Michael Piperno

Practice Makes Experts

Practice Makes Experts

“Nothing can help the person who does not practice.” I read that in a Forbes article about public speaking tips. It made me stop and think about how easy it is to look at someone you admire and think they are a natural at something. The truth is that they worked very hard to be so awe-inspiring.

While there is debate over how much our innate abilities play a role in our successes, it’s clear that training is necessary to become an expert. And with any kind of training, practice is key to honing one’s craft.

My first full-time job after college was as a high school teacher. I had some practice during my schooling, but not enough to make me a true expert on the subject matter, and not enough to confidently manage classrooms of 28 different personalities 5 times a day. And then, there I was on day one, alone, responsible for over 100 students a day, and running the show. 

I’ll never forget how quickly I noticed that my first period public speaking class really got the short end of the stick. Each day they were my test subjects for the day’s lesson, which always went better the other times I would perform it later that day. So, I started to rehearse my new lessons the night before. That practice helped. 

When I got my first graphic design job many years ago, I didn’t know the software like I really should have for the position I landed. I had to create my own projects and practice every night to quickly get myself up to the level the position required. 

I used to be a very good pianist. I could sight read almost any song, and enjoyed playing at parties where people wanted to sing. After two decades of little to no practice, I got frustrated every time I sat down at the piano. I couldn’t play anywhere near like I used to — and that fact was maddening. Last year, I vowed to change that. By practicing a little every week and learning new things about music that I never had discovered before, I am slowly becoming a musician again. All it’s taking is a little practice.  

And even though I’ve taught public speaking to high school and college students, coached executives through high stakes presentations, and presented more workshops and pitches than I can count, I still practice my presentations over and over — until I know that I’m ready. 

And knowing when I’m ready has taken practice, too.

This post was originally published on January 20, 2020 and updated on February 26, 2021.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash
Leaders Set the Tone

You Set the Tone

When you are a leader, you set the tone. I don’t care if you are leading a multi-million-dollar company or a meeting with two other people. When you’re in charge, you have immense power to influence those who look to you for guidance, direction, or inspiration.

Use your power well. Take that extra moment today to ensure you are setting the right tone when you communicate — in meetings, in private conversations, and in your written communications.

It only takes some self-awareness and an extra moment. The results are worth it.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Talking About Money with Brett Michener

In the next episode of Convey, my friend Brett Michener and I talk about the importance of communication when it comes to talking about money — specifically, your money. Brett is a Financial Representative at The DeYoung Financial Group and I always like talking to him because he’s not only a “money guy,” he’s also a coach. Our conversations always make me think about my goals and how I can be better at making sure I’m thinking about saving and spending in a way that fits me and my family. 

Brett’s perspective will open your eyes to new and better ways to look at your life- and savings-goals. He also shares his personal career journey — it’s a great story about being open to opportunity and to change. And as we all know, change is inevitable in life.  

Visit Brett’s Website: http://deyoungfinancial.com

Check Out This Episode’s Sponsor, Lacona Supply: https://laconasupply.com

Learn More About Your Host: https://www.michaelpiperno.com

Theatre Cast Rehearsing

Trust and the Theatre

I’ll always be grateful for my training in theatre arts

One of the things it taught me is trust. I could always count on my fellow cast and crew members to be there when they were supposed to be there — to speak their next line, move scenery in place, or make a catch. There was such a high level of trust that the cast and crew truly did start to feel like a family by opening night.

Is there enough trust among your team members? If not, do the work to help them gain it. When people feel like their colleagues have their backs, both work satisfaction and productivity increase. 

Here’s another post about a good lesson from the theatre that can help you in business.

New Podcast Episode: Business, Marketing, Authenticity, and Relationships with Franco and Wendy Salerno

In this episode, my guests are Franco and Wendy Salerno, a husband-and-wife team who built and run a successful business, Darianna Bridal and Tuxedo, here in my home county of Bucks County, Pennsylvania. I wanted you to hear about their business because they’ve done an exceptional job marketing it. In fact, they’ve done a better job communicating with their prospects and customers than just about any other local business I’ve seen. Equally impressive is the level of service they provide to their customers.

What’s their secret? They generously share a lot of their strategy in this episode.

In our conversation we also talk about how even in a tough year, both personally and professionally, they let their creativity, integrity, honesty, and authenticity guide the way — building strong relationships and adding to their network of raving fans as a result.

Listen here on my website, on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Anchor.fm or anywhere you subscribe to podcasts.

