An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis
Be authentic — It is paramount that you show up as the real you and not some polished version of you that you think people will connect to. Some of my best talks have been ones where I shared personal stories that the audience could relate to. For example, I once spoke about imposter syndrome and the example I used was being concerned that my Spanx might be showing. The female audience roared with laughter as they all nodded their heads in agreement- they made the connection with me and it helped me keep them engaged for the rest of the talk.
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 Veronica V. Sopher.
Veronica V. Sopher is an award-winning communications professional with more than 25 years professional experience. She is a gifted storyteller and is passionate about connecting with audiences to inspire and create a sense of purpose. Veronica has lead teams of all sizes and has spent the last 15 years in the C-suite driving narratives that moves her organization’s brand forward. She believes her purpose in life is to connect others to create synergy that will transform the world.
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?Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I come from a family of storytellers, on both sides. In the Mexican-American tradition, stories are a way of connecting and sharing values from generation to generation. I would hear “tales” of relatives and there was always a morale to the journey — it was often a traditional hero’s journey. I was raised in Houston by a single mother who sacrificed dearly to support all of the activities that my brother and I wanted to participate in. We were scrappy, resourceful and eager to impress. Education was the foundation of our upbringing and we knew how valuable an education would be to shaping the trajectory of our lives.
I remember wanting the Little Tykes play kitchens that had a little sink, refrigerator and even boosted a kitchen window with a tranquil countryside view. I would see it advertised on television on Saturday mornings while I watched cartoons, and my mom knew she wasn’t going to be able to buy me one. But, she didn’t let that stop her from making sure I had a play kitchen of my own. She used a large cardboard refrigerator box and using her art skills, she drew on a 3-D image of a sink, refrigerator, cupboard, and even cut out a window with a real fabric curtains. The dials that were drawn on, were true to oven dials and when I think of the effort she put into designing and creating my kitchen, I appreciate how deeply she wanted me to connect to my imagination.
My imagination and attention to detail have played a large part in my success and my ability to connect with others with my storytelling skills.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I was a sophomore journalism student at the University of North Texas when I walked into the newspaper lab and was told that there had been a bombing in Oklahoma City. I was dispatched to try to get some “color” from the scene, even though I was about three hours away from the site. I immediately started calling friends and colleagues that I lived in Oklahoma and after a few failed attempts, I was able to talk to a friend’s father who had just made it home from his office, just a few blocks away from the bombing site. One of the quotes I received from a contact was used in the university newspaper on the front page the next day. My journalism career had begun. I was thrilled to see my name printed and I was proud of my accomplishment. Days later, I was watching TV and I “saw” the damage to the building and my heart sank. I was so emotional to see the devastation, and to finally understand the loss of life and terror. At that moment, I decided that I did not want to be a professional journalist, and changed my path to public relations. I still wanted to tell stories and create opportunities for others. I had found my calling and I haven’t looked back.
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?
As the spokesperson for a large school district, I was the face of a historic discovery where 95 African American graves were discovered on the construction site of a new school. After the discovery, historians and archeologist determined that the site was an unmarked cemetery of victims of the state-sanctioned convict leasing system that allowed the South to recovery economically after the Civil War. It was a profound discovery that shed light on a part of part that was not talked about or taught in our state curriculum. Three years later, I am proud to share that the state curriculum was modified to now include convict leasing in various grades and the site is being memorialized appropriately. The cemetery is open to the public and there are museum-quality learning exhibits on the site so visitors can lean more about our shared history. Being able to share amazing stories like these have been a highlight of my career.
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 am blessed to have had a number of mentors and inspiring people in my life who shared their insights, gifts and experiences that helped me learn and grow. One in particular was a high school teacher, Ms. Lita Javors, who has since passed. She was one of those educators who understood the value of developing soft skills and leadership skills in young people. I remember how she encouraged me to put my name in for a state-leadership position for an extra curricular organization. I was scared, I had imposter syndrome, AND I had her support. Once I was elected, she helped me understand how to be a leader and taught me how to earn social capital. She would attend business luncheons with me where I learned business protocols and how to interact with business leaders. Without her guidance, I would not have had the courage to put my name forward for subsequent leadership positions. I am forever grateful for her investment in me.
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?
