Lost and Found

Every time I veer from my purpose as a teacher and coach with a passion for helping others be better communicators, I get lost. 

It seems easy to look back and pinpoint exactly where I’ve gone off course in the past. Reflection is powerful, isn’t it? There were times when I was making a decision based on what I thought was the “right” move but that was not necessarily what was true to my purpose, or vision for my future. Sometimes I even made decisions based on what other people wanted me to do. We’ve all done that, I know. The problem was that I couldn’t clearly articulate my purpose to myself, let alone others, until I did the work to define it clearly. Then I was able to stay on course more easily. 

Nobody’s path or story is straightforward. One of the only things we can guarantee in life is that things will change. However, your path might feel quite haphazard at times. Mine did for years.

When you find your purpose, your path has a guide that keeps you on track even if the track changes.

Finding Your Purpose and a Clearere Path Forward

If you feel a lack of purpose, or if it’s been elusive and you can’t quite define it, I encourage you to start by writing a few things down and pondering them for a bit: 

  1. Your passions
  2. What you value
  3. The value you bring to others
  4. What you really want in life, and in your career

Do you see any common themes? Is there a thread that keeps emerging? 

I know the feeling of being lost so well that I can see it coming from 30 miles away. The good thing is that now, I can get back on track without missing a beat (most of the time — I’m still human).

Do the work to find your purpose and claim it. If you need help, I’m here for you.

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Conver-Speaking

When I led a brand communication agency, I had to do a lot of pitches. In preparation for each pitch meeting, my team and I would craft a presentation that would tell the prospect a story that we thought would resonate with them. It would include an assessment of their situation, our proposed approach to solving their problem, and samples of previous work and the results they created. Then, I’d rehearse the presentation to death. I was always confident and ready to present it by meeting day.

80 percent of the time, I would not present it as planned — and that was by design

My goal when walking into the room was always to get my audience talking first. If I could do so, the meeting would naturally become a conversation — an opportunity to share experiences, pain points, and potential solutions as real people genuinely interested in collaborating. Would I use the slides we had prepared? In most cases, yes. But I would jump around and bring up examples as the conversation warranted. It all depended on how the conversation went. A few times, not a single slide was shown and we still won the work.

20% of the time, the people in the room needed to see the traditional pitch, and I would give it to them. Still, I would try to treat the presentation as a conversation, getting them involved along the way as much as possible, and trying to make it a two-way dialogue instead of a monologue.

Next time you need to present, think about your audience and what they need to hear from you — and also why you both are there. Then consider how to make it more of a conversation than a speech or presentation. It’s not always possible, but when it is, a two-way dialogue will make it easier for you to build a stronger relationship from the start.

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Packaging Design, Pushing Boundaries, Soup, Toys, and Friendship with Amanda Miles

Convey Podcast Michael Piperno & Amanda Miles

My friend Amanda is one of those people I can call after months have gone by, and it’s like time never passed. We can jump right into the conversation with a 5 second runway and we’re laughing and chatting like we were back in high school.

I asked Amanda to be a guest on Convey because she is a master visual communicator. The work she does as a packaging designer for some of the world’s biggest brands sells products without uttering a word. Now, that’s what I call visual stopping power.

In this episode you’ll hear how Amanda approaches her work — it’s a story about listening well, truly understanding your audiences, pushing boundaries, and standing out through good, thoughtful design. 

Listen here on my website, on Apple PodcastsSpotifyAnchor.fm or anywhere you subscribe to podcasts.

Learn more about Amanda here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ammiles/

Check out this episode’s sponsor, Darianna Bridal and Tuxedo: https://www.dariannabridal.com

Learn more about your host, Michael Piperno: https://www.michaelpiperno.com

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Pitch Follow-up Strategies

Falling Down on Follow-up

I’ve coached a lot of professionals on pitching to clients, investors, and virtually every other type of stakeholder. Much of the time I spend with clients is on helping them tell a clear story — one that will resonate with their audience, and that will make a clear case for the investment opportunity at hand.

The Initial Pitch is Only the Beginning

When my clients pitch, they are fully prepared with a compelling presentation that looks great, and that they deliver with brilliance. 

But the fact is that you rarely get a “yes” from an investor the day that you pitch. You often hear, “Sounds great. Keep us updated…” or “Thanks for the presentation. We’ll be in touch.”

