Business storytelling: Put your story to work


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.

Santa Claus Parades offer International Students fun in Waterloo and Cambridge

Santa Claus on parade float with child
Santa Claus and a young helper ride the final float in the Hespeler Santa Claus parade in 2017.

I encourage my international students at Conestoga College to enjoy Santa Claus parades as the weather turns colder.

Every Canadian city, town, and village seems to have a Santa Claus parade in late November or early December. They’re community gatherings where parents and children gather to watch marching bands, floats, and usually fire trucks.

December 18, 2023, two big parades in Waterloo Region offer different experiences. In all, eight Santa Claus parades are planned for autumn 2023 in Waterloo Region.

For my international students from past semesters in Brantford, that city’s Santa Claus Parade starts at 6 p.m. on November 25, 2023, along Dalhousie Street. 

Kitchener and Waterloo parade

The first Santa Claus parade on November 18 is the Kitchener-Waterloo event, along Weber Street. It starts at 10 a.m. at Frederick Street near the Downtown Kitchener Campus of Conestoga College. The parade passes near the Waterloo campus of Conestoga. It ends at Erb Street in downtown Waterloo.

It will probably take about an hour or so for all of the floats and displays to pass any location on the route. By tradition, Santa Claus rides a float at the end of the parade, waving to children and wishing a Merry Christmas to all.

Cambridge parades

At 6 p.m., November 18, the Cambridge Santa Claus parade follows Hespeler Road, I startes at Dunbar Road, travels north, and ends at Lang’s Drive. It features illuminated decorations on floats.

Cambridge also hosts a smaller parade on December 2 at 12 p.m. It is in the former Hespeler Village downtown, north of Highway 401. That parade follows Queen Street, starting near Groh Avenue and finishing in Forbes Park on Tannery Street.

Cambridge was formed from three different communities 50 years ago, including Hespeler. The community there celebrates its independence from Cambridge whenever it can, often with its own Hespeler-named celebrations.

Personal Parade planning

Plan to arrive earlier than the start time at the parade route, perhaps an hour or two in the case of larger parades that draw large crowds along the sidewalks. 

People often arrive early with bring lawn chairs, hot drinks in thermal cups and bags of snacks. They position themselves along the curb edge of the sidewalk, and wait. People may then stand behind them in second and third rows.

If you’ve never watched a parade in cool or cold weather, I advise dressing more warmly than you first think you need to – even if the weather seems pleasant. If there’s wind, I always feel much colder while standing still. Rain or snow always tests the best of my warm-weather clothing.

I’ve never found running shoes practical footwear when standing on a cold concrete sidewalk. My feet always get cold. I feel miserable, shuffling and stomping my feet to warm up.

Donation requests at parades

Don’t be surprised to see donation requests from some groups passing along on the parade.

Volunteers from local food banks walk the parade routes, collecting cash and food donations people brought with them.

There’s also a good chance you’ll see people carrying buckets and asking for cash donations to help pay for organizing the parade. Marching bands, for example, usually charge a performance fee to cover their travel and operating costs, even if the musicals are volunteers or students.

Christmas holiday parades are a part of local traditions that I genuinely hope my international students can participate in and enjoy.

Buses to parades

The Kitchener-Waterloo parade is easy for students in Kitchener and Waterloo to access using Grand River Transit buses or ION Light Rail Transit. There are several tram stops near the parade route.

The Cambridge parades are also accessible by GRT buses for my students living in Kitchener-Waterloo. 

For the November 18 parade, it’s likely most efficient to depart Kitchener from the Fairview Park Mall station using the Route 302 Express bus.

That route stops along Hespeler Road in the middle of the parade route, at Cambridge Centre Shopping Centre transit station. City crews usually start closing Hespeler Road to traffic at about 5:45 p.m. That detours the 302 Route buses to the east along Conestoga Boulevard.

Leaving Kitchener on December 2 to reach the Hespeler village parade, the most direct transit option also starts from Fairview Park Mall station.

Take the Route 302 or Route 206 buses to Sportsworld Station, then transfer to Route 203 buses. The 203 Route has several stops in the Hespeler village area, which shuts to traffic for the parade.

Rake-to-the-curb leaf collection starts Nov. 13 in West Galt

Maple leaves on the ground on an autumn day.

