September 19, 2023

Transcript #216: How Relatable Stories Make You Remarkable Featuring Zafira Rajan

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Transcript #216: How Relatable Stories Make You Remarkable Featuring Zafira Rajan

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How Relatable Stories Make You Remarkable Featuring Zafira Rajan

– Transcript Ep #216

Hint of Hustle Podcast Cover

Hey, friends, welcome back to another episode. I am thrilled to have my friend, my client. Also she’s been on my copywriting like squad before. She’s also a second time guest of the show. Zafira, welcome for today’s conversation. 

Zafira Rajan  1:39  

Thanks for having me, Heather. 

Heather Sager  1:41  

We were joking before we hit record, that we are hanging out with each other all day today, because we have back to back calls booked literally together for just us talking about things. But I’m excited for today’s episode, listeners, this is going to be a little different. Instead of interviewing Zafira on today’s topic, this is kind of a new thing. It’s not very often that I have experts come on my show that have expertise in what I teach. Typically, I teach what I teach the way that I teach it, however, Zafira and I teach very similar things in the in the realm of storytelling, and we just got finished wrapping up preparing her to teach on stage next week and we’ve been geeking out about storytelling for the last few months working on her talk together, and we thought it would be pretty cool to just to hit record and do an episode of two super geeks around stories and language and just kind of chatting about our takes on storytelling in an effort to help you my listeners become more effective storyteller so that you can really stand out when you do share your stories in your message from the stage. So Zafira, I’m just curious, when I asked you to come on the show to talk about storytelling. Were you in? Were you intimidated? Were you excited? How are you feeling about it? 

Zafira Rajan  2:58  

A little bit of both, and that’s because like you said, we do different types of storytelling and when we work together, you can show me the things I can’t see. Just the same way when people work with me. I showed them what they can’t see but for you it’s a visual language. And for me, it’s on the page, and you’re just so good at it. So yes, it’s definitely intimidating. But I also love the way our minds meet during those conversations. So I know we’re gonna like, have some magical moments here too.

Heather Sager  3:32  

A lot of different ways. I kind of jumped jumped the gun here. So for those who haven’t met you before, so I do storytelling through words, they know me already. But for you, you are an amazing copywriter storytelling, why don’t you just share a little bit about your business and your take and your love of stories?

Zafira Rajan  3:49  

Yeah, absolutely. So yes, I’m a copywriter. I’m a brand strategist. And I primarily help entrepreneurs with unblocking their voice on the page, helping them harness their creative energy and writing sensory stories that connect with their audience. So I’m all about leveraging the micro moments in your daily lives, whether it’s for your business stories, whether it’s just to become a better writer, or to just fall in love with the creative process of writing. I have just always been very encouraging of enabling people to build the writing muscle and I’m so excited to just like, share that in my talk, like you mentioned the next week and, you know, bring more people over to that side. But I think like at the core of what I do, I really like to help people feel comfortable in their writing voice just the same way. I think you like to make people feel comfortable on stage and really be their truest self, right?

Heather Sager  4:49  

If you know what’s so fascinating about the work that we do, we we both had I talked about this last time if it was on the show at all. I’ll link to that because it was a really great episode. How it’s It’s fascinating because I’m always in awe of what you do and then it’s like vice versa because I, I’m a good writer, I kind of joke the fact that I like suck at writing, I’m actually really good writer. It just doesn’t flow. As naturally for me, I would much rather grab a microphone and just start talking. Then when I sit down, like I have, I mean, a treasure trove of unfinished email drafts of just like this got started, then I get bored. I’m like, no, it’s too hard. But speaking is just so much easier for me, like, give me a microphone. Give me an audience, I could slay tha but getting it into written form, it stresses me like it stresses me out. And that’s just such a gift that you have. So I’m just curious, you have the opposite approach.

Zafira Rajan  5:44  

Yeah. And as you’re saying that I’m like, Heather, I’ve been meaning to like, have a webinar for every launch of mine for the last three years and I always end up doing an email. Because that feels like in quotes lazier but really, it’s just more comfortable, I think, because that’s the space I like to play in. But even though I know how impactful it could be to have video trainings, or to do more of them, and I’ve seen the impact it can have for my business, but I feel like for me, unless there’s some pressure applied, I’m just never gonna get around to doing those things like I have a speaking spot, or I have to have been asked or invited to do something. And I’m sure for you too, until it’s time to launch or it’s time to do the thing where like, okay, fine, I’ll like right, all the things so we both have it in us.

