World of Speakers E.114: Sally Z | Speaking Story

38 min readJan 23, 2024

Ryan Foland speaks with Sally Z, an Award-Winning & TEDx Speaker, Bravery Expert, Coach and Best-Selling Author.

In this episode of our podcast series, Ryan and Sally talk about the framework for persuasive messages: Moment, Meaning, Move and the role of stories in communication, pitching, and connecting with an audience.

Tune in for an interview packed with ideas and tips on why stories are essential for conveying messages effectively, creating a meaningful connection.

Listen to the interview on iTunes or Soundcloud.

Subscribe to World of Speakers on iTunes or Soundcloud.


Welcome to the World of Speakers podcast brought to you by SpeakerHub. In each episode, we interview a professional speaker and reveal their very best tips and tricks. You’ll learn to improve your presentation skills, keep your audience engaged, and learn how to grow your business to get more gigs and make more money.

Here’s your host, Ryan Foland.

Ryan Foland: Ahoy everyone and welcome to another episode of the World of Speakers.

We are talking with Sally Z who is not only a speaker, she’s a speaker coach and she’s an author who just wrote a book called Speaking Story.

So there’s a lot of S’s and a lot of speaking in there and ironic maybe you know with the last name Z there’s a lot to be determined especially how you go in line when everything is you know is alphabetical, but I’m sure..

Sally Z: At the end of the line, Ryan.

Ryan Foland: Well, we’re actually coming full circle around the world because this is a second conversation. It’s been years though. So it’s great to see you and excited to have you on and congratulations on your new book.

I heard some word on the street that you’re hitting all these number ones and people will be able to go out there and grab this and read it and obviously become better at speaking if they actually take what you say and try it.

Sally Z: Yeah. Yeah, I will admit that I have a lot of books on my shelf that I have not read.

Ryan Foland: But does it make you feel good to have it?

Sally Z: It does. And it’s pretty. I mean, these are just my book right now. But, you know, I love a good like rainbow color books on the shelves. Sometimes I’m like, I need a yellow, I need a yellow, you know, and I have the best of intentions.

Ryan Foland: Yeah, we actually.

Sally Z: I’m more of a listener of the books right now.

Ryan Foland: Okay. Okay, fair enough. It’s the same thing. It’s the information you get. My wife, when I say we, I mean my wife, she organized our bookshelf in color coordination.

And it’s interesting that it’s like kind of this big rainbow of colors and it’s fun to see it all pan out. But it is amazing how much information is in our brains and our heads and to put it down paper and speak on the stage.

And I’m always fascinated with how there’s no lack of information by any means. means. And it’s a matter of people taking initiative to first decide what information they want to take.

Then they have to make the time to basically receive it or in the ears or in the eyes. And then you’re still not done because you get this excitement around new information. But unless you actually apply it and try it and practice it and do it and do it, then it just sort of… of becomes that exciting information with no delivery. So I’m excited today by the end of the show, hopefully we’ll have some, an opportunity to get to know you a little bit more and your tips from the book, probably around the art of speaking and maybe even business building when it comes to speaking.

So, welcome.

Sally Z: Thank you. It’s really fun to see you again.

Ryan Foland: It is, it is. Let’s start with a story. And ironically, you know, I think you’re going to nail this one since your book is called speaking story.

No pressure.

Sally Z: It’s kind of a high pressure situation, isn’t it?

Ryan Foland: If you need to crack the book open and just read from the book, you know, that can work too.

Sally Z: Oh, I thought about it. I thought about it.

I mean, I feel this sort of meta experience all the time because I speak about speaking. That’s not the only thing I speak about, but. I’m often like, oh, you better be good,

Sally, because you are talking about the things you’re doing, the thing that you talk about, and it is a little higher pressure. But the story I would love to share will bring everybody into a high school gym.

Okay, so just imagine you are in a high school gym, and I was in my first real professional gym. job as a speaker. I’m 26 years old, potentially somewhere around there. After college, before kids, it was a sweet, sweet time. And I was touring the country, talking to kids about these really big ideas like kindness and courage and respect. And I don’t know if you have teenagers or no teenagers, but they’re not necessarily jazzed about the idea of being talked at by a very happy blonde white lady about the ideas of respect and kindness and courage.

So I knew that it was going to be a challenge, but I have this vivid memory standing in front of 159th graders. really feeling in my body that they were not with me. And I had written the most beautiful script is I’m a really good script writer. It had some amazing like mic drop one liners. I was so jazzed to be there and felt really passionate about this message. But I was like, they are not with me right now. And it was all these visual cues that told me so, like people literally not looking up at me turn towards each other and, you know, drawing in the dust on the gym floor and, you know, noogie fights happening. I was just like, okay, so I am losing them. I’m losing them. Now, I did have some stories in the script, but I was leading up to them. I am losing them. And in that moment, I just thought, okay, I need to just stop talking and get to the story. And I bypassed like this beautiful part of the script I was really excited about and got right into the story and started telling the story about a young man I met on retreat a few days before who just had this really powerful story about how he stood up for himself.

That little bit of it doesn’t really matter, ’cause all I can tell you is that as soon as I started telling the story about a kid their age, that they could relate to, that they could start imagining this experience happening between their own classmates. It was like a light switch turned on. It was all of their busy little heads just slowly turned and just started moving and watching me.