Visit the Darianna Bridal & Tuxedo Website: https://www.dariannabridal.com
Check out this episode’s sponsor, Lacona Supply: https://laconasupply.com

Know Your Audience

Know Your Audience

I teach and coach people about a variety of communication and leadership topics. No matter which topic we’re discussing, we almost always come back to discussing their audience. In fact, I always tell people that the first rule of good communication is to know your audience — really understand who they are. Whether you’re leading a team or building your own business, if you haven’t spent the time to consider the true needs of your stakeholders, you’re in trouble.

And by audience I mean real humans. Not just some demographics on a piece of paper. People want to do business with people and brands that they like, and who understand them. People want to follow leaders who have a purpose and a vision they can support. 

To achieve any goal, whether it be to inspire a team, sell a product or service, or convince a panel of experts to support you, you need to speak (verbally and nonverbally) in a way that connects with them. You can’t do that if you’ve only been thinking about your own needs and goals.

Always think first about your audience and consider what they need to hear from you. 

Photo by Jonas Jacobsson on Unsplash
Using Zoom for Rehearsing Presentations

Go Zoom Yourself

We all know that the more you prepare and rehearse, the more confident you’ll feel when giving a presentation or speech. Even if you’ve prepared and rehearsed a lot in your head, you still need to do it out loud. Trust me, you don’t want the first time you’re hearing your own words to be the same time your audience is hearing them!

Have a Dress Rehearsal

When you can, recruit a few people to give your presentation to. You can do this remotely over Zoom, or better yet in person once we are able to safely gather again. Your audience doesn’t have to be 100 percent representative of your final audience, although the more they think like them the better feedback you can get on the content of your talk.

Either way, ask them to evaluate you on:

  • Volume (too soft, too loud, just right)
  • Speed (too fast, too slow, perfect throughout)
  • Tone (appropriate for the topic, audience, and occasion)
  • Filler words (too many ums or uhs)
  • Gestures (appropriate amount, distracting amount, not enough)
  • Facial expressions (appropriate for the topic, audience, and occasion)
  • Slides or other visual aids (clear and easy to see and understand, supportive of you as a speaker and not distracting)

I could go on all day about things to watch out for, but the above list is a good start. 

No Audience? No Problem.

With every new presentation or talk, I use Zoom to record myself so I can experience my presentation with a critical eye. I can plan it all I want, but until I see how I am actually presenting it to others, I never fully understand where I need to make improvements or changes. For example, I’ll see when there’s something on a slide that is confusing or that doesn’t sync up with what I’m saying. I’ll also see when I’m not giving my audience enough eye contact. Most of all, I catch sections where I don’t have my thoughts together well enough and that I need to refine. It’s amazing the clarity I get from watching it back.

So, plan your presentation well, rehearse it a few times in your head and then at least once out loud. And then, fire up Zoom or any program that allows you to record yourself and your slides and visual aids, and hit the record button. Then watch it back.

I’m certain you’ll find it helpful.

New Podcast Episode: Food, Events, Connection, and Love with Sharon DeFelices

Convey Podcast Michael Piperno Episode 2

Thanks to all of you who gave me positive feedback on my first podcast episode. Your encouragement means a lot.

For my second episode, my guest is food, nutrition, and wellness expert — and corporate event strategist — Sharon DeFelices. Sharon and I talk about how clear communication is critical in her line of work, which includes planning and running events that incorporate health and wellness into the experience. You’ll be amazed by what goes on behind the scenes to ensure people enjoy the food and beverages they are served at an event — as well as the role food and nutrition can play in a productive and successful meeting. We also touch on a lot of other topics including the connections we create through the food we make at home.

Sharon also shares the fascinating story of how she went from nutritionist to chef to owning a company dedicated to healthier meetings with happier and more productive attendees. It’s an inspirational story about finding your purpose, and pursuing it fiercely.

Listen to it here on my website, on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Anchor.fm or anywhere you subscribe to podcasts.

Happy Holidays

Wishing you and your loved ones a wonderful holiday season.

Here’s to a terrific 2021.

Michael

P.S. Thank you for following my blog — and for sharing it with others. Helping people be better communicators and leaders is my passion, and my life’s work.

Photo by Jamie Coupaud on Unsplash

Check Out My New Podcast

Convey, A Podcast About Good Communication

I’m excited to announce the launch of my podcast, Convey: Conversations on the Power of Good Communication

On each episode, I’m going to talk to business leaders about how they use the power of good, clear, and ethical communication to influence, engage, and empower. Each guest brings their own unique perspective, experiences, and stories — and I hope you enjoy listening to these conversations as much as I enjoy having them with my guests.

I invited my colleague and friend Rod Hughes of Kimball Hughes Public Relations to help my kick things off with a conversation about communicating well during a crisis. 

Listen to it here on my website, on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Anchor.fm or anywhere you subscribe to podcasts.

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