Recently, Tisha had the pleasure of interviewing Cynthia (Cyndi) Sweeney, who is a double-graduate of shiftED Academy’s Essential Presentation Skills Certificate (Booster) and Online Course Creator Programs and an Alumni member of shiftED’s Coterie.
Cyndi's workshops, e-learning, and presentations are engaging, informative, and human-centered. Tisha asked Cyndi about the work she does and how shiftED’s programs and membership group have made an impact on her business.
Tisha – Cyndi, I would love it if you could begin by telling me about the work you do.
Cyndi - Our team at Simply Good Form helps businesses and organizations, and the employees within, to help solve challenges that they might be facing if they've ever wondered about pronoun usage. "What if I'm not getting my pronouns right?" "How am I ensuring that I'm being inclusive and using best practices professionally within the workplace?"
Or if they've asked themselves, "How can I support somebody that might be coming out in the workplace? How can I be a good colleague?" We are the people to call.
We offer workshops and asynchronous e-learning. We primarily do our workshops live, in person. We develop a customized plan to help support any size organization and their people. So, whether you're at the very beginning of your journey, trying to understand the changing language and terminology around the 2SLGBTQ+ community, or you have a good base but you're wondering, "Why such a shift now. And how can making small changes in my language really have an impact? Does it have an impact?"
We help to empower professionals to be more inclusive and create more welcoming spaces,
Tisha - Beautiful. Do you serve a certain geographic area?
Cyndi – We’re based in the Maritimes, but we operate right across Canada and we're excited to have launched our e-learning into the Canadian and the US market this Summer.
Tisha – Congratulations! That is exciting! So, I think you've answered a little bit of this but what type of presentations are part of your work, your audiences, your objectives, your methods, your tools, anything else to add to that?
Cyndi - We've been told our workshops are highly engaging and that people really enjoy the interactive elements and the discussion, the group breakouts. Everyone at Simply Good Form has lived experience within the 2SLGBT2Q+ community, whether they identify as trans or nonbinary or, like myself, I would be an advocate and an ally. I'm also a parent of a trans child and the only cisgender person within the company. We're all about empowering voices and storytelling from within. When you work with us, we commit a certain percentage back to our socially focused work in the form of free community programming. We do a lot with youth as well. If our clients want to get more involved with the community in a more meaningful and intentional way, we create that bridge.
Tisha - Such important and meaningful work, Cyndi. You are changing lives and organizations...and society...for the better. Do you have any upcoming presentations?
Cyndi - Fall is typically a very busy time for us with workshops, lunch and learn presentations, and working within organizations, but also with full day professional development workshops within schools as they're launching their year and leading up to Transgender Awareness Week and Trans Day of Remembrance in November. So, we do a lot of events around that as well as Inclusive School Reads, which we run completely free, and support schools doing inclusive reading. We've launched a new series of asynchronous micro-courses for those with time constraints, and SGF is thrilled to be partnering with Recreation Nova Scotia, providing inclusive leadership training to staff, program leaders, and camp counsellors.
Following the success of the Hey, Cis! podcast - and you're the first to hear, we're launching a new podcast this fall called Trans Canada Stories. Stay Tuned!
Tisha - I love that, and I love this time of year. Back to school, lifelong learning, always striving for better. Congratulations on your success with Hey, Cis! I can't wait to learn more about this new podcast. Cyndi, when you are preparing for a podcast or presentation or workshop, do you have a preparation ritual or best practice leading up to those?
Cyndi - Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Definitely getting the rehearsal done and the timing. On the day of, I generally like to get up pretty early. I like to be ready, nice and early, so that I can just sit with a cup of coffee and catch my breath and know that I'm not rushing.
Tisha - So good. Rehearsing is so important! And doing so allows you to be purposeful, calm, and present. Cyndi, you came into the Coterie quite some time ago now, and I'm curious how being a Coterie member has helped you to succeed.
Cyndi - Well, primarily it's been great just to have ongoing regular contact with yourself and with other Coterie members. The relationships that I've built and the people I've met, I think that's really been amazing because as an entrepreneur you can get stuck in a bubble, and I think being able to connect with others is important. Also, it's affirming to know that we're not the only ones that have our worries and our concerns or that evil voice sitting on our shoulder. We all grapple with these things, which makes it easier to step back and go okay, if you're feeling this way too and I don't see you should be feeling this way, then maybe I shouldn't be feeling this way either.
Tisha - Yes to the camaraderie! I hear that from the Booster participants as well. I recall the cohort you participated in, I think it was an in-person program when the pandemic hit when we moved everything over to online, yes?
