Want to expand your speaking and storytelling skills and grow your influence ? This is Speakipedia Media brought to you by speakipedia .com. I'm your host, , bringing you straight talk and smart strategies from visionary speakers, thought leaders, and storytellers. My guest is an award -winning storyteller, comedian, and funny motivational speaker. She served as the keynote speaker for the International Convention, along with numerous conferences and corporate events. She just launched her one -woman show, Who Hijacked My Fairy Tale, in theaters all over the country. And she elevates leaders, entrepreneurs, professionals, and speakers to that magical place where the art of meets the of persuasion. Please welcome National Speakers Association Hall of Fame presenter, Kelly Swanson.


Kelly Swanson (01:03)

Wow, thank you Dave. That was a build up right there. Wish you could follow me everywhere. Nice to be here! you.



I'm sorry. Well, yeah, the hard part about a strong intro is we have to live up to it, right? But I don't think that's going to be an issue. So, can't…


Kelly Swanson (01:16)

Well, hopefully people here are listening more than they're listening in my audiences when it comes to your time. I do too.


Dave Bricker (01:24)

I doubt that. But Kelly, this is going to be fun because I get to take a break from talking about the power of storytelling and let you do it. So tell us what's so powerful about stories?


Kelly Swanson (01:41)

Well, I'm hoping we can have a conversation. You won't leave it all up to me because you have wonderful nuggets of wisdom. But that's a loaded question too, as you know, why stories matter. I mean, I could go on for days about all the different ways. Let me… Stories give our message meaning. I believe stories give life meaning. But stories are compelling and entertaining.


They say our attention span is that of a gnat or like four seconds. But Dave, they can, you know, they'll say we don't have enough attention span for a meeting and yet we'll go on Netflix and watch four hours of A Guy with a Mullet and a Tiger. You and I both know that when somebody is suspended in a , you can keep them there for a long time, much longer than data anyway. A couple more things though, I could go more. gives context and story can explain things when you speak a different language from your buyer like financial planners or doctors or if you have industry speak that's confusing a story can be used to paint a picture in an analogy or in a story they can understand that can then be related to what you're talking about. Story connects emotionally. It allows them to like trust, believe you, feel like they know you because when we're, I believe we're all in the of sales and the first thing you have to do, people aren't gonna buy from you or believe what you have to say or whatever, unless they like you. And story shows us who you are without you having to tell us. Those are a few of, I think of the most important ways that would you concur that those are kind of the top?


Dave Bricker (03:24)

I would expand on that just a little bit because you're talking if you go up to somebody that you care about and you say, let me tell you what your problem is. They shut down. They don't listen. They can't process it. And if you say, let me tell you a story, all of a sudden you've got a back door and they are processing that with a different part of their brain and they're going to listen.


Because even though the story is about them indirectly, it's not about them. And you talk about people buying, and that's not necessarily people giving you money. That's people buying your ideas, buying your credibility, buying your authority, buying your authenticity. And so I like that you jumped right into this idea of we're all in the business of sales.


Kelly Swanson (04:18)

And you're right too, when you tell people what to do or give them advice, that has a pushing action. When you tell a story, I mean, they climb right on in. People love to hear it. It's a non -threatening way to give them advice or present a problem or show that you understand where they're coming from. I mean, there are just many uses for it.


Dave Bricker (04:40)

Yeah, it's, I don't have to tell you how powerful it is. It's certainly been my playground for many years. And look, speaking of stories, we all have one. And there was a time back in elementary school where the teacher said, what do you want to do when you grow up? And somebody said, fireman, doctor, nurse, nobody said accountant, but nobody said storyteller either. So how did you fall into this line of work?


Kelly Swanson (05:11)

They didn't say speaker, either. I always tell people, that's the job you do when you fail at everything else and you become a motivational speaker. Not really. Well, and what I think is interesting that I haven't begun to explore until recently over the past couple of years is when I look back on my life, Dave, I was shy as the day is long. If you turned it, looked at me, I was beet red. I was picked on, I was bullied.


The world was toxic to me and I was afraid and so what did I do? And I don't even know if you know this part of the story I escaped into make -believe I created an imaginary town and all these characters and I can look back now and go Oh my god, look what you were doing. You were escaping You were finding joy by writing a different story to live in and it brought you comfort and I thought oh my gosh, how interesting that now I talk about—that I don't just talk about story to influence, which we'll probably talk a lot about on our call today, but that the story you write becomes the life that you live and the ability and the power we have to change our story. I'm starting to believe that reality is just data and we all look at one thing happening and we all walk away and we write a different story and life is the story we write with the data that's been put in front of us. And that is powerful. Anyway, I'm derailing, but that's,


Now that I realize it, my journey with stories started way before and the characters became my art. So they stumbled out onto paper. So I would write these stories of these ordinary people who made me laugh and made me feel things and who did extraordinary things in a very ordinary way. And it just so happened that somebody heard me tell a story one day and said, you should come tell our schools. Next thing you know, I'm telling it for schools. I was like, oh, don't like this. You know, and I like telling it for the adults in the room.


