Business storytelling: Put your story to work

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Humans are wired to connect by hearing and telling stories

Kevin Swayze business storytelling
Kevin Swayze, business storyteller and presentation coach.

Put the power of business storytelling to work when you want your message heard — and remembered.

Connect with your customers.

Craft engaging sales presenations.

Build your brand online and in person.

Personal, deliberate storytelling does that — and more.

Kevin Swayze helps you unearth, shape and empower your story so it cuts through the static of social media. He’ll guide you to give reporters what they want to boost your image in earned media opportunities. Business storytelling helps you win positive attention in our age of distraction

Give your audience what it wants

Kevin has 30+ years of journalism experience digging for the root of what’s going on. After writing thousands of stories on daily deadlines, Kevin knows how to zero in on the key issues. He asks questions to polish your next blog entry, craft a memorable Facebook post memorable or impress clients during your next business presentation.

Put business storytelling to work

Kevin crafts messages using Emotional Intelligence and proven journalism tactics. Honestly, transparency and empathy build memorable sponsored content, sales presentations or keynote speeches. Kevin prepares you for the moment your elevator pitch impresses an investor.

Deliver your message with impact

Kevin coaches you on how to effectively connect with your audience by expanding your toolkit of interpersonal tactics and online communication skills. Learn engaging and entertaining tactics of audience engagement. Hold everyone’s attention in the room from the first breath of your speech all the way to the closing applause.

Contact Kevin today to help you build compelling, persuasive messages that are remembered and shared. Reach him by email; text or voice at 226-924-4237, or use the contact form below.

Put social media storytelling to work to help your job search

Social media job search tips

I believe social media best thing that ever happened to your job search – and perhaps the worst thing that ever happened to your job search.

Anymore, finding a new job isn’t about how many cover letters and many resumes you email to as many job postings you can find while searching at online employment sites.

Today, it’s probably never been more important to build relationships with people online – and in-person – to find the job you’re looking for.

And it’s about ensuring your social media activity doesn’t scare away potential employers. Or get you fired from a job because of what you posted online. Cybervetting by employers is now the norm.

As a communications coach and former online journalist, I cringe when I see and hear some of the things people post online.  Things that wouldn’t make me want to hire that person – and perhaps prompt me to fire that person.

Please join me on May 31, 2021, for a free webinar where we can talk about social media and your job search in a free webinar hosted by IdeaExchange.org.  That’s what we used to call Public Library in Cambridge, Ontario.

We’ll talk about how to tell your story and present your personal brand online. How to build it.  How to protect it. 

We’ll talk about ways of using social media to tell the story about you as the ideal employee to your ideal employer.

And we’ll talk about how to use social media tools like TikTok, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to find jobs that were never advertised — and how to connect with people who can help you find a job.

Please join me for the free webinar starting at 10:30 a.m. so we can share our ideas and talk about telling your story to help you find the job you want.


Please use the form below to contact Kevin Swayze, so he can put his business storytelling experience to work helping you find, shape and share your message with impact.

Contact Kevin by email or contact him by mobile phone: 226-924-4237.


Speech writing: Audience first, then tell your story

Man speaking in front of a seated audience
Man speaking in front of a seated audience in a lecture hall.

If you want to be a better public speaker, start by listening.

Effective speech writing is all about knowing who you are talking to, and giving them what they want – or need – to hear.

It’s a hard lesson for me to learn – especially when there’s a police officer in plain clothes staring you down.

One day, somewhere back in mid-2002, I was asked to speak at a lunchtime Rotary club meeting about journalism and the news business.  Easy enough, I thought.  At that point, I just received my 20-year pin serving the trenches at the Cambridge Reporter newspaper. I was the newly appointed editor and feeling pretty good about myself.

Great stories are good, but

With all those years a reporter, photographer and editor, I knew I had great stories.

I cobbled together a speech about how I approached the news business, how I made a living asking questions. How I found stories.  How I shaped those stories for my audience.  And, of course, What was the weirdest thing I ever wrote about?

(It was a guy who brought a potato into the newsroom one day, looking for a story.  The spud looked exactly like former U.S. President Richard Nixon’s face and head.  Seriously.  Photo and story for the front page, please).

Anyway, my speech went well enough. I told few more stories while neglecting to delve deeply into why one story gets published and another doesn’t. 

I had my speech all written down – and kept reading from it behind the podium.  No point-form notes to I could keep my eyes on the audience. I droned on for 10 minutes. I didn’t vary down my tempo and use inflection to emphasize important points.   

I didn’t think through who was in the audience. Who might put their hand up in the question and answer session?

Be prepared

I broke a basic rule of journalism: be prepared.

Rotarians? What could go wrong? All I had to do was call the organizer and ask who the club members are.  Or more accurately, remind me who was likely to be in the audience.  I knew most of them from writing stories about what they’ve done in town over the years.