And I thought, oh wow, okay, stories. I needed more stories. I needed stories in different places. I needed to lean into stories because the beautiful script did not matter. They were not engaged, they didn’t get it. They had no connection or meaning from it. They really needed the story to help them understand why it mattered, why it mattered to them. And to really, it was like a test. Do you get us, Sally? Do you really understand what our lives are like? Because we’re very different. Like my ninth grade world is very different than your 26 -year -old world.

And they were not wrong. And so I learned to flip that script and start… with story to use story as the tool to hold up the points and the messages that I desperately wanted them to get and understand. And without it, I was doing okay. But with the story, I saw this huge difference in terms of their belief in an engagement with the ideas from that experience. And so I went off to grad school to figure out why that was and got a master’s degree in persuasion and studied lots and lots of speeches. I was out giving lots of speeches also and I learned why. Why it is, like why stories are so, so powerful and it is because they are an emotional container and we need to feel if we want to change and change the way we think and the way that we act. Feeling is an essential component and stories really provide that for us in a powerful way.

Ryan Foland: Interesting now.

Sally Z: Yeah.

Ryan Foland: Then that was the turning point. Now you’ve got a book called Speaking Story. Yes. Now in the book, do you reference that story?

Sally Z: I do. Yeah. Okay. And I go a little more in depth because it’s a book and you can.

Ryan Foland: Yeah. I think a lot of what you’re saying resonates with me. I can relate to a time where I have a buddy who teaches fourth grade and he brings in guest speakers.

And this was only a couple of years ago, well, pre -pandemic, so a few years ago. And I was like, yeah, sure. And he’s like, yeah, maybe you speak about public speaking. And so I had this shtick.

I had my stories. I had my stuff. stuff, and my goodness, within just the first few minutes, like, I mean, I haven’t hung out with fourth graders recently, or really since, but it was just the same thing. They were just disconnected, they were just distracted, it was just not into it. Try to get ’em up, moving around and stuff, and it is so fast to have that disconnect. But as you’re saying, a story can create that actual connection. But it’s hard for me to believe that it took took to your 26 to make this realization. Was this really like a sneak attack story, or did you really know beforehand and you just didn’t move stories early enough in that spot?

Sally Z: You know, I had always told stories and stories were a part of it. The powerful realization was where they belonged in the script. Like how important it was to move the story in front of the point. Because. and you see it all the time, what people often do is they use the story to prove the message that they’ve just shared. They’re going to tell a bunch of things and then they tell the story like see, like an example. Here’s an example of when it happened like that. Now do you believe me? Now do you believe that this message is so important? And because of the context of teenagers who were like I I don’t care what you’re talking about.

Ryan Foland: Yes.

Sally Z: It was so obvious versus adults who I think will be like, I’m hearing you, but I don’t believe you. And so when you flip the story in front of the message, which can feel weird at first, but I promise you there’s lots of good reasons to do it. One of them being when we hear a story, our brain remains open to it, because we don’t know exactly what you’re trying to tell us yet. And especially in adults, if you start with the point and then use the story to prove that point, audiences, I’m sure you can imagine this are like, “Oh, I already know how I feel about them.” No, really? I don’t think so, right? And so it becomes a, you have to convince people in a different way.

Rather than leveraging this, all the brain… friendly aspects of storytelling and people are like, oh, and what happened? Oh my gosh. So before they even know it, they are feeling your point without even having to say anything. And so yeah, it’s super magical. So I mean, no, yeah, I had been telling stories, but it was just the most obvious, like we have to move the stories to a different place.

Ryan Foland: What did you study? in college? What was your major or majors?

Sally Z: I was a theater and English major.

Ryan Foland: Interesting. I was a theater and business economics.

Sally Z: Oh, that’s a great combo.

Ryan Foland: Yeah. And I actually went in undeclared and funny story around that I got. I basically had an emotional breakdown during orientation because I was an honor student, so I got to choose any classes and this book was this thick. And I went to UCSB and I was just like, I just could not make a decision. So I had my mom decide. classes for me and I didn’t look at them till the first day. I showed up at this crazy classroom. I was like, this is an amazing classroom. Like this is great, you know, red velvet seeds. Like I had not really been in a theater like that at all.

Sally Z: Oh my gosh.

Ryan Foland: I sat and I flirted next to some girl the whole time and I heard extra credit at the end. And then I went to the sink for extra credit. The girl didn’t show up. They called my name. They gave me a piece of paper. They said, read this. I sat down, I read it.

They all laughed. laughed. I was so upset, I cried skateboard at home, maybe one of the few times I’ve cried and skateboarded, like usually those don’t mesh together. And it ends up that it was an audition.

I just had no idea. I got cast into a student -run play, fell in love with the connection to the audience and then got cast and acted, acted, produced, produced, directed, directed and just thought I was gonna be in Hollywood and film and production and that’s another story.

But. But it’s funny how if you look at the pivotal moments in our lives, like the first set of classes you take, what majors you end up with, you can always reverse engineer to the stories that happen.

And it fascinates me how many people don’t recognize the stories that they have. And I work a lot of times with people on speakers and whether it’s TEDx or whether it’s a keynote or even just something that’s like at their local event.

