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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Four Zoom Don’ts

When putting together my latest workshop, I had fun creating visual examples of the mistakes people make when they are on video. Here are the four top offenders I see quite often.

1. The Submarine Periscope

Zoom Mistake 1

If we can see more ceiling than we do you, readjust! Make sure your face is in the top two-thirds of the screen.

2. The Backlit Extravaganza

Zoom Don't 2

Make sure the room is well lit to avoid grainy video, but don’t put bright light, such as a window, directly behind you. Light yourself from the front.

3. The Double Doozy

Zoom Don't 3

Virtual backgrounds seem like a fun idea until they become distracting. If you use a virtual background, get a green screen or design a background that works well when you test it. And remember, keep it professional when your credibility is on the line. This is called The Double Doozy because the background isn’t the only problem. The lighting on my face is too dark as well. Ugh.

4. The Nose Hair Investigation

Zoom Don't 4

This is a flattering one, right? No, it’s not. Put your laptop on a stack of books or get a stand.

Test and Test, Then Look Your Best

Your video doesn’t have to be studio-quality, but with a little testing of viewing angles and lighting you can ensure you look your best on your next Zoom call.

For more tips, ask me about my new workshop on Remote Leadership Presence.

Good Zoom Positioning

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Remote Leadership Presence

New Workshop Available: Remote Leadership Presence

Remote meetings are here to stay. My new workshop, Remote Leadership Presence: Bringing Your Best When Leading & Meeting Virtually is designed to help professionals be more effective when participating in, or leading, a remote or virtual meeting.

You’ll learn:

  • How to look and sound your remote best.
  • Virtual room video and audio dos and don’ts. 
  • Best practices for facilitating and leading remote meetings.
  • Tips for using technology like Zoom and Teams to make virtual meetings more engaging

Whether you are regularly conducing team meetings remotely or participating in online meetings or interviews, this workshop will give you tips you can use right away to improve your leadership presence. 

Running Time: 60 or 90 minutes, depending on audience size.

Get in touch if you would like to discuss a one-on-one session or a workshop for your team.

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Your Automations Are Feeling Impersonal

Personalized Communication Gone Astray

I recently bought an ebook from a well-known leadership expert. The same day I bought the book, I got 4 emails from him:

  • #1 was the delivery of the digital book along with a sales pitch for another book
  • #2 was a marketing email for another line of products he offers
  • #3 was another marketing email for the same line of products in email #2
  • #4 was a promotional email for something else his group of companies offered

4 emails in one day? As a former brand communications and marketing agency leader, I knew what was going on here. The purchase of the book enrolled me in an automated workflow that looks like this:

  1. When Michael buys book A, have the email software program send him the offer email for product B and add him to the email list for product A.
  2. When Michael is added to the email list for product A, also add him to the email list for product C and send product C’s first marketing email.
  3. You see where this is going?

I get it. Automation is a powerful tool when communicating with prospects or customers. Technology has made these highly personalized communications easier than ever. But the people who are setting up these automations are losing site of the human beings on the other end.

wrote a post a while back about being inundated by emails on a daily basis from companies I like, but don’t want to hear from daily. They give me no choice to reduce the frequency of the communications, so they lose me as a subscriber. This is happening with advertising, too. This week I shopped online for a new pair of comfortable lounge pants and now I’m inundated with loungewear ads on virtually every screen I have in the house. Looks like I accepted a cookie somewhere along the line that allowed the site I was on to sell or share my data.

More personalized results on Google, in digital advertisements, and through email were once welcome. I found them helpful. But today, the automated “personalized” communications and ads that I receive aren’t feeling helpful anymore. I can almost see the robot behind them. The human element has all but disappeared.

My challenge to all of the marketers and professional communicators out there is to rethink your automations to consider the human beings on the other side of them. Highly personalized touchpoints that are too frequent, out-of-touch, or awkwardly invasive actually feel incredibly impersonal.

Photo by Stephen Phillips – Hostreviews.co.uk on Unsplash
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Tips for Being Heard at Work

Be Heard

When we feel we aren’t being heard, a common reaction is to talk louder. Or interrupt. And if you’re an introvert, you might lean the other way and keep your comments to yourself instead of trying to share them with those who need to hear them. 

Your voice counts. Considering how you personally operate in certain situations as well as how the specific people you communicate with listen to and process information will help you be heard, and more importantly, understood. 

Here are some tips:

  1. Let kindness lead the way. You can never go wrong by being kind, and doing so diffuses tension and helps others avoid feeling defensive. Even in the most difficult conversations, when you show the other person that you care, you make your communications more tailored to their needs—and more effective. 
  2. Read the room. If you have experience with the people in the room, you likely know how they operate. Some may just want the facts quickly while some may like to dive in deep and understand the background. Whenever possible, try to tailor your communications to the needs of the people in the room and give them what they need to be able to connect with, and understand, you.
  3. Listen now and speak later. If you can’t formulate the right response on the fly, give yourself the time you need to process everything and craft a response that you can feel good about. You can always have a second conversation later when you’ve gathered your thoughts, or send a follow-up message with your response after the heat of the moment has passed.
  4. Don’t hide or procrastinate. It’s easy to hide behind emails or text communication because you can lob your thoughts over the fence to get it off your shoulders and plop it into their court. Consider when you need a call, videoconference, or meeting to discuss a topic, move something forward right away, or put an issue to bed. 
  5. A good visual can make all the difference. Some people need a visual aid to help them grasp a concept. Consider when a topic might benefit from something people can see to help them connect the dots. This can be something you prepare beforehand, or a quick sketch you create on a whiteboard to help people grasp the idea.
  6. Sometimes you just can’t beat a blowhard. There are people who need to hear themselves talk and refuse to listen. Don’t try to win. Instead, figure out how you can slowly persuade them over the longer term. Share your perspective but don’t expect to convince them to agree with you today.
  7. Let others be heard. Listening is probably the most powerful tool you have in your communications toolbox. Everyone wants to feel that their voice matters. 

And don’t forget, most people never get thanked for the good work they do—and it means a lot when they do. Thank people for contributing and validate them when you hear something that adds to the conversation.

This post was originally published on October 27, 2019 and updated on November 18, 2020.

Photo by Headway on Unsplash
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Communication Shortcuts Hurt in the Long Run

Shortcuts

There’s a difference between doing something efficiently and taking a shortcut. In business, taking a shortcut almost always means delivering something inferior, but more quickly or less expensively.

The same is true in communication. Shortcuts make it inferior and less impactful. They open the door to misunderstanding, frustration, and mistakes. All of these are costly in the long run.

Leaders who invest in good, clear, timely, and empathetic communication gain more trust from their followers. They have teams who know they matter. Those teams always outperform teams who don’t. 

And they don’t take shortcuts, either.

Photo by Vladislav Babienko on Unsplash

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