Heather Sager  6:33  

I just don’t. I don’t. I do parts of it piece, right but that’s why I hired you. You helped me with my website years ago. I now have a conversion copywriter on staff that she writes the launch emails. I love directing it. I love being like, oh, here’s the story. Here’s an angle I love directing the message and the strategy behind it. The actual writing part is just, it’s exhausting to me. And I feel like I don’t know, I just need to publicly declare it in case anyone else feels that too. It’s not that I don’t do I still do it. But I think it really speaks to we all can tap into our strengths in different ways, you know, something that you were sharing with me. So before we hit record here, Zafira did her final, like dress rehearsal, if you will pilot for your presentation next week, and one of the things that you shared when we were debriefing after that I thought was really cool. Is you were sharing with me that you used to think around like that quiet calm was not a thing on stage. Can you talk about that a little bit? Because I was like, oh, people need to hear that. We need to see like different ways around how entrepreneurs show up.

Zafira Rajan  7:37  

Yes, I think when we are served all the messaging around getting visible and being on stage, usually it’s also coming from someone who’s a facilitator who’s high energy and just has great stage presence. But also when you think about, you know, memorable speakers on stage, like they just they brought it you know, the second they stepped on, they were like you were hooked. And I have always felt as like more of the quieter person or you know, all the labels, people can slap on you as an introvert. Even though you have a calm the factory have a soothing effect. You never think that people need that from a stage do you think they need that in a different way, whether that’s being coached by you, or being taught by you, or a podcast, you know, people like I’ve always told me, I like listening to your voice on podcast, because it’s calming. And I never thought that I never connected the dots with the fact that that could also translate on stage until I had my first keynote, and I was freaking out. But what I found is that I think it’s still a really valuable effect because I also think being on the receiving end for people in your audience. I think being slammed with like high energy all day long in a conference or in a series of talks can also feel like a lot. And when I’m teaching what I teach, specifically, we’re talking about it I want people to feel relaxed about it, I want them to feel at ease. So I feel like our work together has been really valuable in showing me that I don’t have to have a different persona to be on stage or to be a speaker I don’t have to be more anything. I can just bring more of myself to it and that’s what lets those messages flow naturally. And also that there is a stage for every personality type, even if you didn’t expect it, you know?

Heather Sager  9:30  

Yeah, I do not you know it’s fascinating. I remember so when you spoke about your your first big keynote virtually I was in the audience like puppy dog like cheering you on so excited. I was like doing the the video on Instagram stories. It’s very exciting to see your it’s I feel like a pageant like stage mom. 

Zafira Rajan  9:48  

I was just gonna say that.

Heather Sager  9:51  

Totally. So I remember. There’s something to be said when someone takes the stage. That is a different, you know, this is the right word, but a different energy a different dynamic. It’s almost like a breath of fresh air for everyone that they feel, you can see that they feel empowered that, oh, this is a different level of energy. Because let’s be on most people don’t have that high high energy on stage. And if they don’t naturally have it, the people who try to do it, it’s a turn off. So you’re seeing speakers when a speaker comes up that is calmer, more soothing. I’ve even seen a conferences before the conference years ago, and there was a speaker take the stage, and he was kind of like a brainiac nerd, which I’m like I can get behind. But his speaking style was a little nervous energy. And I remember thinking like, this guy’s not a great speaker. And when I talked to other audience members, they frickin loved him. And it was because he brought a different energy that was less polished, less like, professional speaker and more like them, which I thought was a really interesting thing. I don’t know, I don’t know if you notice that a lot, too, that people think that they have to be a certain way. But the the truest way they show up is the best way to show up and sometimes we don’t feel like that’s good enough.