And it is all about the stories because that’s something that you own that gets people to know you. And you’ll be proud of me. Every podcast, I have three podcasts. Every single one starts with the same question.

Tell me a story that shaped you. Every talk I give, the first slide is always, let me tell you a story. And I come up with some story that relates to what needs to happen. I gave a talk about AI and I told a story when I was speaking in Ghana and I got pulled onto this dance floor and was just totally sidelined by it, but it ended up being a kind of a fun experience. And I related using AI to dancing. And so just stories become metaphors, become things that are not just speaking at them. And so I love that approach.

Sally Z: They’re such heavy lifters for us in our speaking. And, you know, some people, especially if you speak in a business, business context, I hear sometimes like, well, but that’s like touchy -feely, and I don’t want to make it feel like I’m wasting people’s time and they have to be patient for the payoff. And people are just like, just tell us the things. I’m like, okay, well, everything is context dependent, right? Like, you can tell a story in 30 seconds, friends. Like, it does not need to be a four minute buildup of a thing because the context may not really truly allow for that but we’re undercutting the role and the heavy lifting that stories can do and can the role that they can play in helping you do your job and helping you communicate that idea and helping you pitch something and helping you really like you said connect with the audience and deliver this message that you want to get across, like stories, check all kinds of boxes for us in that approach. So even if it’s touchy -feely, you got to go, you got to do it.

Ryan Foland: All right. Couple hot questions here for you.

Sally Z: Yeah.

Ryan Foland: What do you think is holding people back from telling more stories? .

Sally Z: Most people think that they aren’t storytellers, that they don’t have what it takes. They aren’t. entertaining, they aren’t an extrovert, they aren’t funny, they aren’t a performer, they lead a boring life, they don’t have any stories to tell, like there’s a lot of internal stories that people tell to themselves about what it takes to do this. And after doing this for 25 years, I can tell you that it’s just all baloney. It really is, it’s all learnable. But it is a craft. craft and it is something to learn and to invest in in terms of your own development, but anybody can do it, anybody.

Ryan Foland: Yeah, life is about stories, the stories you tell others and the stories you tell yourself. I’m a big believer in cognitive dissonance and that you will find data that supports what you believe. And, you know, what you think is what you say and what you say is what happens. So, you know, if people close the door. door, I’m not a storyteller, well, then you’re gonna look for all the data that supports that’s the case.

If you just change that initial story and be like, well, it’s something I’m open to and I’m working on, then all of a sudden you’ll see data that supports it. Another quick hot pocket question, and we’ll move on to the next section.

This is setting up for where we’re going. Do you feel that people are more inclined initially or instinctively to tell stories with like the good stories, the successful stories, the stories when things worked out as opposed to the stories where you’re in front of high school and a high school class and or fourth grade class and you’re like admittedly like I lost their attention, they were wrestling with each other. Do you feel people instinctively think that the stories they tell need to have a positive spin or do you think or does your research show that they’re open to the bad or ugly stories?

Sally Z: Well, it’s funny because most people, when they’re the speaker, and especially if they feel like, “Oh my gosh, this is a moment where I’m trying to set myself up as the credible leader or expert,” they feel like, “I have to just share all of the, here’s what I’ve done, all of the successes, like the hero of this.”

Ryan Foland: When I interviewed the the Dalai Lama, when I got first place in this award, and when I was, you know, CIF champion.

Sally Z: Exactly, exactly. And yet, if you put yourself in the audience, and I’m sure you can think of the people who bravely share about the difficult journey getting there, like the things that they learned, the mistakes that they’ve made, where they are not the hero of this award, the one where it all works out. Audiences appreciate brave, they applaud brave. And it’s not brave to be like, I did this and I did that and I did this and that’s not brave, that’s bragging, right? And what ends up happening is if you’re in the audience and all you’re hearing are the things that worked out well and how great it all was, it’s really easy to go, pay well, you can do that good for you, good for you. But I am over here struggling. And so a great example, I used to work with a parent coach and she would go out and talk to parents about how to parent better. And she was a great speaker, like really, really talented, but didn’t want to, thought that her credibility would take a hit if she talked about her own failings as a parent.

She talked about what was hard for her. And I was like, I gotta tell you, I have three kids at home and I am like just barely holding it together. And unless you tell me that it was hard for you, I’m gonna be like, I’m never gonna get there. I’m a bad parent. Clearly you’re a good parent. I’m a bad parent. Like it just created this gap of connection between the speaker and the audience.

And so our job as speakers is to continue continuously pull ourselves off of the pedestal that we get put on. And you get put on and you feel pressure about, just say, “Uh -uh, actually, I’ve got to come “and be as relatable, be as in the pain with you as possible.” It is truly an empathy exercise speaking. If you’re doing it right, you should be in it with them on that.

Ryan Foland: Good. I agree with you. My book is called “Ditch the Act,” and it’s all about how that vulnerability and actually transparency helps people find relatability.

A lot of times people confuse experience with expertise. I’m gonna talk about this a lot, especially when you ask people, “What do you think is more important?” And most people think that your expertise is more important. But experience is what you have to have in order to be considered an expert. And so they just try to jump over that and experience is what you get just after you need it. Otherwise it wouldn’t have happened. So one of the things I share with my clients all the time and just people as long as they’ll listen is that people don’t care about your stories of success. They care about how they see themselves in your story. And that’s — exactly what you’re talking about.