Halloween is history and it’s time to start thinking about the city’s rake-to-the-curb leaf collection, set to start Nov. 8 and continue through Dec. 6, 2023 in Cambridge.

City crews will collect the leaves for composting, once section of the city at a time. Look for an interactive online map at this link, under the “Cambridge Leaf Collection Program” drop-down section.

Leaf collection times

Here’s what West Galt residents need to know about leaf collection:

  • Nov. 13- 17 – collection mostly in the triangle of west Galt between the Grand River, St. Andrew’s Street and the south city limits.
  • Nov.  20-24 – collection west of Rosslyn Road and north of Bismark Drive; and south of Blenheim Road to St. Andrew’s Street.
  • Nov. 27-Dec. 1  – collection north of Blenheim Road including Blair Village, west of the Grand River.
Cambridge city crews collecting leaves.

The city encourages property owners to leave leaves in place over the winter, providing habitat for pollinator like bees and butterflies.  

Cambridge is designated a Canadian Bee City, for local efforts to protect pollinator habitat.

Or you can rake, mulch and compost, to keep the nutrients on your property for your 2024 growing season.

Yard Waste pickup ends week of November 22

Region of Waterloo curbside yard waste collection continues for two more weeks in 2023: Nov. 6 and Nov. 20.

Bagged yard waste collection in Cambridge is provided by the Region of Waterloo.

You may also take your bagged leaves and yard waste to the Cambridge Waste Management Centre, 201 Savage Dr., Monday to Saturday between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. Fees may apply.

Here’s the city’s leaf collection tips video:

Zoom? Zoom! Online college teaching puts my communication skills to the stress test

Updated November 5, 2023

The room 235 classroom clock never changed during the Covid-19 lockdown. Photo by Kevin Swayze

The clock on the wall showed 14 minutes to 11.

That’s what I remember from March 12, 2020.

That was the last day I stood in classroom 235 at Conestoga College in Kitchener. I said goodbye to my business communication students, complained about the broken clock and walked out the door. 

My first winter teaching contract was over. I was looking ahead to returning to that room in May.

The world had other plans.

On Friday the 13th, 2020, Ontario Premier Doug Ford started talking about how Ontario would respond to something called COVID-19. Four days later, the province was locked down.  Everyone was ordered to stay home.  My wife and oldest daughter started sewing surgical masks from cotton fabric originally planned for wall hangings and quilts. 

The first time I went for groceries wearing a floral green mask, I snatched the last two packages of toilet paper from the shelves of my closest Food Basics store.

Coveted Covid toilet paper in March 2020. By Kevin Swayze

And stood in line for an hour to get to the checkout. It felt like I was in a store in Florida under a Hurricane watch.

Lockdown learning

I did return to teaching in May 2020. Call it lockdown learning: My classroom reopened on Zoom.  Thirty international students and me managed the stuttering “high-speed internet.”  I was in my basement. They were jammed in little apartments and basements across Waterloo Region.

Nobody turned their cameras on.  Little black squares for students.  I was teaching into the abyss.

I was learning how to communicate all over again. I was learning and modelling business communication in the new online world.

I thought I was an effective communicator before.  Now, I was a drill sergeant in a supportive communications boot camp. No yelling. No pushups. No 20-mile marches.

I poured on patience and empathy.   Laughed a lot.  Commiserated.  Modelled effective communication tactics, like active listening and open questions.  I offered what felt like decades-long pauses after questions, offering addled students space to reply through audio distortion.

How much impact?

I now wonder how much difference my efforts actually made, considering how unfriendly zoom is for inter-personal communication.

My personal dislike of video communications came through, as my anxiety increased. I can only wonder what three hours of a talking head filling the screen for students did to their stress and anxiety.

Now, after I’m back to teaching in-person classes all the time, I see more research into the profound differences between in-person and online communication.

Researchers tracked brain activity when two people interacted, in person and online. The results didn’t surprise me: it’s harder to connect with someone online.

“In this study we find that the social systems of the human brain are more active during real live in-person encounters than on Zoom,” said Hirsch, the Elizabeth Mears and House Jameson Professor of Psychiatry, professor of comparative medicine and neuroscience, and senior author of the study.