Zafira Rajan  11:13  

Yeah, I think so too and I feel like oftentimes, we when we think of our audiences, or who we’re speaking to, we think that they’re expecting the best of the best of the best, and they are. But I find that being in the audience, I’m also rooting for someone if they’re a little imperfect. And if I can tell that, like, even if it’s not, the delivery is not like, incredibly masterful, they just really care about what they’re talking about. And, you know, they’re doing the thing, and people I feel like are always rooting for you, if you’ve decided to take the stage, because that is a big, scary thing to do. And everyone’s sitting there watching us being like, holy cow, I could never do that, or, you know, I’m so impressed that they even like, got into this position. So I find that our audiences are a lot more forgiving, and a lot more at ease and on your level than you think so I totally resonate with that, because sometimes these super polished ones feel like they’re on another level altogether, almost on a pedestal. And I’m like, I know, there’s no way I’m going to talk to them after or connect with them. And it’s just, they’re like, in a different league on their own, which is still great, but maybe not as approachable. And I think when you do kind of show up with some flaws, or just being truly yourself, people can totally resonate with that. And this is totally random. But I went to see Beyonce this week. And I was really shocked by how she opened her tour, which is like with these really slow ballads and some of her older songs and no one was expecting that. But I went there primarily also because they wanted to pump myself up for next week. But it showed me that like if you just show up as you truly want to be and you know, like have the right message and you’ve worked really hard people are just gonna lean in anyways. And it doesn’t have to be big and bold and bright and like wild and like it did get there eventually but she sets the tone for our heart and soul to feel super comfortable. So I personally really connected with that because that’s kind of my vibe, too. So yeah, just mentioned that. 

Heather Sager  13:21  

Your brain is dealing with is you’re talking about that first of all, I’m very excited. You finally got to go see Beyonce because that was on your birthday bucket list. So good job you. Okay, side note to the side note. Last, I think it was a couple weeks ago when you and I were talking I confess to you that I’m not really a Beyonce fan. And I like I feel bad saying that out loud because I’m like people are gonna come from me of who doesn’t like Beyonce is gonna come for you. I know I’m not a Beyonce fan. I’m not really a Taylor Swift fan. It’s not that I don’t like their music I just, I’m not obsessed for I am obsessed is I’m like the singer songwriter. So I am fascinated by people who write and create their own music, which I know Taylor Swift does a bit but one for me like. I love Sara Bareilles, the band The Fray that was like my favorite band in like the early 2010s. I love, like Charlie Puth I’m obsessed with right now just because of his watching him. I don’t know if you’ve ever watched his TikTok videos where he creates from noises like he takes a noise and turns it into a melody and then creates a song like there’s something about the artistry. I remember, I’m a former musician, I play piano growing up and singing that I’m just obsessed with that, but it just I think it actually this brings up a really good point. This was not on purpose but here we go full circle. The whole thing about being your true self and sharing parts of yourself and we both do that through storytelling is it allows people to get to know you and to create those like obsessive followers like Beyonce or Taylor Swift, but it also had it I mean the stories They might create people who are like, I hate that person. But that’s not really I think people think that extreme happens. But I don’t think that’s really the thing. I think that when you’re able to still show up to what you do, explain what you do in a great way understand how to teach how to write how to communicate. People can have a level of respect for that without being your obsessive fans that like you become enjoyable like I am. I’m not indifferent to Beyonce and Taylor Swift, but I am not like anti either of them. I don’t know if this is even making sense. But it’s just like, there’s an interesting part around is that I think we live in a world where we think it’s so extreme. Either people love you or hate you. But I don’t know. I think there’s a lot of gray area that middle.

Zafira Rajan  15:41  

Yes, I think the gray area in the middle is the respect, right? And for context, I went to this concert alone because all my close friends and my partner’s like, they’re like, she’s cool, but I’m not obsessed, right? And, but I can respect that she’s a great singer. She’s a great performer and blah, blah, blah, I’m like, I’m not going with anyone who’s not at the level I’m at so fully enjoy.

Heather Sager  16:04  

Okay, I didn’t know this detail and that’s pretty amazing.

Zafira Rajan  16:08  

And I treated myself to four tickets, like the price of what would have been me paying for two of us to go with whoever I was going with and you know what, I have the absolute best time ever, but they were also so happy for me just like you said, there’s an alarming amount of people in my life. We’re like, I’m so happy you finally did that. They’re probably tired of me saying I’ve never seen her life. But they all respect her. And but it doesn’t mean they have to engage in indulge in the same way I do. So yeah, I think that is like picking out a gray area and more of like a green area of a nicer color in between where you can still hold someone in high regard but you don’t have to be diehard fan?