Sally Z: Yes, yes, yes. Beautifully put. I love that. And that’s what I think is so magical and really kind of wild about stories is when you tell them well, like when you create this imaginative connection. And I start talking about Matt in first grade, who I love to chase around on the playground. And when you start like run through the swings and the pebbles would crunch through it but Judy, the playground lady would like blow her whistle at us. Like I can tell that story about my playground and Matt and Judy and the pebbles, but you are seeing in your mind, you’re seeing a specific playground that has nothing to do with mine.

Ryan Foland: Yeah, I literally thought about the playground where I would get bullied, beat up, pushed around, not chosen for the team. So your story, however fluffed up, and on the swings, I just remember it being a very lonely time, but it brought me to that scene. You created the scene for me to go into.

Sally Z: Exactly. And so it’s this co -creation. And as soon as you can get your audience to see the story in their own heads, to imagine, even if it’s not your story, they’re seeing their own story, now they’re gonna remember what you’re saying. Because you have to see the story in your own heads. built an image in their head that is of their own making, and that is theirs.

And that’s the beautiful thing about what we can do with stories.

Ryan Foland: All right, so let’s make a beautiful transition into the second part of the show, which is always around some sort of art of speaking. And I would love to know your breakdown of what makes for a good story.

I have mine, I talk about this a lot as well, so I’ll interject where I see fit, but I really want to hear your perspective. Do you have a structure, a format, a minimum requirement? I know I do and I’d love to hear from you what that looks like.

Sally Z: Yeah. I call it a, really it’s a persuasive framework and stories are the essential element and tool in this persuasive framework, but it’s based on MMM.

It stands for moment, meaning, and move. And when you do this well, well, when you kind of leverage the MMM, you are gonna have a much bigger impact.

People are gonna be much more connected to what it is that you’re saying. This is how we persuade people. And the important thing. -

Ryan Foland: I just said, mm, ’cause that’s how it’s pronounced, right? Mm. — Uh -huh, mm.

Sally Z: Yeah, exactly. It’s the mm framework. I should maybe use that, that’s great. -

Ryan Foland: It’s also, I mean, there’s also like the www but flipped up. upside down. This is like the most un, it’s like the internet is like a WWW, and you flip it around, but like the MMM is kind of like this in -person, this like not digital, but like this for anyways. All right.

Sally Z: Oh my gosh, I really like wearing you, how you’re riffing with me on this Ryan, that’s so good.

Ryan Foland: I can see like WWW dot, you know, blank. and then you just flip it and you’re like, you’re creating your own internet, your own world, your own frame. And I’m assuming that’s where these three elements come into.

Sally Z: Yes, yes, exactly. So moment, meaning and move, you can use this framework to essentially structure any kind of message where you wanna convince somebody of something and let’s be real.

Most of our messages are with the intention of trying to persuade them. people about something. We just don’t always talk about it in that way. And the important thing is that you start with a moment, and the moment is your story.

And I like to talk about stories as a moment because one of the big mistakes people make in their story telling is, they think they’re telling a story, but actually they’re just summarizing a whole part of their life.

They’re saying things like, yeah, like I’m a volleyball —

Ryan Foland: Did this, and then this, and I’m just cutting off because I deal with this problem all the time. I have guests on all my shows, and I have to tell them, look, a story means like a moment in time. Not I did this, and then this, and this, and this. -

Sally Z: Yes, yeah, that’s not a story. You’re giving me your resume verbally, which is very, very different, or it’s a summary. And a story, like you said, Ryan is truly one moment in time. Bring me to that moment in the gym, right? That is one moment in time, that moment on the playground where Judy whistled at us, right? So if you can do that moment well, it ignites the visual imagination of your audience and they are sucked in. They don’t even know yet what it is that you wanna tell them, but they are sucked in curious and they’re bought into the journey.

Like, oh, what’s going to happen, right? So if we tell the story right, your moment sets you up beautifully for the second M, which is meaning. And meaning is where you get to shape perspective. Like the question you’re asking yourself is you’re figuring out what is the meaning that I want to articulate here is why would your audience care about that story you just told? Why does it matter to them? So what, right? Your job as a speaker is to articulate that so what to shape understanding and perspective and meaning. So that is the second piece.

And then the third piece is move. And essentially it’s teeing people up for what is the very next thing that they do from here. So after they’re like, oh, I. I get it, interesting. What’s next for them? What’s the next move that they make? And sometimes it looks like a call to action, but sometimes it’s just a question or an invitation.

We don’t want to overthink that part too much or over choreograph it because that can be the part where it feels the most awkward. It’s like, don’t overthink it. You’re just inviting people into what is next. Don’t. Don’t leave people hanging like, here’s a thought and here’s what I think it means. It feels unfinished without the move.

Ryan Foland: So if I’m understanding correctly, the moment is actually the full story. So like I’m imagining a big M that’s like big and stretched. And then within that large M, you do have the meaning which probably is towards the very tail end of the story or something there. And then the move. move is at the very, very end. It’s like a little M at the very tip. ’Cause initially I thought even parts, but in listening to you, it’s really the moment is the big chunk and that’s the story.