Failure is the greatest teacher of all time. I am most grateful for every failure I have ever had as it taught me to get back up, to reevaluate my processes and decision-making processes and to put safety nets in place to avoid making the same mistake. Don’t hang your head down in shame, own it! Own your failures like a badge of honor and share your learning with others so they can avoid the same missteps. I express gratitude for my life time of learnings, good and bad, because they have shaped me, my leadership and my success.
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?
Seeing others step into their power and leadership is what drives my passion to get up every day and share my message. When I see someone connect to their why and take action, I cheer them on and encourage them because I know their work will positively impact others. My main empowering message is that we each have a purpose, and once we tap into that purpose, providence steps in and all is possible!
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 have narrowed my focus coming out of COVID to share my message of self-care for leaders so they can maximize their skills and talents and create a healthier balance between home and work life. My talks and courses are designed to help C-suite leaders and female entrepreneurs find their calling and tap into their greatness. I see myself continuing on this leadership journey and inspiring others step into their power. I am a connector and will continue to create synergistic relationships that can change the world.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Jump and find your wings on the way down” has been my favorite life lesson quote and has driven so many of my professional decisions. Often when I wasn’t sure if I should take a risk, I learned how to tap into my intuition and have faith. A great example is when I was offered a position in another market and I had doubts and concerns about the potential move on my family. I made a list of pros and cons with my husband and at the end of the day, we had to make a decision based on faith. We actually used that quote as part of our deliberation and we pulled the trigger and moved. We built the plan along the way and learned that taking the leap of faith was the right move for our family.
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.
1. Be authentic — It is paramount that you show up as the real you and not some polished version of you that you think people will connect to. Some of my best talks have been ones where I shared personal stories that the audience could relate to. For example, I once spoke about imposter syndrome and the example I used was being concerned that my Spanx might be showing. The female audience roared with laughter as they all nodded their heads in agreement- they made the connection with me and it helped me keep them engaged for the rest of the talk.
2. Be interesting — This can be done several ways, but the most effective way for me to be interesting is to share real examples that keep people’s interest. When I take the stage and use data in my talk, I always offer a relatable example that helps the audience make a connection.
3. Be energetic — Clear your mind and be present! This will help you keep your energy up. Don’t be afraid to use your body language to help tell your story. Your physical energy can be felt by your audience and when you are clear and present to your talk, your energy will be more powerful and more effective. I always take time to clear my mind before I take the stage and the times when I haven’t, I always regret it. Don’t skip this step.
4. Bring value — An effective talk is one where people are entertained, inspired and have actions that they can take with them. Your audience wants to learn and when you can summarize your tips, strategies and suggestions, your audience will be more likely to take action. I always offer a takeaway for my audience, even if it is a digital document or handout.
5. Offer bonus content — It is all about value! So as a speaker, you want to bring more value than expected. I offer my contact information for audiences to connect with me, and when they do, I send them some bonus content. Sometimes it’s tip sheet, additional digital content or courses, or suggested readings to continue the conversation on the topic. You always want to exceed expectations!
As you know, many people are terrified of speaking in public. Can you give some of your advice about how to overcome this fear?
It is all about mindset. When you are clear that the information or insight you are sharing is going to help people, then it becomes less about you and more about the message. If your message is clear and is value-packed, then you will have a compelling desire to share it with others and this drive changes your mindset when you are on stage. A power public speaker is deeply connected to this desire and will always take the stage with humility and gratitude.
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?
If I could help female leaders tap into the value of self-care, I believe I could help them grow in their leadership, their health and well-being and grow in their roles as mothers and spouses. When a women can find a healthy balance between her career in home life, she is more effective, more efficient and happier. I believe in this COVID recovery time, it is more important than ever to focus on healing, both emotionally and physically. Self-care is paramount to growing and moving forward.
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 Nathalie Molina Nino, the author of Leapfrog: The New Revolution for Women Entrepreneurs. After reading her book, my eyes were opened to the value of social capital and it’s impact on potential success in the American economy. While I had been a C-suite executive for many years, I didn’t understand the inter-workings of how it all worked, until I read her book. I was inspired to truly tap into the connections I had and to offer my services and expertise to others so they too could grow in their fields.
Are you on social media? How can our readers follow you online?
This was so informative, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!
Veronica V. Sopher 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.