Storytelling Conference Sessions & Speakers


KEYNOTE: Storytelling Q&A | Ben Conard, Five North Chocolate

Dedicated to great taste, consumer health, and sustainable sourcing, Ben Conard founded Five North Chocolate®, an award winning, Certified LGBT Business Enterprise® supporting cacao farmers around the world by creating deliciously nutritious, Fair Trade Certified chocolate snacks. For his work in the fair trade movement, Fairtrade International named Conard one of the Top 10 Biggest Fair Trade Advocates in the World and #1 in the U.S. His passion for fair trade has taken him to the TEDx stage and to fair trade farms in Ecuador and artisan workshops in India.

Conard celebrates all cultures and people. As a U.S. Ambassador for Congress, he spent a year in Germany representing the U.S. to strengthen diplomatic relations. As a human rights activist, he was named one of 40 LGBT Leaders Under 40 by Business Equality Magazine. As a social entrepreneur, he truly believes in the power of business to create positive impact for all stakeholders including producers, farmers, manufacturers, suppliers, retailers, and consumers.


Podcasting: Say What? | Jody Collins, Feral Giant

You’ve likely heard of podcasts, and probably subscribe to a few. But how are nonprofits using podcasts to advance their mission? Podcasts aren’t just about growing an audience; they can serve many other purposes. Jody Collins, producer of four podcasts (including Visit Knoxville’s #WhyKnox podcast), will share his experience and advice on how you can start your own.

Jody Collins has been engaged in the field of graphic design and printing since 1992. Over the course of freelancing gigs and full-time employment that encompasses print shops, newspapers, magazines, charities, small businesses, and large international corporations, he has learned marketing, branding, public relations, advertising, and social media strategy, among many other facets of the visual communications field. Collins currently sits on six different nonprofit boards and advisory committees. He is also an accomplished and published photographer, videographer, and writer. Collins owns Feral Giant, a graphic design, illustration, and social media consultation company.


Story Mining: Finding the Stories Worth Telling | Brian Canever, UT Office of Communications & Marketing

There’s a reason why books and movies have drawn our attention for hundreds of years. We love stories of love against all odds, valiant underdogs, hometown heroes, transformation, and deep human connection. But how do we find these stories within our own organizations and tell them in ways that connect with our audiences? In this session, we will discuss how to mine your organization and its staff, clients, and volunteers to discover stories you may have missed, as well as how to work with your subjects to tell these stories in beautiful, impactful ways.

Brian Canever has spent his career balancing his journalistic work with roles as a strategist, content creator, and public relations specialist. The people, and the stories they have to tell, are his favorite part of it all. He is currently a Public Relations Strategist and lecturer at the University of Tennessee.

In the past six years, Canever has profiled professional cage fighters (Ovince Saint Preux and Scott Holtzman), Olympians (Hannah Wilkinson, Faye Gulini, Kate Ziegler, and Tamika Catchings), and grassroots sports leaders from Pakistan, Brazil, and Jordan. He has written features about fraternity boxing tournaments, college tennis players going pro, immigrant-saturated indoor soccer leagues, and women’s basketball development in Iraq.

You will find Canever’s bylines on ESPN, Bleacher Report, TopDrawerSoccer, the Knoxville News Sentinel, The Knoxville Mercury, The Daily Times of Maryville, and, among others. In 2014, he was a member of ESPN International’s Stats & Information department, providing support to production research and social media teams during the World Cup, Wimbledon, NBA Finals, Copa Libertadores, Tour de France, and other events.

In 2015, Canever completed a master’s degree from the University of Tennessee. He previously earned a bachelor’s degree in Latin American & Latino studies from William Paterson University.


Storytelling for Better Employee Engagement | Charley Sexton, Moxley Carmichael

Your employees should be your greatest advocates! Ensuring that your team understands your mission, vision, and values increases engagement and employee satisfaction and creates invaluable ambassadors. Learn about a local company that has undergone an amazing transformation through clear and consistent internal communications and find how they did it successfully.

Charley Sexton, who has been with Moxley Carmichael since 2001, finds creative solutions to accomplish clients’ communications goals. He works with nearly every client on the roster and manages a highly creative and talented staff. Whether developing a new brand identity, building a website for a client’s specific needs or designing an engaging print ad, Sexton understands the client’s communications goals and objectives.

Sexton works directly on creative department projects and manages graphic designers, web designers and developers, social media staff, and production vendors. By developing a stable of superior printers, web development vendors, and photographers, Sexton is able to leverage the best quality production at the best possible cost.

Sexton and his team produce creative designs that are tailored specifically for their clients and match their brand and marketing goals. One of his favorite endeavors is to help clients create a brand that resonates with their culture, as well as leading re-branding exercises to reinvigorate identity. Sexton also works with account executives and the Creative Department staff in producing social media campaigns and strategy that use innovative approaches and strong content to help clients engage effectively with their customers and other audiences.


