Jargon always gets my attention, but probably not how you intended

Jargon in your business writing immediately gets my attention.

It’s jarring for me when I trip unexpectedly on those special words or acronyms only understood by your in-crowd.


As an outsider, I wonder if you understand what you are talking about at the moment I am trying to understand what you are talking about.

I don’t think that’s an effective communication tactic.

Jargon hurts business communication, in print or spoken delivery. Don’t take shortcuts. Describe what’s happening. Imagine you know little or nothing about the topic. Help your audience understand, instead of annoying it.

Over 30 years as a journalist, I spent much of my time deciphering jargon in business and government reports. I don’t recall jargon ever helping me understand. I only kept reading because I was paid to keep reading.

Descriptive words, delivered in short sentences, are your friends.

Thanks to Kinda Gorman for this Twitter wisdom…

My steps to health usually top 15,000 every day, Fitbit says

I wear out running shoes. Often.

I have a secret to share with you.

Well, it’s more of an obsession, truth be told.

You see, for years – for decades, really – I’ve been sneaking away from home every day. From work at the office, too.

Sometimes, when I’m on family outings, I quietly step away, attracting as little attention as I can.  Then 15 or 20 minutes later, I return as if nothing happened.

Sometimes, I get sideways looks as sweat drips from my forehead.  I expect some people wonder what’s going on.

I know better, but I still catch myself pausing and hoping nobody notices my repeated absences. 

Some days, I joke about it.  Some days, I might call it my 10K compulsion.

I’m talking 10,000 steps.  Every day. That’s what many “medical experts” online say everyone should walk daily to boost their health. There’s now research suggesting around 5,000 steps a day is an effective minimum daily walking goal.

Usually, I log triple that number by bedtime: 15-K a day. 

Sometimes I top 20,000 steps by midnight.  What a rush!

I own my daily pace.  Honestly, I can’t say my Fitbit made me do it.

Walking the land

I’ve been a serial walker since I was a teen. I’ve never seemed to be able to take a step back.

I remember walking the concession roads around the farm where I grew up, sun or rain.  

Swayze farm near Elfrida, in Hamilton Ontario
The Swayze Farm at Elfrida, in rural Hamilton, Ontario, around 1995

Or I walked the laneway to the back forty on sultry southern Ontario summer evenings.  

I must have known every rut and ditch as I walked through the fields.

In summer, I’d have Blue Jays baseball games playing my knock-off Walkman. 

Sadly, I wasn’t one of the cool kids sporting my iPod of the ’80s.  

I always bought a portable cassette player with an AM radio in it. 

In winter, my cheap headphones — the ones with orange foam ear pads— were tucked under my toque.

I listened to the Maple Leafs lose games while watching for patches of ice underfoot.

Me and my running shoes – we have always been a great pair.

This battered old Fitbit is a constant walking companion.

Today, I am taking steps to validate my compulsion. Normalize it, perhaps.

There are two dogs at home that need walks.  Lots of walks.  Long walks. 

They don’t bark when they are tired. 

Nor do I, so it appears.

I proudly walk by my own path today, knowing that medical science vindicates my obsession. 

Here’s what Prevention Magazine says about regular walking.

Improve your mood

Not only does a walk help me cool off after an argument, walking also helps me manage the dark days of winter.  

If I don’t walk, I notice the world drags me down.  And that’s my cue to grab the dogs’ leads and poop bags—and saddle up for a long walk.

Or return an overdue library book to the night drop slot, a 30-minute round trip from home on foot.  

After the walk, I’m not even bummed by the overdue fine.

Or the fact the Leafs lost.  Again.

Creative juices start flowing

I like to walk first thing in the morning, before breakfast.  Ten minutes around the block wakes me up. It gets me thinking constructively about the day ahead. 

Later, if I hit writer’s block at work, I leave from my desk for a stroll around the neighbourhood.  

As I wander, I let my mind wander. Like writer and artist Austin Kleon, who is an avid walker.

Walking works wonders for my creativity.

Lower risk of chronic disease

Regular walkers have lower blood sugar levels. 

They have lower blood pressure levels. 

And a 30 percent lower risk of cardio-vascular disease.

I’m counting on that.

The Cleveland Clinic praises walking to help you lose weight, too.

You’ll be more ‘regular

Ahem.

Yes, I do think walking helps keep my bowels working like clockwork.  

Thank you for asking.

Ahem.

And here’s a walking bonus I never thought of before…

Your goals become reachable

It’s all about routine, Prevention says.  Once you have one healthy routine, you’re more likely to continue it and adopt other healthy behaviours.  

And that will help you reach other personal goals.

But I wonder.  

When I don’t have an overdue library book or the dogs hide from me behind the furniture, 

Oh.  Excuse me for just a second.  Let me tap my Fitbit.

Hmmm—only 8,903 steps.  

Please excuse me. I’ll be right back.

Anyone like to join me for a little walk around the block in the fresh air?

But first, can someone direct me to the nearest washroom?

Please?

Thank you.

This is adapted from a project speech presented on Oct. 12, 2018, at Cambridge Toastmasters.

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.