, I heartily recommend you do at least the first 10 challenges in Toastmasters. I guarantee you it will be a game changer.

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 love to inspire people to live generously. To have them experience the joys and rewards of giving to others. I’m not just taking about being generous with your money, but with every area of your life. Just using your time as an example, if you are always rushed, hurried or too busy for others, that typically leads to hurt feelings and strained or broken relationships. On the other hand, if you budget your time well you can use it wisely to nurture relationships, build important bonds, create or relive amazing experiences, and discover ways you can support and collaborate with others. In doing so you will discover one of the great mysteries of life — the more you give, the more you receive.

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 would love to have lunch with Barack Obama. Now, to be clear, I don’t agree with any of his politics. But I do find the guy interesting and engaging. So, I wouldn’t mind just having a conversation with him because dialog and understanding is so very important today. And we could all benefit by judging less and understanding more so we can have fruitful relationships with people who view some aspect of the world differently.

I think what got me intrigued by Barack was the way that he once handled a conflict early in his administration. He invited the various parties to the White House to have a beer. And as they all had a beer, they tried to work out their differences. And I thought, “You know what? Not because he’s the President, but I wouldn’t mind talking to him over a beer.” Just because I think he’s a really smart man, and if he would listen, I’d like to share some of my points of view.

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

Facebook —

Twitter —

LinkedIn —

Instagram —

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

Mike Stickler Of Leadership Books 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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