And then you’ve got weaved in those two other elements.

Sally Z: Yeah. I appreciate you’re pointing that out because obviously how and how long and what it looks like is going to be very context dependent very much so. However, you know, what I think is important to distinguish here is when we want to persuade people, it’s not just about the story because I’ve worked with speakers sometimes who are like, I’m just going to tell the story and let let them figure out the meaning, let the audience sort of pick at the meaning as they want. There’s something beautiful about that. And sometimes that is the right choice. But as speakers, we’re sort of shirking our responsibility, which is we get to shape perspective. That is literally why you have been hired, is to shape perspective and meaning and understanding. And so the story opens the door for that and allows people to connect with the idea, allows them, like I said, to feel it before you even said anything about it. And once they were there with you, what are you going to do? with their attention, their interests, their curiosity? Like you get to take them from there and shape it going forward.

Ryan Foland: Very cool. I wanna dig in a little bit to each three ’cause I’ve got whether it’s questions/comments for each. So for the moment, one thing that I have found helpful in pulling these moment stories out with literally hundreds and hundreds of attempts of talking with somebody to try to convince them to tell a moment story. Yeah. The phrase inciting incident is really strong because if you ask somebody like think of an inciting incident like the moment where not where you were feeling sort of heavier and holiday but the moment when you couldn’t fit your pants on like that moment. And it’s like when literally you can’t do the button like that is the the moment, that is the inciting incident. And so for speakers out there and for our listeners, like it’s still hard, I think, for somebody who’s not versed in the craft of storytelling, to either choose the right story or it just defaults to like, well, I got to set it up. So first I was here, then I was here. But your inciting incident was the moment where someone was getting a new year, like, oh, shit, I got to change it up and then you move the story forward. So that idea of an inciting incident, I think, feel is always helpful because if you find that, that’s like the crux of part of where the story comes from.

So I think that’s a cool thing to add to your moment. And also, I find a lot of people don’t know how to structure. And this, in what you’re saying, becomes this context, right? Do I have 30 seconds or do I have an hour or do I have 30 minutes or whatnot? But I look at stories with orienting, maybe story -inting, I make up a new word here. If you physically walk into new room without even knowing it, you’re like, feels pretty sturdy on the ground. I’m not going to fall through the floor. I see a window over there in case there’s a fire, I can exit. The ceiling is, there’s a ceiling fan, but nope, I’m not going to hit it. Okay, there’s a really bright light over there. There’s plenty plant, like you’re literally assessing everything and only when you actually have like assessed it all in a matter of fractions of seconds, you’re like, “I’m comfortable in this room now “and I can actually like, now I can focus.” So I always help people with their storytelling to describe the room people are in. It’s the who is there, what is happening, why is it happening, how are things going down? And what is that incident? So you’re classic like who, what, when, where, why, how? That’s a really great framework to work on.

And when you add the inciting incident to it, it sort of can compile. And then what you did in your storytelling of the playground is that if you want to add, if you want to pump it up, little whatever your story is, you play to the senses. So I heard the pebbles. I saw the glimmering light. I felt a wind through my hair. So all of your senses, you can sit there and just, I could hear the seagulls and I could smell the ocean and it’s just like layered on top of it. So I love the idea of the moment, an inciting incident. And then if you set the tone of the room people are in, they’re invested in what’s happening as opposed to where they’re at.

And so if you forget to mention who is there, they’ll be like, wait, like, they’ll be guessing that. So just throwing that out there, I’m sure I’m just speaking to the choir, but I’m really just speaking to our audience, at least how I kind of helped to approach that. ’Cause it is, it’s a foreboding.

Sally Z: Well, and you’re talking about all the details that help it become a visually interesting experience for the audience, for them to start to imagine it in their heads and to see it and to feel it. It cannot just be a description of here’s exactly what happened. You’re missing all of the painting that we create with our words, we really get to create the visual image. So I love everything that you said.

I think I just want to add this is that sometimes when we are creating our story, we need to work backwards from or or let me put it this way. We need to know exactly where this story is going. Right? So one of the big mistakes that I often see is it’s I call it Daisy talking. People are like kind of getting at the point and then they’re getting at the point again and they’re getting at the point this way and they’re getting at the point this way and they’re getting at the point this way.

And their story takes this winding route instead of knowing exactly the moment that you are moving towards. We’ve got to just really know the destination of your story.

So like you said, it’s the moment where you’re like, “I cannot button my pants.” You don’t necessarily have to start with that, but you need to know exactly where it’s going. And then it gives you a filter to decide what belongs, what belongs. helps me get to that moment and what doesn’t. Oh, it turns out Uncle Bobby’s comment is really important. But my cousin who, you know, was there with me when I was buttoning my jeans, I actually don’t need this extra character in the story that’s confusing and it helps. It’s hiding this moment and I want to crystallize it for people.

So knowing where you’re going is really, really essential.

Ryan Foland: Yeah. And that ties into the meaning and my comment on that a friend of mine and fellow speaker is a gentleman named James Taylor and he’s fantastic.

He talks about creativity. And one of the structures for storytelling that, that I really took from him is you tell your story, all the stuff we talked about.