Local business leaders who have learned how to ask good questions, because their livelihood depends on good information.  The crowd gathered in the Galt Country Club meeting room was also salted with other community leaders, people who also knew how to ask good questions. After all, nobody builds credibility for their personal brand by talking all the time.

None of that was in my mind as set myself up as the target in the question-and-answer session.  I started to recognize the faces as they asked me about stories I had covered, softball questions about why the media does what it does and why I like my job.  (Answer:  I love asking questions).

Then she stood up and greeted me politely.  I wished I remembered she was a one-time homicide investigator and was now commander of the local police detachment. Super friendly.  With a detective’s mindset.  I didn’t see it coming.

“I’ve heard there’s a Code of Ethics for Journalists – so why didn’t you talk about that in your speech.  What do you say to people who don’t think journalists have any ethics?”

Busted.

Answer obvious questions

I wasn’t ready for an obvious question.  I stammered and wobbled at the podium, before making a half-hearted explanation. It was ugly.

I wasn’t ready with a story to tell a personal story around the never-ending public discourse of ethics in journalism. Something everyone seems to have an opinion on.  Something that’s been simmering for centuries, long before people started accusing the media of creating “Fake News.”

I learned.  Always remember: audience first is the smart way to approach speech writing.

Listen to what they say — and imagine what they are likely to ask.

Adapted from a speech presented at Cambridge Toastmasters Dec. 13, 2018.


Please use the form below to contact Kevin Swayze, so he can put his business storytelling experience to work helping you find, shape and share your message with impact.

Contact Kevin by email or contact him by mobile phone: 226-924-4237.

Like to teach? You’ll learn more than you expected

Conestoga College teaching jobs fair
Conestoga College in Kitchener, Ontario, plans online teaching job fairs May 15 and May 19, 2021.

If you’ve ever thought about teaching what you know, Conestoga College is looking for you.

For the last two years, I’ve delivered Citizen Journalism and business Client Communications classes at the Doon campus in Kitchener, Ontario. The part-time teaching opportunities give me a chance to share the communication skills learned my a 30-odd year career in newspaper and online journalism, business storytelling and media relations. 

It was a coming home for me when I returned to campus in 2019.  I graduated from Conestoga in 1986 with a Journalism-Print Diploma (honours) and started my journalism-communications career. I never thought I’d be a teacher, but I responded to a last-minute request to take a class. And I haven’t looked back.

Part-time teaching jobs

Conestoga is looking for more part-time faculty.  I encourage you to think about sharing your career skills with students in programs ranging from business to social services and animation to bricklaying. 

Register for an online Part-time Faculty Information Session & Recruitment Event on Saturday, May 15, 2021, and again on Wednesday, May 19, 2021. Both sessions run 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Online registration

Register for the job fair using this online form

If you can’t attend the sessions, you may also leave your contact information to receive an application form for potential teaching opportunities, the form says. 

In my experience, if you’re serious about wanting to teach, Conestoga is ready to help you succeed while helping your students succeed.

Without exception, over the last two years, everyone I’ve worked with at Conestoga has welcomed and encouraged me to learn and grow. I started teaching without any formal teaching training on my resume.  Conestoga offers training, workshops and discounted tuition for continuing education courses to build your teaching toolkit.  

I’ve found that the more I teach, the more I learn. The skills I learn and practice while teaching helps me build my career as a project-based business communications consultant, after leaving The Record newspaper in 2016.

In truth, I wonder some days if I’m learning more than I am teaching my students. 

Teaching makes me better as a communications consultant and business storyteller. After all, my day job employs the same fundamental skills I use in class – and vice versa.

My birthday gift? Learning how storytelling shapes me

My media pass – now cancelled.

I gave myself a special birthday gift as I turned 51 years old.  

I left my job and accepted a buyout.  A “voluntary departure,” as it was called by Metroland, owner of The Waterloo Region Record

To me, it was a “self-administered layoff” from 30 years of journalism. My dream job was leaving me, so I decided to leave it first. Freedom, right?

One problem:  I had no fallback plan.  So for a reliable guy who’s always sought stability and comfort – I’m a stick-in-the-mud Taurus, after all – 2016 was kind of a freaky year.

No worries, I thought. I never seriously considered falling into a mid-life crisis, although the thought of a buying little red convertible sounds sweet. I already like riding motorcycles and gawking at airplanes.

Instead, of panicking – well, at least not panicking too much – I thought about how I got to age 51. Who am I? How have I handled challenges over the years?

It was clear to me I got to where I am by asking questions and sharing stories.

My farm story

I grew up on a farm just south of Hamilton.  Up on the Mountain, if you know the area.  The farm is just east of the country crossroads of Elfrida, where Highways 20, 53 and 56 meet.