And it turned into being a storyteller and then a speaker and blah, blah, blah, blah. But I come by it honest. I mean, I lived in the world of make believe. And I'd like to tell people, I like this wording, I re -imagined my life. And I like to tell people that they can re -imagine their own lives by changing the story, but as influencers or people of impact or however you're trying to persuade people in your own work.


We have the ability to help other people reimagine their lives. And when we're selling, that's kind of what we're doing. I know that's deep, but I was like, we're helping them reimagine, we're painting a picture of what their life will look like with our product. Or as a leader, we're painting a picture of this vision we have that we can all buy into and we can all step into it and test drive that truth. It's cool, it's cool. Anyway, so there's, that's my long -winded answer to how story came into my world.


Dave Bricker (07:56)

That's all right. You're here to be as long winded as you want. I'll give you a hard time if I need to, but I doubt that I will. I have to interject there that I didn't disappear to make believe, but I was the same way. I was a really shy kid. And what I found is I could get people to stop picking on me when I drew pictures. So and I was, if you look on my Facebook page and you go through my galleries, there's the Lost High School Sketchbook.


And you can see all the wacky drawings, little puns like a heart attack and little crazy cartoons. I was always drawing when I was a kid. And that's where people would gather around and watch instead of gather around and give me a hard time. Because I was that weird kid who liked to read and didn't care or understand what other people cared about. I don't know who won the football game. I don't care. It's just… different directions. So I totally get where you're coming from. And I think so many people think, well, you're a professional speaker. You must be big time type A. No, no, I've just compensated. So.


Kelly Swanson (09:11)

Right. Yeah, I'm an incredible introvert. Getting on a stage is really, it takes a lot out of me. But it's worth it.


Dave Bricker (09:20)

Yeah, exactly. I think that's, I think many of our listeners will appreciate that too, because there's this idea that you have to have this big bold personality and like, no, you don't; you can fake it.


Kelly Swanson (09:33)

When you end up and you go see the big speakers or these ones who make the big fees and you watch them and you're like, oh, well, I mean, they're just talking. You're like, well, I thought there was more to it than that. And we build this idea that they must be doing—no, we're all just talking. We're all just having a conversation, hopefully an elevated conversation with our audience. And it is so cool as speakers.


And that is why story matters so much, because we get to take that audience on a journey and help them reimagine their own lives and think differently. And your content can't do that. I really believe it's the story that turns it into an experience.


Dave Bricker (10:15)

Right. And we were all born not knowing how to say a word. And here we are. So there's that journey through storytelling. So, Kelly, we've both made this journey into storytelling. And then we brought that into the business world of all places. And you might break it down differently, but I like to think in terms of what I call the three circles of storytelling. What to say, how to say it, and why they'll buy it. And…


Kelly Swanson (10:21)

Here we are, right?


Dave Bricker (10:43)

You might approach it differently and you can challenge that if you want, but let's talk about that first one, the what to say. So before you deliver a story, you have to create it. And people struggle with writing the story. And what are some of the challenges people come to you with and what advice do you have to offer?


Kelly Swanson (11:05)

Well, I realized recently as we've had our NSA story contest and we're all entrenched in everybody sharing their stories, I am blown away at how many people are muddy on what actually a story is. I was going way ahead of everybody not realizing that I need to back up a little bit and talk about what a story is. It's not a list of facts. That's not a story.


It doesn't mean it doesn't have a place in your speech or there can be an anecdote and there can be comedy bits. But let's first at least get on the same page of what is a story? And you're right, you have to put it together, think about it, plan it, craft it. Now I've already forgotten your question, but a story is when something happened—something happened and there was a before to it and an after to it. And there's a character in it. And I had somebody say, “What do you mean by character?” So this dog is the character of my story. I'm like, no, the person is the character unless it's a talking dog and probably not in speaking, but the character is the story. And they're like, well, what about hero? And I'm like, well, forget, don't worry about it. You're not, don't have to, they're like, I can't be a hero. I'm like, you're not Batman, that kind of hero, but the hero's taking a journey. I don't want to get too much into hero's journey because I simplify it. But it's just.


Dave Bricker (12:27)

I do too. It's great for epic films. You want to write the new Star Wars, Wizard of Oz, classic hero's journey. You want to write a speech, start shaving blocks off of that.


Kelly Swanson (12:39)

Right, right. So, yeah, a story needs to be constructed properly. It needs to finish. There are so many times I'm like, whoa, you stopped at the accident and I'd like the art of the story to be completed from the conflict to the resolution to the victory. You know, that's at its core what a story is. Now, there's also what it does.