Heather Sager  16:45  

I think making this translation to marketers. I always have this business lesson. I think a lot of times we make our marketing decisions, whether it’s speaking whether it’s writing. We gauge our feedback based around the obsessed fans, which let’s all be honest, the email replies, the people who tell you are awesome that oh my gosh, your stuff is so great, those would be like the Swifties or the what’s the equivalent of the Beyonce world?

Zafira Rajan  17:08  

The yeah, but the Beyhive.

Heather Sager  17:12  

There’s that, right? But then there’s like a whole wealth of people who still appreciate it and like, enjoy listening to the music. And I think that’s okay, so here’s my side tangent to business. I think a lot of times there are people that are listening to your messages, whether it’s in your audience or on your email list or reading your blogs that you’ll never hear from, because they’re not the type of people who are the obsessive go to the concert or obsessive or reply or whatever else. And I don’t know, I think what’s cool about stories, here’s the pivot to storytelling because I think the stories allow you to connect with a lot of different people, you can connect with your super loyal people who are engaged, and they’re gonna gobble it up. But it also transcends to the people who are listening. But you don’t always know that they’re listening, that they might not be the most actively engaged. But you become like stickier in their mind, you slowly claw your way in to that obsession, like,

Zafira Rajan  18:04  

Yes, I think that’s so true. And I think the importance of showing up consistently with your stories is that really, you’re playing the long game, right? Because like, I mean, I am know I’ve experienced it, and I’m sure you have someone’s been on your list for years. And then out of nowhere, they’re like, I’ve been reading and following stuff for ages. And now I want to do this with you, or I want to do that or like, I want to invite you on to this thing that I have. And I’m like, I didn’t even know like, this person has been consistently opening my emails for years and years. And you just never know, like, who’s listening, right? But it’s important, I think, to keep showing up for them and keep honing in on the quality of your stories because they’re low key invested. And maybe investing in you years and years later. You know, just like putting a bug in someone’s ear. My best friend is not obsessed with Beyonce, but now she’s the one sending me Tiktoks and her whole feed is that and she’s like what have I become? I think she’s Loki getting converted. But

Heather Sager  19:06  

The cool part about that is okay, so I’ve been I’ve been talking about this for weeks is that this idea of becoming more known, putting yourself out there through sharing your stories for sharing your message. What we really what I define as becoming known is where people recognize your name before you even take the stage or before you even get the introduction. They remember your work they remember your stories they remember how they felt when they heard you speak and they refer they refer you to their friends they talk about you whether it’s obsessively or I love it when people this my best piece of feedback I always get is when people like thank others for introducing them to me. Like so that’s how you know you have a good refer. So with your friend who’s not obsessed with Beyonce, what’s cool around that is now she’s actually looking for things to like send you around Beyonce. I think about this all the time I get people coming into my world you probably do too. Those who have never bought anything from me ever. But they refer me left and right. Yeah, they tagged me in the Facebook group saying Oh speaking coach, Heather Sager. Oh, you mean speaking coach, Heather Sager. And sometimes I’m like, but they don’t even know if I’m good. But there’s a reputation there, right? Like, I think that’s what’s interesting is, the more you talk about your expertise, the more that you tell your stories, showcase your street cred through stories, that’s my favorite way to do it. People refer you even when they don’t buy from you and that, like, I don’t know, that’s my favorite way to market.

Zafira Rajan  20:33  

I think so too. Because I think as you keep showing up, and, you know, telling stories means you’re sharing parts of your personal life, you’re sharing the real stuff that’s going on, I think that makes you more credible, over time and more trustworthy, right, because you’re not hiding behind something else, you’re just showing up and being real. And I do think those people in between the people who respect you or you know, may not buy from you may not be invested in, you can still be your biggest advocates, or your biggest affiliates, or whatever, you know, it’s just important that they still know you’re around.