“Zoom appears to be an impoverished social communication system relative to in-person conditions.”

When I’m teaching, it’s all about inter-personal communication. Without trusting me, socially, I doubt students – or anyone – will consider what I share.

My communication style

After I completed a Toastmasters International communication style survey, it was no surprise how I responded to online teaching stress. Here are my results, all scored out of 10.

  • 9 – Supportive – patient, cooperative, and sympathetic. Active listening. Calm and steady – I don’t like tension! (There’s also anegative aspect to the score: I am sometimes indecisive).
  • 2 – Analytical – cautious, precise, and disciplined. Diplomatic. (negative: I can be a perfectionist).
  • 1 – Initiating – sociable and enthusiastic.  Easy communication. Respond to praise (Negative aspects: I tend to talk more than listen).
  • 0 – Direct – results-oriented, focused and competitive (Negative aspects: impatient and demanding)

Confirmed: I am a supportive communicator.  

I don’t push technology to solve problems. I rarely order people around.

Instead of struggling with my class PowerPoint, I tend to talk more about prefer talking Poutine and burritos to keep student attention. Sharing favourite recipes!

I ask questions.  I want to hear about a student’s life experience before logging into the classroom.

Minimal lectures.  I encourage students to share their knowledge.

Their success is my success. 

Online connections

Over six Covid semesters, students respond out of the ether, from overcrowded apartments, or using iPhones while riding a bus home from work on a winter night.

Even during the most stressful online days of Covid, students gave me more than 90 percent positive results in school-wide class experience surveys.  

And I thank them all for teaching me how to improve.

My new normal  – teaching in real and virtual – is all about doubling down on collaboration and conversation.

Classroom 235 looked pretty well the same before Covid lockdown, as after. By Kevin Swayze

I was zooming again in September 2022, but one of my three classes was in person. In the same classroom, I walked out of two and half years ago.  Weird. Very Weird.

The clock on the classroom wall still showed 14 minutes to 11 as the students walk in and I greet them wearing a paper surgical mask.

A lot happened in the 914 days since I last walked back into room 235 – and a lot stayed the same.

This post is based on a speech presented – online – at Cambridge Toastmasters Sept. 15, 2022.

$1.2 M Dickson Park grandstand construction nearly complete in West Galt

It looks like the reconstruction of the Dickson Park grandstand will be done by winter.

Work involves a top-to-bottom restoration of the 104-year-old historically designated structure.

Work started in late July 2023 on the nearly $1.3 million project, funded by the City of Cambridge and Ottawa.

Work involves repairs to the flat roof, replacing the wooden bench seating and concrete foundation, and new access step repairs.

To passersby, reconstruction of the Dickson Park grandstand looks like it will be done by the time winter weather arrives in December 2023.

On Sat., Nov. 4, 2023, painters worked in the unseasonably warm 9 C weather, working under the roof from a cherry picker lift.

  • Dickson Park Grandstand 2023 reconstruction showing new wooden seating.
  • Dickson Park Grandstand 2023 reconstruction showing rotten wood removed from structure.
  • Dickson Park Grandstand 2023 reconstruction showing painting underway.
  • Dickson Park Gran.dstand 2023 reconstruction showing work nearly complete on new flat roof
  • Dickson Park Grandstand 2023 reconstruction cost on sign.

Dickson Park History

Dickson Park was created in 1871 when William Dickson Jr. donated 21 acres of land to the Town of Galt.

The original grandstand was built in 1891 or 1892, says Jim Quantrell, in his history book Time Frames, from the City of Cambridge Archives.

The grandstand was doubled in size around 1904, as the Galt Horse Show was a big annual event in Dickson Park at the time.

On Jan. 8, 1916, the grandstand burned to the ground. Three boys later admitted to setting the fire.

Today’s grandstand in Dickson Park was built in 1919. Today, it is a historically designated structure under the Ontario Heritage Act.

Use the slider to compare now and then photos. There’s been a grandstand at Dickson Park in Cambridge since 1890 or 1891. The photo of the original grandstand is courtesy of the Cambridge City Archives. It shows the structure after it was expanded in 1904. It burned to the ground in January 1916. Today’s grandstand was built in 1919 and is undergoing renovations in 2023.