And again, you and I use different ways to get to the same thing, but it's a tool, because I'm not teaching story to people who want a theater show. I'm teaching story to people who need to use it to go change behavior. So it's, well, what do you want to do with it? Do you know? Why are you using this story? What do you want them to think, feel, or do? Why are you using this story, and what's the lesson there? And I know you've seen that too. A lot of stories, when I say at the end, well, what's the point if there's a hesitation


It means you're not sure or you didn't verbalize it. Anyway, I'm blathering. I'm not sure. I already forgot the question.


Dave Bricker (13:41)

Well, it was about people who struggle to write stories and it sounds like we're in the same place on that too because I always say start with the transformation. If you don't know how you want your reader, your audience, your listener to think, feel, or act different, then you're not really ready to write the story. You don't have a… It's like going to the airport and saying, gee, where do I want to fly?


Kelly Swanson (14:06)

Right. And if you don't know the lesson in it, then why are you telling? Don't tell it until you already, and that's, do that on the front end. I used to say, I don't say it as much, I still should, can you tell me your story in one sentence? And I don't mean the whole plot. I mean, can you in one sentence clearly say, this was about the time I lost my job, felt defeated, found a new joy in life, learned that opportunity is around every corner I mean, around every corner. It's a long sentence, but having that control, and Dave, part of the problem is when we were growing up, at least where I was in school, well, I think being a storytelling coach, our schools have done an egregious job teaching us how to write for starters, but we were just taught, get out a piece of paper, write.


Tell us about what you did this summer and we just start to write. Many of us are not used to planning it. I spend way more time planning my story than I do actually want writing it.


Dave Bricker (15:06)

Yeah, and it's interesting because I have authors who come to me and they'll say, here's my 300,000 word manuscript. And I'll say, here's what's happened. You love to get up at five every morning and sit in front of the keyboard and hold the pen for God. And you love watching this stuff appear on the screen. And the problem is the Lord works in mysterious ways. And all of this flow writing. So if you start with that transformation, you can map it out. Okay, what are the steps to get to that transformation? Oh, let's put an intro on the front of it. And then you can flow into an outline. And so many are afraid that they're gonna lose that authenticity, that connection to the divine if they impose that structure. And I don't think that's true at all.


Kelly Swanson (16:02)

I agree and they just weren't taught a better way and then you have that's what you end up with a wall of words and another thing that happens then people wonder why their speech is so hard to memorize so hard to tell so hard to bubba bubba bubba the story so hard because it was just a wall of words without a clear structure and scenes to it and blocking and also because you didn't write it the way you talk.


I think another thing we do with that wall of words when we're sitting down to write a speech or write a story, I think we put on a set of eyes, I still do it sometimes, where when we're typing or writing, we're writing it as if it were to be read. And that doesn't translate to conversation and storytelling. I remember when I switched my process and I began writing and practicing at the same time.


So I would write it, practice how I would say it, and I would write it in a conversational way. Sometimes I wouldn't even finish sentences. And that's a big, big shift from vomiting a wall of pages and pages of words and then trying to cut it. It was like writing condensed and conversationally. Now, unfortunately, a lot of that stuff can't be turned into something that could easily be read. But that's the difference, I think, in writing and being a storyteller and a speaker is our speeches are conversations we have with our audience. They may not talk back, but so I'm constantly, how can I mess my language up enough to feel authentic, but also have beautiful language in there? That's where I have to work at it.


Dave Bricker (17:42)

Yeah. And, and I like that. What, what, I mean, everyone's process is different. If I've got a speech of a certain duration to do, I usually outline it and then I write it out, but that's mostly so I can get the word count right. So I can know figure 120 words a minute. That gives me time to pause, play, let the audience react, whatever. And then, okay, I'm a thousand words over. I've got to cut some stuff out.


Once I've got that, then I go back to the outline and I rehearse from the outline and I just like, this is my material, I know it. Because, and this taps right into my next question because look, once you write the story, you have to deliver it. And so many speakers create a script and they think, okay, I'm gonna memorize my speech and read it out of my head to the audience. And it doesn't work.


I mean, the time you spend memorizing a five -minute speech and really internalizing it, that's a big deal. So once that story is crafted, how can our listeners make that transition from to speaker? Talk about that role of strong delivery, that how to say it component of effective storytelling.


Kelly Swanson (19:00)

Well, I have to first say you need to write it in a way that's easy to say and that sounds conversational. That's critical because, you know, that's just every good speech is half script, half delivery, even if you don't script and memorize. Okay, but to delivery tips, here are some basics that come to mind from videos I've been watching recently for the contest. Don't deliver lines to the side. Deliver lines to the audience.