And at that moment, you then transition. transition it back to the audience and say The reason I’m telling you this is because and there’s your meaning There’s that lesson but unless you have that transition at least what I found this whole daisy effect They might not know where the story stops because they’re not sure and so You know you have your punchline this sort of moment where you know you need to go and say look Yeah, the reason I’m telling the story about sailing is because yes sailboats need wind to move You but you need ideas to move up in your career, or you need this. So that transition, I think, is really helpful for that meaning of where to fit it into that big M.

Sally Z: Yeah, and the key word there is the you.

Ryan Foland: Yeah.

Sally Z: So it’s taking this thing that was personal to you and connecting it and making it meaningful for anybody who’s listening or is a part of the audience in some way. And without that, that, our stories are real vanity. It’s like, oh, I’m just telling this story. Now, you might have an intention for other people to experience it, but it’s one of those things where people are like, will say to me, I feel weird talking about myself. I’m like, you are just the tool. Your story is the container for empathy and connection. We want, if your audience does not go, I get it. I feel that story. Here’s what it means to me. Like it should still feel like a very audience centered experience.

But without that meaning part, it often doesn’t. It kind of is lacking that connection point. So some of the words that I listened for, to know if this is the meaning part is the word you, you, what about you? Or here’s why this might connect with you. Or here’s why I’m telling you this, right? Those words tell me, okay, this person’s now taking this personal story and it’s not actually about Sally. It’s not actually about Ryan. It’s about the audience and their connection, what we’re saying. — Love it.

Ryan Foland: Now the final comment on the final move part. Is that always necessary? Because if I’m thinking back to your high school story, you definitely had the moment, you definitely had the meaning, but I’m thinking like, again, maybe it’s contextual because I was learning about you, and it sort of the

Sally Z: Well, the move part, the move part is coming up at the end of this podcast where I’m gonna say, hey, grab the book, right?

Ryan Foland: Okay, so then the move doesn’t necessarily have to be within that big M of the story.

Sally Z: No, yeah, I mean, I think of these three elements as when you put them together into one context, they’re going to help move people from thinking to decision, to action, right?

Ryan Foland: So it is the call to action, but it doesn’t have to be at the end of the story. So just visually, ’cause people are listening here, you have this big, large M that’s like, if you’re looking at a story, like this huge arching M, and then somewhere in the world, that there’s the little M for the meaning and then not necessarily within that sort of the McDonald’s arch of the M could be like you said it could be the very last thing that you’ve gotten your collective stories have allowed you to be in a position where I say how can people learn more about you you’re like this is my move and then you make the move.

Sally Z: Eexactly, exactly. Every context is gonna look a little bit different. You know, if you think about it from a panel perspective, right? You may not have the opportunity to do much more than you might start one answer with a moment and you might not be able to do moment, meaning and move all in that one, all in that one opportunity you have to answer. But then when somebody comes back back, you can expand on the meaning piece, right? And then ideally the move piece is not necessarily, it’s not about like, join me here or I’m on LinkedIn. Maybe, maybe there’s an opportunity to do that, but it may just be a challenge for the audience. My hope for all of you moving forward is that you would think about this or do this or consider this, right? So, I like to think of the way that these three elements work together is gonna look super different depending on the context. The important thing is that you do have all three of those together.

Ryan Foland: It’s a story soup. My wife just made this amazing soup the other days. And you just said, it’s something I think you said super or something, but like, this is a story soup, right? I mean, you’re mixing the ingredients and even within your bowl, you have different layers of — of stuff. So I’m not going to ask you to go change your book name from, you know, story, from speaking story to story soup. Maybe that’s your next one.

Sally Z: Yeah. Oh my gosh. Don’t say that yet.

Ryan Foland: Well, let’s transition because you’re at a really interesting spot right now as a speaker because you have a new book. And so I always like to ask people like what’s working and what’s not working when it comes actually building your business.

Now, I am not somebody who is trying to hard sell people on a dream of a $10,000 keynote if you join a certain program or buy a certain product. I know from my own experience, it’s not that easy. It’s years and years of grinding and relationship building and networking and inbound, outbound content creation, all that, but for you now with a new book that by the time people are listening, they can grab this, but how does that work? to you getting more stages? Like what is your approach? What do you think is going to work? Because I’ve published a book and my goodness, there’s a lot involved with that. And there’s a lot of promotion and a lot of launch. And you’re asking people to move so many ways and so many times. It’s like, how is that working out?

Sally Z: Well, from a speaking business perspective, having a a book is helpful. It’s not necessary, but it’s helpful. And here’s the role. I just wanna share if this is at all helpful for your listeners. The role that it’s playing in my business is not, I’m not going for the New York Times bestselling list. I know that this book is not gonna bring in a ton of money. I know that. I spent money making the book. Oh, and so much time. So much time. So it’s a long game margin approach, right? This is an authority builder. This is a, you know, in the same way that I say, I have a podcast and people go, wow, cool. You’re like, you know, anybody can start a podcast, but.

Ryan Foland: But for the record, like 90 plus percent will never make it past seven episodes. And so everybody can start, but not everybody continues.

