Prioritizing the Person

present with people Mar 27, 2023
Public Speaking Pathway Part 2




When I was 18 years old, I started working for a very well known steakhouse in the Metro Detroit area. I was just a bus boy, but I felt like I had my foot in the door and I was going to prove myself. With months of hard work and doing everything I could to show my worth, I believed I could get promoted to the back of the house (that’s code for working in the kitchen). I dreamed of learning the recipes, the art form, and the technique to make really good food.

But before I was called up to the big leagues (a baseball reference if you’re a fan), I had to endure the minor leagues.

After working as a cook for two different buffet restaurants for the previous five years, I was done. It wasn’t terrible. I loved the people I worked with and I was paid so I showed up every day and did my job. But, as you can imagine, there is not much art or magic to cooking in a buffet restaurant.

There were only a few basic steps: You grab the frozen box from the freezer, put it in the heater, remove it when it beeps, and then put it in the serving container. That’s it. Simple, easy. Then people happily scooped it out. Again, not very glamorous and nothing Emeril would be excited about, but it was a job.

I couldn’t figure out why people would suffer through frozen buffet food when there were real restaurants all around. Ok, I guess I know it’s affordable and fast. Oh yeah, and the never ending buttery rolls!

So I dreamed of someday working for one of those real restaurants. When I applied and was hired to be on the staff of this well-known steakhouse, I felt like I had arrived. I was beyond excited! I was going to learn how to cook and serve amazing dishes. I was now someone. I could not wait. No more putting frozen food into a heater.

At my first training interview I found out that I was going to be a busboy. It was not the glamorous job I had dreamed about. But, I had my foot in the door and I was going to show them that I deserved to be in the back of the house. I couldn’t wait to be cooking food, wearing a chef’s uniform, and carefully selecting and grilling steaks to perfection.

For months and months, I did the best job I could do while cleaning tables. Things were going well and I was promoted to head busboy. That meant that if someone called off, I had to come in. It also meant I created the work schedule. I was on my way. One day, my boss told me he needed to talk with me. I thought this was the day I would be heading to the back of the house.

I was right! Except, he was moving me to wash dishes.

He said because I did such a great job cleaning tables, he needed that work ethic washing dishes. So, I put my head down and began to wash dishes. It was humbling, but I learned a lot being in the back of the house and listening to the wait staff, the cooks and the management.

Well, the day finally came and I was promoted to cook. I was now a salad cook, but it still got me on the front line of the kitchen. Again, for months and months, I learned everything I could about building salads, prepping food. I listened and learned from the other cooks. It was such a growing experience.

Thankfully, the day I had been dreaming about arrived and I was moved to the front line and I began learning how to be a cook. I learned how to follow directions, recipes and all the steps needed to not just put food in a container for our guests to scoop out, but to provide an experience for our guests. The process to do that was tedious, but it was fulfilling.




I think this is an interesting parallel for communicators. Many speakers view their role like my experience at the buffet restaurant. We take out some information, slap it together, put it out for consumption and hope it connects.

In the first blog post of this three part series on the Speak with People Public Speaking Pathway, we dove into why it’s so important to speak with people and not at them. When we speak with people, we take them on a journey. We care deeply for their needs and we want to take them on a journey with us. When we speak at people, we dispense information and hope it connects.

Speaking with people is more like my experience in the nice steakhouse. There was a specific way we operated and directions for every aspect of the guests' experience. Every detail was thought through, the atmosphere was incredible and the food, well, the food was spectacular. That’s what it should be like when we speak with people.

The Speak with People Public Speaking Pathway is your guide to becoming the kind of communicator that takes your audience on a journey. If followed, step-by-step, you will become an effective communicator. You will communicate from a healthy place and your talk will have structure, be clear and inspire your audience to lean in when you speak.

Oh, just a bit of a warning: this all doesn’t happen overnight. But, in time, as you walk through this pathway, you will become a more effective, empathetic and captivating speaker.




Here are the first four steps of the Speak with People Public Speaking Pathway:

Step One: Assess and prioritize your health.

The goal for this step is to approach everyday with discipline in the key health focus areas: emotional, spiritual, social, mental and physical health. It begins with an assessment to see how you’re doing in those five areas. Based on the findings, you will know where you need to invest your time and energy. The reality is, the healthier you are, the healthier your communication will be. In this step, it is important to learn and maximize daily habits to keep you healthy and filled. It is also vital to learn how to rest and recover so you will be at your best. Recruit an accountability partner to ask you the hard questions and keep you motivated.

Step Two: Discover if you present WITH or AT people.

The goal for this step is to continually evaluate whether or not you speak with people and not at them. Take our QUIZ and review the differences in PART 1 of the Public Speaking Pathway blog series whenever you need a reminder. In this step it is important to figure out what kind of communicator you are and discover the keys to improving your public speaking based on your communicator type. When  you do, look out! You will be the real you when you’re speaking.

Step Three: Deeply and genuinely care for your audience.

The goal for this step is to be humble, wisely transparent and deeply empathetic. When you focus on this, you will deeply and genuinely care for your audience. You will  become THE expert of your team or your audience. Discover the right questions to ask so that you will learn how to understand them and their needs. When you can and are able, honor your audience by learning as many of their names and stories as you can.

Step Four: Study and prepare.

The goal is to become a ferocious reader, studier, and researcher with the time that you have available. It is so important to learn what study method will help you increase your content options and organize your research, quotes and notes so that you can utilize them easily and effectively. Becoming a student of your content and your preparation habits will boost your confidence and help you prepare for every speech, talk or presentation you deliver.

After I became the Sous Chef of my steakhouse, that’s a fancy title for the Chef’s assistant, it was so much fun to be asked to talk with guests when they wanted to talk about the food. I would walk out to the front of the house and head to the table in my Chef’s uniform. I would ask them about their experience and then listen as they responded. It was such a great moment to hear them talk about how much they enjoyed their entire experience during their dinner. That was our goal.

You can become an effective, empathetic and captivating speaker who inspires your audience to lean in when you speak by following this speaking pathway. When you do, and you continue to grow in your communication, it will be exhilarating talking to members of your audience after they have experienced your speech, talk or presentation. This is what the speaking pathway is all about and it can help guide you to continue growing in your communication. 


By Jason Raitz - Founder, Speak with People