So even if your character and your story is over there or you're walking that way, don't talk to the side of the stage. You need to figure out and practice how to do it so that you're always delivering your lines to us because we're in the conversation. That's one key. I always say don't drop the dog. Sometimes what this means is when you're in a scene and there's a dog in it and you're carrying the dog in the scene, but a minute later you say something and you move your arm, you've dropped the dog. So try to stay in your scene. And I don't want anybody listening, I don't want you to become something you're not. I don't want you to act in authentically. I used to say don't become an actor, and then actors would say, well, that's not fair, because we're not doing that either. We're reacting in a realistic way. So I was like, okay, whatever the word is, use the space, be inside the story. That's the difference in what you said a minute ago from the people who act like they're reciting it, telling it from a safe distance. They'll ask me, how do you tell a woman with a mop? You've told it a million times and yet every time it feels real. I said because every time I'm standing in there looking around and I'm telling you what I see and I'm seeing it again for you, I'm realizing it again in the moment, I'm fully present there and the script never changes. So, so I can still stick to that same script. So stay in there. It's like you've got virtual reality glasses. And again, some of this comes in the writing too. If I can't see it, I can't connect with it. So just something, you know, a nugget of a poster on a wall or a, you know, the, the, let me see some of those characters in your story, just a little bit. We don't need a lot, but you asked about delivery. I…


Here's one trick I do is I try to unpolish myself, lean, you know, talk to the audience, interrupt myself with a comment to somebody sitting there. Those are ways you can make it feel like an organic conversation. I will also, even though I know the next word I'm going to say, I'll stop and think about it. You see, because it, it, so that I don't appear robotic, even though I know full well what I was about to say. That's a little trick that I do. Okay, that's probably enough delivery, delivery tips that I can give you. I'm sure I left some things out, but. Alright.


Dave Bricker (21:48)

Mm -hmm. Well, I know we could both go on forever with that, but it's fun stuff and it's good advice. Now, we were both music majors in our former lives. You studied classical piano, I studied jazz guitar, and let's just say at that time we weren't looking ahead to careers as professional speakers and storytellers. And then I spent some years as a sailboat bum after that.


Kelly Swanson (22:06)



Dave Bricker (22:25)

I don't think either of us leaped off the corporate ladder into the world of speaking. And I mean, sometimes speakers tell me, oh, I worked as a Fortune 500 CEO for so many years and now I'm speaking and I'm thinking, wow, I can't touch that. So what can you share about ? Because I know I've dealt with it and I'm sure you have too.


Kelly Swanson (22:41)

Yeah, yeah, me neither.


I deal with it all the time. Imposter comparing, though they have that, oh I must need to be that, or what I think the world. I spend a lot of time thinking about who my audience needs me to be or wants me to be or buyer wants me to be and I'm finally, God, finally getting to a place where I'm like no, I'm just gonna be who I'm supposed to be and go find the people who are gonna want that.


So that was, that was taking me 20 years to get there. So hey, good luck to you. But we still need to get booked. We still need to get, we need to play the game enough to where they were not too, I have to hide some of my weird, I can't lead with it because we've got to be what they're looking for. But I suffer from all the time. And then when I get to the job wondering, was I good enough? Did I do enough? Oh, person over there. Cause we got all these evaluations coming at us. I finally stopped reading them because now I'm like, look, I've been doing this 20 years.


There's gonna be everything all over the place. I'll go to my client. You asked me to be funny, motivate the group, have a message relevant to them about story, give them a couple of good tips, check, check, check, hope it was what you're looking for, get my check, call it a day. And yet many of us as speakers, we go away, we beat ourselves up, we act like we're flipping astronauts or we were hired to change the world. We weren't. We were hired to talk between two o ‘clock and 2 .15.


and they're gonna forget about most of us by dinner anyway. So that helps me feel better about that . And I also look at it like music, often. The world of music, there's no way you're gonna ever pick a favorite, a best, a right way, a wrong way. You are never going to do that.


And you and I will never, if we tried to name the best band, we won't agree. And it doesn't mean you're right or wrong, it just means you'll never get there. So that's how I see us as speaking. We're artists, we're like musicians. You've created the style of music you wanna play. I've created the style, I might have narrowed my lane down, but we play the music. Somebody in there's not gonna like that song. That's fine. That's why we need the next one to come along. And as long as we're…


Dave Bricker (25:01)

Mm -hmm.