Cyndi - It was. We were in the classroom right up until the very end and then we moved everything online. And then I continued with the Online Course Creators program, and that was just so hugely supportive in elevating our business and our growth. Since working with shiftED, we've tripled our client base. Also, the resources that we've had access to afterward have been invaluable. I often go back in and take another look and have a refresher. It’s been really nice to be able to have continued access to all of those resources!
Tisha - That's so great to hear - and I'm so honoured to be a part of your success, Cyndi. We've worked together for years now. through the programs and through the Coterie. If I could specifically as about the latter, what would you say you value most about your Coterie membership.
Cyndi - What I value most about the membership, is having that easy access to another group of entrepreneurs, and you, who can give perspective from experiences that I'm not having and also that you're always bringing something new and relevant to everybody. Whether it's new technology that you've explored or new hacks that could take me months to find. You find them, test them, and already have a review for us. That's just hugely time-saving as a professional, which is great.
Tisha - Awesome. Cyndi, in thinking about your own experiences, what advice would you give to someone who fears public speaking or shies away from the spotlight?
Cyndi - Just do it - every opportunity that you get - but I think what was really valuable through the shiftED programming for me in the very beginning was giving me a small space to start. So maybe don't start huge, but just start. Start in a smaller space, like the Booster or the Coterie, where you're practicing with other professionals.
And record yourself! How you challenged and supported us to do that was brilliant. It was such a good practice to get us over our nerves in a short period of time.
Tisha - The transformation is always so gratifying to witness. And to see people such as yourself out there rockin' it. not holding back, it's wonderful.
Okay, I have some rapid-fire questions for you now.
I'm curious, do you have a favorite presentation gadget or tech or tool that you use?
Cyndi - Well, I love my Shure microphone because it has podcast-quality sound and it's great at filtering out noise around you.
A second one is an OWL camera. Hybrid learning is now totally doable and we're pretty excited about that.
Tisha - Fantastic. I love the Owl. It's very cool when presenters such as you learn to use it so effectively.
Mac or PC?
Cyndi – Mac.
Tisha - PowerPoint, Google Slides, Keynote, Canva or otherwise?
Cyndi - Canva to PowerPoint. I tend to create within Canva and then convert it into PowerPoint.
Tisha - I love that. Canva’s beautiful, but it's limited with the functionality so if you can get the best out of both, that's amazing. Both have Artificial Intelligence too, which is quite efficient in shortening the development and content creation time.
Cyndi, you mentioned hybrid and I'm curious, are you more comfortable presenting online or in person?
Cyndi - This is a tricky one to answer because although I am more comfortable online, that's not necessarily what I prefer. It was during COVID when we launched, and everything was virtual and online and I've loved seeing the interactive elements; that said, nothing can replace the human-to-human connection when you're in a room with people.
Tisha - Pros and cons, right?
Switching gears now, do you have a favorite quote?
Cyndi - Yes, there's one that speaks to the work we do with the 2SLGBTQ community and inclusion and creating safe spaces and that's Andrew Solomon's quote “Neutrality, which lies somewhere between despair and celebration, is actually the end game.”
I've always loved that one as an inspiration for why neutrality is not a positive.
Tisha - Great perspective! Further to that, do you have a book that you have recommended to others?
Cyndi - Yes, it also aligns with the work I do: This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel. It's a great book that came to me at the right moment in my life. It's an affirming fiction story, a great read, and it's a book-club-friendly book as well.
Tisha - What's on your bucket list?
Cyndi – India. One day I would love to go and just spend some time, but also maybe do cooking classes over there because I love the food.
Tisha – That would be a great trip.
Cyndi - Wouldn't it!?
Tisha - Cyndi, thank you for sharing this space with me, and thank you for opening the door for important conversations.
Cyndi Sweeney is the owner/CEO of Simply Good Form Inc. and is an IDEA Consultant, educator, author, podcaster and advocator for inclusion, diversity-celebrating, equity, and accessibility focused on elevating QT (Queer + Trans) voices, visibility, and representation of trans people in all levels of business, employment and community engagement, including race, ethnicity, ability, age, economy, plus. She is the parent of a trans child and, since 2019, she has been consistently recognized as a LGBTQ2+ advocate and change-maker, most recently being named a finalist in 2SLGBTQIA+ Chamber of Commerce's LGBT+ Business Advocate of the Year 2022 and alongside her team, being named a finalist in the Best New Business 2023 Halifax Business Awards. Cyndi has served on panels with PRIDE Health Nova Scotia, Pride at Work Canada, and IWK Integrated Trans Health Symposium for youth into adulthood. Cyndi can be reached at [email protected] or connect with her on LinkedIn.