An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Record yourself. You’d be surprised with how you sound and what you do when speaking, so be your best and harshest critic before going public.

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 Tiffany Kepler Creator of and the Camera Ready Confidence Program.

Thomas Camilleri grew up on the small Mediterranean island of Malta. After starting off a degree in Architecture, he moved to London to pursue acting and lived there for his 20s, appearing in West End musicals Les Miserables and Legally Blonde as well as touring the UK and Europe with Evita and the Rocky Horror Show.

Ready for a new adventure and having missed his beloved home country, Thomas moved back to Malta where he has worked with Switch, a digital marketing agency, as a creative director for the past eight years. He has also developed his love for architecture and interiors through property conservation, renovation and design as well as having founded Lazarus Tiles, a project that saves antique Maltese encaustic tiles from the landfill and turns them into art.

IG: @tomcamilleri @thelazarusclub

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 on the small Mediterranean island of Malta. We’re small but we dream big and many of us tend to spend our post-grad years abroad, soaking up what the world has to offer, before returning home to share what we’ve learned with the rest of the country. I’m part of a large family, with three siblings and 18 first cousins and life in Malta changed immeasurably after we joined the European Union in my late teens, going from a sleepy, sunny getaway to a bustling tech hub. Wanting to burn off lots of excess energy, my mother enrolled me in theatre school when I was 12 and that eventually led to me spending a decade working in theatre in London, a career choice that has certainly contributed greatly to my confidence and skill as a public speaker.

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

I’d already started studying architecture at university here in Malta when I visited ArtsEd in London for a week’s masterclass in musical theatre. One of the tutors there took me aside and told me that I should audition for the school — so I did! As soon as I got news that they’d offered me a full scholarship I quit university and headed off to London.

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

I’ve now spent the same amount of time working as an actor as I have working as a creative director in advertising. There’s so much overlap in the skills needed for both career paths that, while I would have never thought it, it was a seamless transition from one to the other.

Things tend to be a little more dramatic in the acting world and while I was halfway through a show in the West End production of Les Miserables, Marius’ understudy, who would throw me a stage punch, miscalculated and knocked me out halfway through a scene. I came to a few seconds later with a mouth full of blood and dragged myself offstage while my own understudy quickly jumped into costume to run on and carry on from where I’d got to. I’ve still got the scar to prove it!

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?

In between acting and advertising, I spent a year working with a small fashion PR firm in London. I learnt so much from that job, though the whole industry is very Devil Wears Prada.

When sending off the monthly reports to our clients, I once sent a report to the wrong client. Shouldn’t have been a huge deal, though both were men’s jewellery brands and we’d managed way more coverage for the other company whose report I’d sent by mistake.
I’ll never forget the moment I hit send, followed by Andre, the co-founder, shrieking ‘Thomas!’ from across the office as he received the wrong report which he was copied-in on.

We lost the client.

I learned my lesson.

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 owe so much to Ed, our Head of Brand and Creative. After working for years in very corporate environments, he knew exactly what he didn’t want Switch to be. Along with his brother, Rik, our CEO, they’ve really managed to mould Switch into what it is today. It was Ed who took the mad decision to bring me onboard after meeting for a coffee in Bar Italia in Soho. He really believes in transferable skills, particularly within the creative side of what we do. His belief in allowing us the freedom to pursue our own projects and passions outside of work and not micro-managing the team means that we’ve assembled a multidisciplinary family of misfits who create wonderful work, if I do say so myself.

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?

Communication and networking is key. Speak to as many people as you can and try to do what you love. While many might think that your love of *insert skill here* might not pay the bills, it might open doors you’ve never dreamed of.

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?

The age of the single career is over. I love that every day never looks like the last one for me. Between my job and my various projects that I’m working on, my mind is continually firing on all fronts, bringing unexpected surprises and solutions through all of this cross-pollination that happens in my brain. At the moment I’m working on various projects with Switch, finishing off this beautiful 18th century maisonette in Ħamrun, running Lazarus Tiles, preparing for a new musical we’re launching in September and renovating a British-era shop in our capital Valletta.

Life’s really too short to do something you don’t want to do. I know that that’s a simplification of a complex issue for many, but it should really come down to that.

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?

Showing once again what a super pair Ed and Rik are, when I told them about how I’d managed to purchase this centuries-old shop in Valletta and that I was going to renovate and run it, they were as excited as I was. They were totally open to me remaining a part of the team, though perhaps without as much in-person time spent on the job. This way I can still contribute to the writing and concept-generation I work a lot on without being as involved with on-set creative direction.

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

At Switch, one of our mantras is that we don’t compete on price, but on quality. It’s a win-win situation because you really don’t want to be working with clients who are only interested in saving cents. If you’re respected enough to be paid well for what you do, you’ll enjoy doing it more, your output will be far superior and you’ll last a lot longer in that career.

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.

– Go to acting classes. You’re not training to become an actor, but the skills you’ll learn will help you grow in confidence and connect with those you’re speaking to.

– Record yourself. You’d be surprised with how you sound and what you do when speaking, so be your best and harshest critic before going public.

– Exercise. If you’re out of breath after a flight of stairs, chances are you won’t make it to the end of the sentence clearly. You don’t need to be super fit, adding some walking to your routine is enough to help you with breath capacity and control.

– Read. Keep abreast of current events for references to pepper your speaking with and read books to grow your vocabulary. Don’t set yourself up to fail — read the news over breakfast and aim to get through one book a fortnight and add on from there if you manage easily.

– When possible, be off-script. Continuously referring to your speech could stop you from connecting with your audience. It’s easier than you think if you divide it into paragraphs and tackle a paragraph each evening leading up to your event.

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

Acting classes all the way. They’re fun and will pay themselves back tenfold in so many different areas of your life — professional and personal.

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?

In Malta we have a huge problem with overdevelopment. We’re a small country with a high population density. Our planning authority here has consistently let us down because they’re subject to the whims of the construction industry, one of Malta’s most powerful lobbies.
If I could, I would want to raise more awareness of the beauty that is being lost daily through this rampant overdevelopment.

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!

Miriam Margolyes! What a woman. I’ve loved her since my childhood when I found her hysterical in Blackadder and she’s only improved with age. She has such a wonderful outlook on life and I would love to treat her to lunch.

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

Sure! Find me on Instagram @tomcamilleri and @thelazarusclub

You can also see me speak here and here.

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

Thomas Camilleri Of Switch 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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