Kelly Swanson (25:08)

correctly selling to the client, delivering on what they asked for and what we told them we would do. You know, we just, we have to appreciate the music that we're playing and walk away. And in music, people do that. They, I mean, maybe not all, I'm sure there's egos, but they just play their song and they walk away and, you know, go on to the next one. So I know it's easier said than done. And also, well, this doesn't have to do with imposter syndrome, but…


We also worry a lot about how we look doing it. Maybe women more than men, no, men worry about this too. And when I'm feeling that way, like, oh great, you know, I don't look the part, my clothes are not as nice, that one looks better doing it, I go, wait a minute, when you go serve at the soup kitchen, you don't care about what you're wearing. It doesn't matter. You're there to serve. So when I try to flip that, and go, no Kelly, you're here to serve. It doesn't matter what you're wearing. I mean, of course it does in a way, but just serve these people. And for anybody who suffers with stuff like that, I'm gonna tell you right now, it turned out to be my secret weapon. Turned out that being funny and reminding them of their crazy aunt or not looking the part would end up giving thousands of people permission and that they could do it too. So yeah, I just wanted to say that too. I probably spent a little longer on that than you would want me to.


Dave Bricker (26:37)

So it's important because it's a big obstacle for a lot of people, not just in the speaking world. And the fact of the matter is, I think it's easy for them to get an industry insider to come and speak for free. That's just professional courtesy, like you or I might go do an NSA chapter. That's just giving back to the community. They're looking for outside perspectives. And at…


Kelly Swanson (27:02)

Yes, and we don't all have to be the $20 ,000 speaker. We often get around our peers and some people will make you feel less than or it's the story we're writing because we're insecure and we need to, I believe, we need to accept…


I always say, I don't care what your fee is, don't wear it like a label. You're a CEO of your business. What do you need to do? How do you need to position yourself? You could position yourself at a lower fee and make three times as much money as somebody that positioned themself differently. So a lot of our imposter syndrome comes from the advice that we get from our peers or that we're susceptible to. And I'm gonna say this too, Dave.


The most critical advice that I've gotten over the years, if you're going to measure it, has come from other speakers, not my audience. So sometimes I have to step back and go, whoa, wait a minute. What does my audience think about this? What do my clients think about this? Everybody's going to have an opinion, and most of us mean well.


But even what you hear me say today, it's just my opinion filtered through the way that I was able to find a way to turn this into a business. Doesn't mean it's gonna be right for you. Somebody's gonna come along, do it completely different, and that's okay. And they may make more money, or they may look better doing it, or they may figure out how to get a $20 ,000 speech. Then good for them. I wish them all the best. You know, some of us are gonna play our music in Coliseums. Some of us are gonna play our music in a, you know, bar mitzvah in the corner and it's all good.


Dave Bricker (28:44)

And hey, I play in the living room and I'm happy with it. You know, we both know Dr. Margarita Gurri from NSA and she has a quote that I wish I had come up with myself. She says, when all else fails, just pretend to be yourself.


Kelly Swanson (28:48)

Right. Now.


Yeah. Well, and that's so, so true and I love Margarita and it is so true because when I start thinking, I mean, I'm talking about, you and I are talking about a topic that everybody and their brother has decided in the past year they're going to teach story. Okay. And you're probably going, wait, we were talking about it before it was cool, but it doesn't matter because even when the imposter syndrome sets in,


Dave Bricker (29:18)



Kelly Swanson (29:24)

And I'm like, oh gosh, my content, their content's better. They're gonna do story better. They've got a training company. I come back to. But nobody can take your stories. Nobody can take your personality. Nobody can replicate, duplicate. That's why I don't worry if my content's out there, because nobody, that is what each of us has that is completely unique.


And I mean, maybe somebody could try to take our story, but you know what I mean, Dave, the story piece of your presentation is nobody can touch it.


Dave Bricker (29:58)

Get it. I get it. And I mean, that's kind of that's part of the NSA value means in other industries, somebody would say, Dave, why are you having Kelly Swanson on your podcast? She's your big competitor. Like, she does everything completely different than I do. That's like, that's nothing to do with comp. I mean,


Kelly Swanson (30:18)

We are, the way I look at it is, I just had a big aha the other day where people are like, don't sell story, nobody knows they want that. And I'm like, you're kidding, story's the solution. So you and I are also doing our part in getting awareness out there to where one day hopefully we are a topic in a drop -down box. I mean, bureaus don't even have a topic for story. It's pushes into these other things. So no, there is plenty of business to go around.


I truly believe that. And there's enough for, it's like . I mean, come on. One year you might want to get Kelly come talk about it. The other year you might want to get Dave come talk about it. I mean, so what? There's no big deal. One thing too, it might not be related, but it's a good story, a little one, is that I have a speaker friend who had a job of multiple bookings. And then she referred me for the job.


Dave Bricker (31:01)

Mm -hmm.


Kelly Swanson (31:16)

So to be extra prepared, she invited me to go watch her speak at one of them. And we took notes and she sat down and said, okay, here's what they want. And here's what they're like in this, because it was in different cities. And here's this and here's this, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. You know, great. So I did what many of us tend to do. Oh, I must need to do this. I get on the client call and I tell the client, oh, don't worry. I watched the speaker from this year. She's filled me in, saves you some time, blah, blah, blah, blah. And they were kind of mad. They were like, “We didn't hire you to go be her and do what she does that way. We want you to do what you do.” In fact, and see, one of the pieces of advice, for example, was, oh, they want lots of content. This group's going, oh no, we're doing the theme around who hijacked my fairy tale and we're all gonna wear fairy tale characters and we want laughter and we want, they wanted none of, and that's where it really settled in. I was like, oh.


