One of my favorite sayings is “Lift as you climb.” It means you don’t have to be at the top of the mountain before you can help people. Ever since the ChopSaver journey began, one of our big goals has been to create a household brand name. Obviously, that kind of success brings monetary rewards, but it is what you learn along the way that really makes for a full and meaningful life. As we are still a work in progress, the “lift as you climb” mantra helps remind me that I have an obligation to share what I am learning as I go. I recently had the distinct pleasure of speaking to three separate classes at Western Illinois University in Macomb, Illinois. I was hosted by Dr. Bruce Briney, Professor of Trumpet and an old college class mate of mine and Courtney Blankenship, head of the Music Business Department.

I spoke to three groups of students and covered everything from my musical background and performance career to the creation of ChopSaver and all the challenges one faces when starting a business and getting a product on the market. The students were polite, attentive and asked great questions and it was a terrific immersion for me into the world of public speaking. I have done some in the past, but three in one day was easily a new record for me! When speaking, the challenge is to combine the things you enjoy talking about with what the audience wants to learn.

It is said the fear of public speaking is one of the most common phobias we human beings have. As with any performance, planning and practice will help ease those concerns. Having some sort of outline or notes can be very helpful, especially if speaking or lecturing is a new thing for you. Unless you are doing an actual “sermon,” it’s best to not read the whole thing word for word. Run through your talk in front of a mirror or video tape yourself. Better yet, do it a few times in front of real people like family or friends. Even one person can make you nervous! You might want to include a hand out but make sure that what you give out helps focus your message and doesn’t distract the listener from what you are trying to say. If you have a lot of visuals, go ahead and use PowerPoint if you must, but just reading along with the slides can get very boring. I like to use video when I can. For example, I show our YouTube video The ChopSaver Story as a lighthearted way to explain how ChopSaver started. It also gives me a little break when placed in the middle of the talk. Whatever you do, allow some time for questions but be able to gracefully “move along” if your audience is shy and questions aren’t forthcoming the first time you open up the floor. Being able to respond to questions helps you gauge what is really on your audiences mind. Like any good performer, the ability to improvise and respond to the situation can make the difference between an average speech and a truly memorable presentation. That ability only comes from repeated performances, so when the opportunity to present presents itself, don’t be shy!