Heather Sager  21:10  

So you we have similar, so you have a membership, you have a course where you teach people like writing write writing, you speaking me, and in both of our programs, story is a central piece of it, right? It’s one of the vehicles that we use to help our our clients feel more connected to their audience and their audience more connected to them. I’m curious, I’m gonna go left field here and go geeky, and let’s talk about from a business perspective. What’s the case that you typically make to your clients around? Like, why are stories not just like a nice to have to make you likeable? But why are they a necessity for business owners?

Zafira Rajan  21:47  

I think they’re a necessity. Because, you know, really, in the sea of everything out there, that’s really the only thing that can set you apart. That is the only unique thing you can gravitate towards and share from your unique perspective that no one else can copy you no one else can imitate, and is also the thing you have the easiest access to. So even though technically, it seems hard mentally to wrap your head around it, I often have to help people realize, like, it’s, you know, the simplest form of storytelling really, at the end of the day, is just to leverage what’s already going on around you. And ultimately, at the end of the day, I want people to connect with their audience on a relatable level, I want them to feel like the people on the other side of the screen are just right there with them. And I often find when we take story out of the equation or messaging is either like too vague, or it’s, you know, wandering or it’s not anchored in anything. And the most consistent thing we have going on is like the everyday stories happening in our lives, and those themes will show up time and time again, and your audience will be looking forward to you sharing those themes time and time again, for me, you know, for instance, it might be like how I talked about the ocean, or my two rescue dogs, or my love of books, clearly fiance, but you know, those are all those all kind of end up becoming pillars of your content over time. And I think it’s the easiest thing you could you have access to, it’s just flipping your mindset to realize that it can be such an asset instead of something so overwhelming. And yeah, I’m sure you have your way of making the case for it. What’s yours?

Heather Sager  23:34  

I have all good. Well, first of all, like just that idea. I’ve never heard that phrase before. But I’m like duck that is so brilliant around it’s the easiest content you have access to. Like that. It’s so what’s so funny for me on my end, what I always hear is people are like, ah, stories are so hard. It’s like I don’t have any I like how do I come up with them? And it’s just it’s fascinating because we get to like, be like, oh, there’s all these stories, but that whole idea of is the easiest thing you have access to that’s just like a very simplistic but such a profound thought. Like Yes, amen to that. I you know, I Okay, so people probably know this for me by now. But I have okay, I used to have a friend in high school. I think she meant this as a compliment. I was confused at the time, but she would call me a Yo yo, where I was constantly flipping back and forth between like, detail stuff, and then switching gears to like, big picture things. And that’s been a theme throughout my entire career. I remember when I was walking through a hotel in Las Vegas, it was one of my first sight tours for booking a like $500,000 Hotel contract ever and I was like scared out of my mind thinking like, Oh, this is a lot of pressure. But I remember like walking the hallways with a meeting planner at the hotel. And we were talking like bigger picture around the room design or the room block or I don’t know something big picture. And I stopped and I looked over and I asked a very specific question around. And what time does the front desk open for something something like it was the most detailed question on the planet? She looked at me so confused, that I’m like, sorry, my brain is constantly going between like big picture, small picture. And that’s when I recognize that, oh, I’m different than other people. So coming back to storytelling, is when I’m thinking about storytelling for clients. I always am holding these two dualities around stories, where I know that story is this this like, almost like this softer hug, that makes people feel good, where there’s this connection that happens, unlike anything else. And I can hold in the exact same space, that there is a damn specific strategic reason for why we’re telling that story. Like, I don’t think that being strategic as a business owner and having objectives. I don’t think that cannibalizes the comfort and connection that comes from stories. So I That’s That’s why I’m always thinking about as juggling those two, because I think a lot of people think it’s one or the other. So for me, like on the business sense of stories, I think stories are the easiest way to sell your stuff. Because you get to tell the why you created something. And the Why isn’t because I wanted to start my own business because I wanted to like dish demand. There was like a reason why this one idea that you have came in, there’s context around it. And so that’s one of my favorite things. So people know that I love teaching people how to sell that’s like my sneaky pocket skill. Using stories for selling, how using stories to amplify your credibility, it’s the easiest way to do it. Otherwise, you have to like get on your soapbox, and pretend like you’re a car salesman, or use the bro marketer scripts that sound terrible. Like it’s when you’re, when you’re selling like spewing these scripts. That’s why it rubs you wrong. But when you’re telling the story of why you created a new, it’s for the feels like a hug and a blessing because you now have an opportunity to work with someone and get the results you’re after. So I’m always like in that duality. I think he got on that all day long. But I don’t know, it always like seems to blow people’s minds around how I can toggle between and like, what’s the what’s the thing? What’s the objective for overcoming and all of that?