Sally Z: So true. So true. So true. Spoken like a prolific podcaster and, and I’m with you on that, like, I earned those 350 episodes. It’s like, oh, yeah. So I’ll take the authority from that for sure. And the book plays a similar role. However, from the speaking business perspective, especially, how great to just add add this to the mix when you’re pitching someone or when you’re pulling together your proposals to be able to say, you know, for, you know, you can buy this many books and, you know, it can leverage it at conferences. You can add it to your partnerships and proposals. Like that’s how, that’s the role that it’s playing in my business right now is, you know, like in December, it was a great opportunity to reach back out to all of the people I’ve spoken to and with in the last two or three years. I sent them a book, I sent them a little gift, and it’s brought in new business. So it’s, you know, it’s a relationship connector. It’s a relationship deepener. It’s an authority builder. And, you know, my next handful of speaking gigs, it’s like okay, I’m shipping books out, I can sell books in the space, or they’re buying books just simply as a part of the contract and agreement outright, which is awesome, ideal, right?

Ryan Foland: Yeah.

Sally Z: So, yeah.

Ryan Foland: Okay. No, these are good things. And I think from the outside, if people haven’t written a book, sometimes they might think that it can be an overnight game changer, or that they could make some sort of New York Times bestseller-selling list. But by the way, these days, in order to get a New York Times best -selling, you’re investing $200 ,000 to $300 ,000 in a book campaign to do that. Like, it’s insane. Also, Myth Buster, you’re not going to make a whole bunch of money on your books.

Sally Z: True.

Ryan Foland: You also have to pause here to talk about traditionally published and self-published. So I had it traditionally published with McGraw Hill Business and that was its own experience, right? We get paid to do it. it, but it’s also a two and a half, almost three-year process. There’s lots of editing. There’s lots of approvals. There’s lots of, I’d say, creativity challenges, right? Because you’re working with somebody who’s paid you to do it. Now, self -publishing is you have so much more control.

So I’m assuming this is self -published?

Sally Z: I did a hybrid model, actually, which I completely think is a… brilliant way to have a little bit of bull. So this, I worked with a company called Wides Inc. So I am paying in the same way that you’re self publishing where it’s like, okay, I’m investing all my own capital to do this, I’m investing all my own time. So very similarly, this all came from me. I didn’t get paid to write my book. I invested in the process. — Yes. They though provide the editors, the publishers, the cover artists, the support along the way, marketing consulting. So you’re getting some of the resources and expertise and support of a traditional publisher, but you’ve got a little more freedom because ultimately they’re like, it’s your book, it’s your money. We just want to help you get there. So it’s a slightly different model, but it’s been great.

But like you said, you’ve gotta be really thoughtful about whether it’s the right time, if you’ve got the energy to invest in it and money to invest in it. And keeping in mind, this is a long game. Like I’m seeing this as a margin increaser. It is not, you know, the line item for book revenue is, it’s, you know.

Ryan Foland: Oh, I drive a Prius, so I love the hybrid. Don’t get me wrong, but this is just good for people to know because if you just don’t, you don’t know what you don’t know. So traditionally published is really difficult because usually it’s them reaching out to you or there’s a lot of pitching and you have to really sell it and then they have control.

Funny story, they bought the book and then the first thing they did is like, “Yeah, we’re gonna have to change the name.” It’s like, so it’s just like you sort of lose these elements and it all works out, but this hybrid sounds very interesting. I’m definitely interested in self publishing. I just started a publishing company myself to then publish under my own. It’s going to be Stick Figure Press and I draw a lot of stick figures and I have five books that I’ve written over the last three years.

I was going to release them as NFTs, super bullish on the crypto and blockchain space, but then we went into a crypto winter. So the whole book NFT never really caught on. And so I’ve just decided to get them across, but I didn’t want to deal with the publisher. And yeah. So there’s, there’s a number of ways to skin these different, uh, I don’t want to skin a cat, but to skin the book.

Sally Z: Yeah. Yeah.

Ryan Foland: Actually makes me think back to high school when you used to actually cover the books. Do you remember that? Yes. Like, right? You just get to put your own cover on draw with paper bag and stuff like that.

Sally Z: Yeah. — It’s these days. They’re really missing out.

Ryan Foland: Yes.

Sally Z: There’s no like getting the paper grocery bag and taping it up and then you could draw over it, right all over it and like, no.

Ryan Foland: Our good old days have gone, but the good old days continue to change. And that’s what’s so important. And I think if we were to come full circle, no matter where you are in life as a speaker, your audience is not always in the same spot. They may be. be in fourth grade. They may be in ninth grade. They may be way your senior. I’ve spoken to executive groups that are super intimidating, but you’re just like, like, you know, I’m not in their spot, but how can I help them? Story is a glue that holds it all together because you and I, just in our flash of mind’s eye, we had all these visions of folding our books together and you get really good at it. Like, like we share that experience, but now maybe it’s a TikTok experience or maybe now it’s a you know, something rather. So yeah, stories are constantly evolving. And that’s why I am just so excited about your book to empower people with using storytelling as a way to influence and influence, you say persuade. I say influence. Yep. My favorite definition is to help change the way people think and then get them to take action. Those two elements together can be persuasive.

And if you are, sharing stories through these moments, and they do have specific meaning, and it can help people to make that move, you can be somebody who is completely different than your audience, but still connect as a human about a story once on a pun time.