Creating a Culture of Feedback & Choice: Strategies for Engaging Your Stakeholders in Your Organization’s Story to Foster Positive Change | Janelle Coleman, Ph.D., University of Tennessee

Good storytellers not only know how to capture their audience, but they also make concerted efforts to turn their audience members into active participants in the telling of the tale. Impactful stories are an integral part of an organization’s culture and longevity. In this interactive session, you will gain strategies for not only telling your nonprofit’s story in a way that is understandable and relatable to your stakeholders, but you’ll also learn culturally responsive methods for soliciting and implementing feedback from the community members you aspire to reach. Through a discussion of user-focused evaluation methods, you’ll discover ways to transform your story into a shared narrative in which your stakeholders can serve as active agents for positive organizational change.

Dr. Janelle Coleman is currently the Executive Director for Diversity and Engagement at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK). She has her Ph.D in Hispanic Language and Literature, an MS in Teacher Education, and BA in Creative Writing & Spanish from UTK. Her research interests include Hispanophone Caribbean history and cultures, Luso-Brasilian history and cultures, US Latinx and African Diaspora studies, Culturally Responsive Pedagogy, inclusive teaching, and program assessment/evaluation. Dr. Coleman previously served as the Faculty Consultant for Assessment and Inclusive Teaching in UT’s Teaching and Learning Innovation department. In this role, she led the department’s Inclusive Teaching Initiative, and coordinated Diversi-Tea, a program that facilitates ongoing dialogue related to issues in diversity, equity, and inclusion in pedagogy. Dr. Coleman also served as chair and founder of UTK’s Inclusive Teaching Taskforce, as well as a member of the University’s Assessment Steering Committee. Currently, Dr. Coleman is pursuing a Graduate Certificate in the Evaluation, Statistics and Measurement at UTK. When she is not studying or working, Dr. Coleman enjoys traveling around the world, learning about other cultures, reading fiction, and participating in activities with the UT Graduate Student/ Faculty Chapter of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship.


The Stories We Tell Ourselves: Building the Confidence to Speak Out | Regina Bonds, Unstoppable Confidence, Inc.

What narrative do you tell yourself each day? Is it a compelling story or a dramatic novel? Learning how to speak to yourself with praise and encouragement helps build confidence, which will enhance your ability to empower your team and the communities you serve. Learn how to fill your own bucket so you can pour into others!

Regina Bonds, also affectionately known as the Confidence Guru, is celebrated as one of the world’s most trusted voices to women, challenging them to use their confidence to improve, enhance, and, ultimately, elevate their lives. Bonds has worked with women around the world to help them recognize their value, find their voice, and clarify their path through the power of her confidence formula. Bonds is a sought-after speaker, mentor, and expert to those that are tired of living mediocre lives and ready to live in the realm of unstoppable confidence. 


Storytelling: The Essence of Communication & Motivation | Stephen Land, Jupiter Entertainment

The most effective way to engage your audience is with storytelling: humans are wired for them. Our brains often don’t distinguish between fiction and reality; therefore, we immerse ourselves in stories as if we were a part of them. Stories make us experience information, as opposed to just consuming it. In a rapid-fire review, we’ll learn how some successful storytellers convey their messages to build engagement and loyalty.

Stephen Land is one of America’s most successful and prolific television creators/producers. Over his 25-year career, Land has created and produced hit series for virtually every major media company in America, including A&E, History, Discovery, Animal Planet, Nickelodeon, Investigation Discovery, TVOne, and Oxygen, among others.

As CEO of Jupiter Entertainment, Land has led the company into successfully blending highly rated reality series, gripping documentaries, and long-running true crime franchises. With over a dozen series currently in production, Jupiter stands among the world’s largest producers of true crime with series such as Snapped (Oxygen), Joe Kenda: Homicide Hunter (Investigation Discovery), the record-breaking American Murder Mystery strand (Investigation Discovery) and Fatal Attraction (TVOne).

In 2015, Land spearheaded the sale of Jupiter to London-based Sky, becoming the media company’s largest US-based production hub.

Before founding Jupiter, Land was Executive Vice President/General Manager of Tennessee-based Cinetel Productions, a prolific producer of lifestyle programming (Discovery, TLC, TNN), children’s programming (Hey Dude, Nickelodeon), and documentary series and specials (America’s Castles, A&E). In 1994, Cinetel sold to Scripps, eventually becoming home to Scripps highly successful HGTV network.

Land and his wife Nancy divide their time between homes in Tennessee and Manhattan where they support and are active in a host of civic and charitable organizations.