The Swayze farm, at Elfrida, near Hamilton, Ontario.

I used to attend the little red-brick Elfrida United Church in the village. It was just across the highway from an Esso gasoline station and a Voyageur restaurant where truckers and school buses always stopped.  

Today, Hamilton is overrunning the place: townhouses are on marching across farm fields. The little church closed and was converted into a restaurant. Beside the former church are liquor and beer stores.  My fire-and-brimstone, teetotaling Methodist grandmother must be spinning in her grave in the Swayze Family Cemetery, nearby on Highway 56. 

The Swayze Family cemetery, Highway 56, south of Hamilton, Ont.

When I stand where I expect to be buried, I see superstores emblazoned with names like Wal-Mart, Canadian Tire and Fortinos. I always think “There goes the neighbourhood.”

But if I turn to the right, I see the farm where I worked in the fields every summer. Everybody pitched in working in the fields.  I remember how money was tight.  My mom made many of the clothes my little brother and I wore to public school.  My dad milked cattle morning and night, every day of the year. I remember no holiday trips when I was young.

Self-reliance grows

Farm life made me self-reliant. I watched my dad repair equipment in the fields, pour concrete around the barns and fix the roof of a century-old farmhouse.  I watched my mother make quilts and wedding dresses to earn a little extra money. I’m not a half-bad cook: she taught me well. 

I devoured history books as a kid – and still do when I make the time as an adult. How-to books are now my go-to reading as an adult. Storytelling teaches me how to design things, build things and repair things.

My love of photography landed me a job in a camera store at age 16. I was researching and writing after school, too, making a few bucks selling photos and stories to aviation magazines in England and the United States.

In high school, I was thinking about going to university and earning an engineering degree.  I dreamed about designing things and building things.  Then I ran square into my nemesis: three math courses in Grade 13. I worked hard to pass them all and barely scraped through to pass algebra. That experience prompted me to scrap any plans for a math-laden career, such as engineering. 

Journalism is the way

Instead, I studied Journalism at Conestoga College in Kitchener. All the while, I continued working at camera stores to help pay my bills while in school. I graduated with honours in 1986 and started working at a little business magazine in Guelph.

Kevin Swayze media card 1987
Kevin Swayze’s 1987 media card while working at the Cambridge Reporter newspaper.

A year later, I landed a job at the Cambridge Daily Reporter. I liked getting paid to chase fire trucks and ask people questions. I also learned how to apply my rudementary math skills to explain city budgets and tax increases. I learned to use questions and storytelling so numbers made sense to me and my readers.

Redheads

Along the way, I fell for a redhead in Hespeler. Christine and I were blessed with three children: Ben, Alison and Theresa.  Then life got complicated and I learned how resilient I am.

Christine was diagnosed with cancer in June 2003.  The Reporter closed three months later, as her chemotherapy continued.  I landed work at The Record a few months after that. Christine beat back her cancer by late 2004, but it returned in summer 2005. I cared for her at home so our children kids had every moment they could with their mom, before she died on Boxing Day 2005.

I raised three kids on my own. Kids never complained about my cooking that I remember.

I continued volunteering at the Cambridge YMCA as a fitness instructor, too. I still volunteer at the Y today.

Cambridge YMCA, 250 Hespeler Road, Cambridge.

Four years ago, I met Kim.  She is a redhead. I am a lucky man.

Today, we live just off Blair Road in Cambridge, Ontario. My children are all – more or less – launched from the house, working or at university. Kim’s son, Adam, is a bit younger and spends every other week with us as he nears his teen years.

There’s also two dogs, and a minimum of three cats at the house any given day.

Looking back over how I got here, all this storytelling to myself is comforting. I’m not too worried about bailing on my job before it bailed on me.  And to be honest, I kind of liked not working most of spring, summer and fall of 2016, after I left newspapers behind.

In between sending out resumes in 2016, I did a little freelance writing, too. I felt like I was a teenager again, telling and selling stories.

Public speaking is storytelling

I joined Cambridge Toastmasters after I left the Record. I have my dad’s ability to talk with anyone, anytime.  I’m also not bad at applying my storytelling skills to writing speeches and delivering presentations.

I also started volunteering with the Mill Race Folk Festival in 2016. I stared by taking care of publicity and later joined the board. I put my storytelling experience to work while applying for private and government grants to help pay for the free-admission community music event on the Civic Holiday Weekend in August.

Sorting out signs at the 2016 Mill Race Festival of Traditional Folk Music, in Cambridge, Ont.

By the end of the 2026, I landed a 10-week gig as a communications officer at McMaster University.  A good start to a new career, perhaps?

Maybe that’s the birthday gift I gave myself that year. The confidence to seek out a new future. I’ll let you know how it goes.

This is the text of an icebreaker speech project presented at Cambridge Toastmasters Jan. 5, 2017.