Sally Z: Yeah. It’s just to put a little bow on that.

Yeah. A beautiful summary.

One of the most just just optimistic things that I feel right now is through stories because of stories, because as divisive as the world is right now and as challenging it is sometimes to see people who we think are really different from us and think that we have things in common, when we can articulate a truth, with just a human truth. truth in a story and we bring our stories down to the most human elements, we will recognize each other in our stories and say, I thought I had an idea of who you are, but now I’ve heard your story and now I see you differently. I see us differently as a community.

And that gives me hope right now and now I think I have an idea of who you are, in terms of the role that stories can play, I think of it really on a big scale. It’s not just to persuade that one person in your audience, which can be transformative and world-changing, absolutely. But also, how do we really see each other differently in big and powerful ways?

Ryan Foland: And as your speaking career increases, and you are put on more podiums, it becomes more important. And to your point about sort of how we relate as a human race, the best thing somebody can do in your audience is afterwards be like, “You know what? She’s a lot more like me than I thought.”

Sally Z: Yeah, absolutely.

Ryan Foland: Well, you are a lot more like me than I thought and we’ve got… similar stories from covering books to dealing with unattentive teens and less than that, I would suggest to maybe turn down the fourth grade requests unless you have a real good story and strategy.

But Sally Z, this has been fun, I’m so glad that we connected and congratulations on your new book.

I know how hard that is to get across the line, but now it’s across and now it’s about your next book, but not yet. Now it’s about this book. So tell us how people can get it. This will likely air in time with what you’re talking about.

So this will air pretty soon here. So it’s relevant. Here’s your time to make us move. What are you gonna say?

Sally Z: Wonderful, wonderful. Well, thanks for having me on, Ryan. I’m super passionate about this, obviously. And so if you are somebody who wants to speak a better story and wants to dive in deeper to of the nerding out of that, Ryan, and I can’t wait to see you next time to do a little bit today. The book is available starting February 13th is when it officially launches 2024 so you can pre -order now and what I think is cool is great get the book you can go to bemoved .com /b -e -m -o -v -e -d .com and grab the book you can see it right there on the front page but if you are really like okay I’m gonna take action person, I’m a get in the weeds person, then I would invite you to come join us in the Movers Society, which is where we are nerding out together all about this book.

There’s fun, free swag, all of the fun things. So go to the same place, go to and click on the book info and it’ll invite you right into the Movers Society.

So come join us. It’d be really fun.

Ryan Foland: Boom. Who doesn’t like a good swag and community of like-minded words to all our speaker nerds out there. Well, thank you so much.

And for all of our speaker nerds and for you as a speaker nerd, SpeakerHub, which is a sponsor and has been the sponsor of the show for about four years now, which is super exciting. They have an awesome platform to help you be found as a speaker, to have a splash page as a speaker, to create your one-pagers as a speaker. We’ve done a lot of work on the backend to make it speaker-friendly. And we know there’s a lot of speaker platforms out there, but if you are interested in, you know, building a website is too soon for you, or you have a website, but you’re looking for more inbound traffic, or you want to explore call for speakers and actually get out there and knock on some doors, SpeakerHub is a great way to do it. So check that out.

And if you want to nerd out with me at all, and… got two other podcasts. If you like sailing, you can check out GoodJibes. And if you like core messaging, I’ve got my 313 challenge and all of this you can find if you simply remember my name when you’re searching online.

My website is So if you are moved to either hang out with Sally Z or me, you now know what to do.

Sally, good luck. I know that the next couple of months are gonna be chaos, and then hopefully you’ll be able to pump the brakes with a very busy calendar of speaking on the stages you want.

Sally Z: Oh my gosh, thank you, Ryan. It was so fun. So fun to see you again and be here. And thanks for nerding out with me.

Ryan Foland: Totally.

Sally Z: Always ready to nerd out about.

Ryan Foland: Totally, totally. All right,

Well, every time you see WWW, everybody think that you can just flip them as an MMM. M, M, big M with a little M, and then another tiny M that ends up wherever you can make people move.

That’s it. That’s what I’ve got. Thanks, Sally Z. We’ll talk to everybody soon. Find us, follow us, and we’ll talk later.


But wait, there’s more. Literally, we’re about to end, and actually we did end.

And then Sally Z was like, I’m so happy you mentioned SpeakerHub, and then I asked to put the recording back on. So tell us about SpeakerHub. You say you like it. I do.

I love SpeakerHub. I mean, I am involved in all of the things. I’ve got my name in all of the places, but SpeakerHub is the one that sends me the most leads. And that is not just true for me. It’s also true for my speakers. I’ve always like, you know, there’s a lot you can do. Do SpeakerHub first!

Ryan Foland: Boom. All right. Now we’ll let you go. But yeah, thank you for that endorsement there. I’m sure the SpeakerHub crew will be excited. And you know what? If you can’t be found online, how is anybody gonna find you? So if you’re out there and you’re motivated to tell your stories and make people move, then get over to SpeakerHub and see what happens.

All right, now we’re really gonna go. — All right, bye. — Okay, bye.

A bit about World of Speakers

World of Speakers is a bi-weekly podcast that helps people find their own voice and teaches them how to use their voice to develop a speaking business.

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This was originally posted on SpeakerHub Skillcamp.