Staying in Touch

This is where a lot of people lose momentum with the pitch process. You must stay in touch. You can’t assume that your pitch presentation will be remembered three weeks from now. You also can’t assume that you persuaded the audience fully from that one meeting. You need to do the work to stay in front of them, and to ensure they understand that they are going to miss out if they don’t get to a “yes” soon.

The Art and Science of Follow-up

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to follow-up. However, you must ensure you’re not coming across as pushy or obnoxious. 

I believe your follow-up strategy needs to be customized to the individual, so you can develop a real relationship that they value. Doing so requires the right balance of frequency and content.

I can help.

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An Example of an Overloaded PowerPoint Slide

Can One Slide Deck Really Do It All?

When you give a presentation, your slides should be simple and clear. They should support you as you convey your messages, whether you’re persuading, entertaining, inspiring, or educating. They should never cause your audience to have to read or decipher too much information. If that happens, then you’ve lost them. They are no longer listening to you.

I teach people how to create and deliver powerful and engaging presentations. Part of that training is focused on the right balance of text and graphics on slides. It should not be a lot, and 95 percent of the presentations I see in the corporate world are too overloaded with content.

Often, the reasons for such jam-packed slides are:

“I need that content on the slides so I don’t forget.”

“The slides have to tell the whole story if I’m not there to present the deck.”

“I have to send the slides out as a pre-read before my presentation.”

“My audience needs to see all the data. I can’t omit anything.”

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. Here’s why:

  • If you think you’re going to forget things, use slide notes instead. And rehearse more.
  • You are there to tell the story when presenting. If you need the slides to tell the story without you, it’s no longer a presentation. You need a separate slide deck or other leave behind that does that work.
  • Pre-reads are pre-reads, not presentations. You need a separate slide deck or another prepared document for the pre-read.
  • Your audience needs you to make your points as clearly as possible. If they want to see more data, they’ll ask for it, and you can have it ready as backup.

Sounds like you might need more than one slide deck.

More work? Yes. Worth it? You bet.

A presentation is not about you. It’s about your audience. If you want to truly achieve your goal of persuading, entertaining, inspiring, or educating, you must make sure your presentation is engaging, compelling, easily digestible, and memorable.

You can’t do that by asking your audience to listen to you while also slogging through overloaded visuals at the same time.

Originally published at https://www.wearecomvia.com on February 8, 2021.

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Investing In Others

I received a nice compliment yesterday. A client said, “You really invest yourself in other people. You’re always fully there; truly wanting to know about me and also hearing what I have to say. Thanks for that.”

What a kind thing to say. I’ll admit that I am a guy who really wants to help others unleash the power of their strengths. I see the good in people, almost to a fault. And I know the power of good communication — especially listening.

The truth is that the investment I make in my clients is done with the goal of helping them invest more in themselves. Often the work I do as a coach is about reflecting back what I see (and hear) in my clients. 

But his compliment got me thinking about how little we really invest in each other when it comes to doing the hard work of making others feel seen and heard in the workplace. Even at home, for that matter. My work is about giving people a safe space to express themselves and explore their strengths, blind spots, and challenges so they can improve their own performance as leaders and professionals, as well as their relationships both personally and professionally. Yet there are times that I fail to do so when I’m “off the clock” and spending time with my family. I’m going to change that.

I encourage you to invest in yourself. Always. Let’s also make sure to invest in those around us who matter most by giving them the attention and support they need to reach their potential. Everyone wants to be seen. Everyone wants to be heard. We simply need to take the time to make that happen.

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Purpose, Learning, and the Art of the Pivot with Pete Sandford

Podcast: Purpose, Learning, and the Art of the Pivot with Pete Sandford

I originally invited my friend Pete Sandford of NXLevel Solutions to join me on Convey to talk about how he masterfully communicates as a sales and business development guy. 

But when he and I were talking a few weeks ago, we got on the topic of our respective career paths and on the topic of purpose — which many of you know is one of my favorite topics. 

Pete’s story is very different than mine, but we share a very similar perspective on the common theme or thread in our stories. That thread is something most people have — they just haven’t spent much time noticing it

Listen to this episode to hear Pete’s story — it’s about purpose, pivoting, adapting, and growing as a lifelong learner. And yes, we also touch on his unique and authentic style of selling.

Visit Pete’s Websites: http://www.nxlevelsolutions.com and https://www.intelalearning.com

Check out this episode’s sponsor, Darianna Bridal and Tuxedo: https://www.dariannabridal.com

Learn more about your host, Michael Piperno: https://www.michaelpiperno.com

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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
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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
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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

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