Dave Bricker (31:51)

Mm -hmm.


Kelly Swanson (32:16)

They want her to do what she has positioned herself and packaged herself, the product she's created, and then they went the next year and they bought a different product.


Dave Bricker (32:24)

Mm -hmm. Yeah. And that's all about listen to the client. I always get on the phone and I ask them, what outcomes are you looking for? What are you struggling with that I can help with instead of what would you like me to speak about? Completely different because that's where the story is rather than where the topic. That's the difference between being a and a storyteller. So.


Kelly Swanson (32:53)

And we have a hard time, Dave, as speakers, because we have two outcomes they're looking for. We have number one outcome. We want an experience. We want them not to be bored. There's the kind of what the meeting planner wants you to be and have. And you also have what that person in the audience is looking for and wants as a return on investment. And sometimes you also have their boss.


So you've got three, sometimes I feel like I have three different buyers that I have to appeal to in that scenario.


Dave Bricker (33:32)

and the market is upside down. And what I mean by that is think about it. Okay, they pay more money for a keynote than they do for a workshop. But when it comes to actually getting actionable outcomes, that workshop's worth five times more than the keynote. But.


Kelly Swanson (33:49)

Right. But they don't, same thing with training. Once you're coming out of a training budget and my husband used to work as a trainer and he's like, I'd work all day and still not make what you go charge for an hour. Now, the difference is the event and the expectation there, it's not, and that's what makes our job hard because it's not always a, but these people are going to walk out here and be, it isn't.


You're right, it is upside down because what meant more to them in that hour was that they had a keynote that's unforgettable so people will come to the conference next year. That meeting planner's objective was not to make sure that audience became better storytellers. Right, unless it's the corporate, I mean, it really comes down to the easiest way is when that client calls.


Dave Bricker (34:33)

Right. A keynote is entertainment


Kelly Swanson (34:45)

And it's just like you said: What are you looking for? What made you pick me? You know, and of course getting them to do most of the talking, which is something I struggle with. You know, and checking the boxes. We want somebody, see what I need to learn to do is listen, mirror, and close the deal. I tend to talk and let's do this and then, you know, and muddy the waters when it's, we want somebody funny, we want somebody to motivate, talk about parachute, yep, can do that, boom, boom, boom. Get it signed and then do the talking after.


Dave Bricker (35:14)

Yep, I like that. Let's go back to the music theme for just a moment, because you draw this wonderful analogy between music and storytelling that, hey, I really wish I'd thought of it first, but you got it.


Kelly Swanson (35:24)

Thank you.


Well, I don't know exactly what it is. What do you mean? That each one is like a note?


Dave Bricker (35:32)

Well, yeah, I heard you speak about that recently and I thought what a great that's really worth …


Kelly Swanson (35:36)



Oh, yes, I know what you're talking about because there is, there are a lot of overlaps between music and story. I see the story as notes in music, but I know what you're talking about because it does, when I stand up on the stage to teach story, the first thing that I try to tell them is that because I'm a musician and played the piano, I see story as an instrument.


Story is an instrument and that is what it is for us as speakers. No matter what you're playing or how you're using it, it's an instrument that can take people on these different journeys and tempo and variety and laughter and feeling and content and whatever. And too many people come to me and they want to learn to play the piano in one lesson. And I'm like, I…


that's not how this works. You've got to first understand where the keys are, how you play them, where the notes are. You learn the basics, you learn the chords. When you learn to play the piano, you have to go do these basic things first and eventually you'll start to play the songs other people wrote, then you'll start to add to it, and you'll start to create your own music and become, and we're all going to be different styles musicians and we're gonna beat some are gonna be better at that instrument than others that's just the way it is but you I am NOT going to give you a piano lesson I think that's what you were talking about is we'll do lessons later let's first understand how the piano how this tool works is that what my analogy


Dave Bricker (37:20)

Because we, I think so, yes, because, and I know we both get that call, someone says, I've got a big presentation to do and I'm terrified. And you ask them, when's the presentation? They say tomorrow. It's like, okay, how virtuosic do you think you're gonna get?


Kelly Swanson (37:35)

Well, and some people just want you to hand them a piece of music. And we do that sometimes. Some people say, look, I'm never going to be… Let's face it, Dave. Not everybody is going to be able to do this. Not everybody can write it. I'm sure you, just as I do, end up writing it for people a lot of times or writing it with them. And there is no shame in that. I mean, I would much rather… I farm out whatever somebody else can do better than me.


And like chat GPT but but and some people just want that finished story and then they want to take it and they're good with scripts and they can take it and run with it but as speakers if My goal is to be a good musician and to use this instrument to do all these different things because if you get somebody write a story great you've got one you and I have hundreds of stories we use in our speeches we you know that I the use for them and we're talking speeches. Many speakers aren't even thinking about, well, how are you telling stories in social media? Which I'm even weak at. How are you using them in your sales calls? How are you telling them in your demo video? How are you using them in your meetings with your teams? There are stories that we need to be using in our business as well. Anyway, that we're not doing as speakers. That's my two cents on that.


Dave Bricker (38:57)

Love it. So you're tuned into Speakipedia Media for aspiring and professional speakers and thought leaders who want to make more money by changing hearts, minds, and fortunes. My guest today is master storyteller Kelly Swanson. So we both hear from people all the time who say, I'm not creative or I'm not funny.


I prefer to think those are limiting beliefs rather than tragic realities, but what guidance do you offer to those who want to be effective speakers and storytellers, but they can't find the spark?


Kelly Swanson (39:36)

Well, first of all, don't try to be funny if you're not. Don't try to be something you're not. Just try to be fun. Figure out how to bring the fun out. And you could still accomplish the same purpose and save yourself a lot of time and energy. When you talk about being creative, I'm going to spin it in this direction. A lot of people say, is this the best story? Is this the best story? What story's better? What's the best story?


And I'm like, well, that's crazy. And we're having a contest, and I promise you it's going to come down to personal opinion at the end of the day, because there's no such thing as the best. But don't ask yourself that question for your speeches. Don't grade yourself on who's got the best story. That's not what it's about. It's about having the right story. You could have a simple story, but it's about, it is about having a story that illustrates the point that you need to make. We're using stories as a tool.


Yes, some of them are going to be sexier. Some of them are going to be funnier. Some of them are going to be bigger because bigger things happen to you. Or it's my chub rub girl with the sequined thighs. Or it's somebody had a wreck. But you don't have to have these glamorous, you don't have to have crashed on a mountain or won a medal or crashed and had to eat all your friends to have an interesting story. I tell stories about ordinary life, about being a mom.


Dave Bricker (40:53)

Mm -hmm.


Kelly Swanson (41:02)

Having a kid. I mean, you've seen it when you've watched speakers. They're the smallest, most ordinary moments can sometimes be the most universal. My most popular stuff is just talking about my husband. People love that because everybody can relate to having a relationship. So I think sometimes we see big stories or people who, or this, I don't even like the idea of a signature story. Now, if you're Alison Massari, yeah, you've got a signature story. You are almost burned alive and the whole speech is about that story. If you've got a story like that, leverage it. Wonderful. Use that. But most of us, we're just cobbling together little stories about our life and how they illustrate this truth we want to have. I also believe, as I'm sure you do too, Dave, many ordinary stories can be made much more dramatic. They can be told in interesting ways. They can have jokes inserted in them. They can have a simple prop or something that that levels it up. I call them bells and whistles. You can find the tiniest little bells and whistles, a hint of music, a sound that you pipe in through your PowerPoint. These little things that you can do that level up the experience without having to go find, you know, some, you know, crazy big story. That's my two cents on that.


Dave Bricker (42:23)

Yeah, well, I think that size doesn't matter message is an important one because people think, oh, I have to have run a marathon or climb Mount Everest. And do you know that over 4 ,000 people have climbed Mount Everest? I don't want to diminish it. You're not going to catch me up there as adventurous as I tend to be. But I got a friend actually climbing Everest right now, but he's not going to be the first. And you don't have to walk on the moon. And I think about…


Kelly Swanson (42:27)

Yeah. Yeah.


It's over.




Dave Bricker (42:52)

God, take four cubicles in any company and the messages going over the walls and the jokes and the knocking, the codes and the… I mean, God, people have told stories of sitting in a prison camp for years trying to stay connected to other people. So stories are everywhere. Another…


Kelly Swanson (43:15)

I also think, wait, can I say one thing add to that? They're also evergreen. A lot of times I'll hear people say, you can't talk about COVID; it's over. I'm like, well, no, that's not fair. This is something that happened to the entire globe that every person on the planet understands and has context to. If something really big happened to me during COVID, I'm not allowed to talk about it. Now, sure, I won't have a title that's got the word pandemic in it, but I hear a lot of people worried that because this happened to them 30 years ago, now I get it if you're still like your world's over because it happened, but I've got a story in my theater show about something that happened to me in college.


That was a long time ago. I won't count the decades that it's been. I'm not telling you that. I'm telling you that because it best illustrates what I'm talking about. Here was a moment where somebody else got to write my story and I let them. That's how I'm going to grade this. So be … looser on yourselves in that regard. People who were thinking they don't have a right to tell that story anymore because it's dated. You might need to freshen it up if these young people don't even understand what you're talking about. They don't remember COVID. Well, then you might have to add a few more details.


Dave Bricker (44:28)

and well.


Well, get that. And also look, you've got the Black Plague, you've got smallpox, you've got the Spanish flu, you've got any number of other pathogens that have had huge impacts on society. So maybe the latest chapter in that story is over for now, but maybe there are some lessons to be had from talking about just using COVID as an example. Another one is I always tell people, be a journeyist, not a journalist, because the story doesn't have to be 100 % true. I gave a keynote recently, which was based on true stories, but I had a lesson to teach and I absolutely fabricated a story. Now, no one's accusing J .K. Rowling of being a liar when she writes the Harry Potter books, right? I mean, be a journeyist, not a journalist.


Kelly Swanson (45:28)

Right, I agree and I'm not paid to tell the truth, I'm paid to be entertaining and however, the flip side of that, unfortunately, we might have people who don't understand where it's not okay to do that. It's, it's, it's, I'm not, you and I, we're not going to make up a story about having had cancer if we didn't.


We're not going to write a story about being in the military if we didn't serve in the military. So, but if it was a Tuesday and we said Thursday, or if we smushed two or three stories together to make this point, or if we change our client's name because it's confidential and we have to use somebody else's name, I can sleep at night. Now, I've also had people say, as you probably have today, I don't want to change any bit of the story. This is how it happened. This is the truth. And I'll say one of two things.


Dave Bricker (46:15)

Mm -hmm.


Kelly Swanson (46:19)

Then either don't tell it because it's not interesting. Or two, give me an inner narrative, a running commentary. If you're not gonna change any of this, at least step out of it, at least have your own funnyisms, your own thoughts, your own take on it. That's how you can add elements to it to power it up without changing exactly what happened. And when you said don't be journalists, I also thought you might mean I don't need everything that you put in your journal—a short condensed tightened path to get there. So many people and then this happened and then I got this and then I went, no. But anytime you can take a leap and get me to the front of that hotel room if I didn't have to go through the parking lot, then do so. That's one area is let's try to condense it. You said before that you see your, something about your process for your speeches. I see mine in five minute squares and blocks that have a heading and a purpose and that's just the way I see it and it's really easy for me. And so these stories, people always say, how long should a story be? I'm like, I don't know as long as it needs to be. But if you make it five minutes or less, I think you're gonna be safe because even if they hate it, it's over in five minutes. And so yeah, there you go. Yeah.


Dave Bricker (47:38)

Yeah, and that's what that outline does for me. So Kelly, I could talk with you about storytelling for hours and hours, and as much as I would love to, I'm not gonna do that, but you offer some fabulous coaching and training programs. You've got your Story Impact Academy. Can you talk about some of those things you offer and tell our listeners and viewers where they can discover more about Kelly Swanson?


Kelly Swanson (48:04)

Sure. What I found, Dave, is that sure, people can come get coaching and, you know, here's an hour, but that hour starts ticking. I'm sure as you know. And people are like, wait, but I got this story and I got that story and I got this story and I got that story. So I found that I can serve people better by just opening my office in small moments each month. And then people can come into my office, say, hey, I'm working on this little piece right here.


What do I do with it? And you know Dave, I can, well everybody listening now knows I can do a lot in five minutes. So that's why I created Story Impact Academy. It has a lot of other perks in it, of course, the information, blah, blah, blah. But the main thing is I just opened my office and people come to, it's like having me on retainer. I love that. But the other thing I want to tell you too is I've got some free resources for your listeners to go to storyimpactnetwork .com, Story Impact Network and over to the side, that's my free community, you can find resources so you can get some more notes, but you can also find something called story studio registrations and that's where we have chats like this but a lot more informal and I say hey what are you working on? I give them themes and it's kind of a way to kick my tires so to speak, but go check that out. I think um…


Many people are finding that useful to just kind of drop in and continue the conversation. So thanks for asking. Yeah, I would love for people to stay in touch.


Dave Bricker (49:34)

Super. So Kelly Swanson, thank you so much for being my guest today. It's been a joy.


Kelly Swanson (49:41)

Same, same. You're doing good work out there in the world, Bricker. You're one of my favorite storytellers and anybody listening already knows what value you bring. But rock on, and I'm so glad you have, you created Speakipedia and, you know, wish I'd thought of that. And a podcast bringing such wisdom to the world. It was a pleasure being included.


Dave Bricker (50:02)

Thank you. So I'm Dave Bricker, inviting you to explore the world's most comprehensive resource for speakers and storytellers at speakipedia .com. If you're watching this on social media video, please love, subscribe, and share your comments. If you're listening to the podcast, keep your hands on the wheel, stay safe, and I'll see you on the next episode of Speakipedia Media.