Zafira Rajan  27:13  

Yes, absolutely. And I feel like where we meet in the Venn diagram of those two things is really the emotion Right? Like what you’re saying, like, when is the script you can tell and for me, when it’s you know, something that someone has tried really hard to write in a way that just talks around the story instead of telling the story you can tell. And I think for both of us were it was just like blowing the dust off of the BS. And we’re like, just say the real thing. Right? Yeah. And just tell them why tell them why. But I think I think where people find it challenging is that sometimes they don’t know that the stories are stories. And I think we’re both good at like, opening people’s eyes to be like, No, that’s the story. Go there, do the thing. You know, what you were mentioning in terms of like people remembering your stories and having that be something attached to you, you and I worked on a really cool opening story for one of my keynotes my eyebrows story. And people still mentioned that till today. But I remember at the time when we were just riffing on things. Like I didn’t realize that would be the story I’d end up using, but he was like spirit that’s gold. So you know, we speak a different language, visually and in our words, and I would have never thought to use that. But you were able to spot the opportunity right there because you can yo yo between all the things right?

Heather Sager  28:32  

That was fun. I still Yes, y’all. We did an entire opening story around Zafira’s eyebrows. Yeah, it was the literally I think the word eyebrow in the chat at that event was probably the most like utilized words and like the stickiness factor of that story. It was it was so good. I wish we could share it I’m curious for you where Okay, I’m gonna go a little different direction here and put you on the spot. What are some of your storytelling like nails on a chalkboard things? As in when you notice other people bless their hearts as they say not from the south neither of you. But I’ve here this is what we were supposed to say when we bless their hearts for doing things wrong. What are some of those things that you notice that you wish you could help them shift?

Zafira Rajan  29:27  

I think when people tend to use all the adjectives instead of spelling spelling out like what’s actually happening underneath so for instance, when people I don’t know you might say like, I you know, I was in a room where it was you know, just like loud and it was noisy and I felt really overwhelmed and blah blah blah like they just be you know, I don’t really know what’s happening in the room, right? Like what’s making it loud on what’s making it chaotic and like how is overwhelmed you feeling in your body. So I think when we just say things on, like, feels like those surface level, it doesn’t give your audience anything to latch on to. And I just wish people would add more detail to their writing into the quality of the writing, it’s already there, they just don’t know that that’s something they need to do until I can help them switch that light on. And, you know, when people I think, anytime I read copy on a sales page that’s like benefit based, and it’s things like increased confidence, or just like, you know, things or like clarity or things that just are feel so intangible without understanding how you can like, ground them in the context of what you’re selling. And I think probably my third pet peeve is when especially around launches, if I’m reading someone’s bio, I’m reading their story, and there’s nothing in there about why they made the thing, or why they’ve created it, but it’s just like, here’s my bio, and here’s my credibility by five things. You know, like, I need that hearts. And I need like that essence behind things for me to feel really connected to someone in the coffee. So I guess, probably my overall pet peeve is people just playing safe on the surface when they could be going so much deeper. But I also I understand why because that’s just probably the easiest way to do things. But it can also sometimes be like, the laziest way to do things. If you know, you’re just like, I just need to get something out the door. But I think people can tell when that’s the case.

Heather Sager  31:35  

That’s a true one. Yeah. I set my mind language around that. So I have a similar thing. Okay, so it’s interesting. I never realized I was a good storyteller. That was not like, not even a thing on my radar. I did not know I was good at telling stories. I didn’t really experience that I told stories wasn’t really a thing. I until I had to write until I had to start telling my stories. And for me, it will be both. I’m actually curious. I want to hear your story around. Like, why is this storytelling become a thing? Like I’m actually very curious around when when that really became true for you. I don’t I don’t know when it became true for me. But what I what I know to be true is people have heard this story before, but when my when my mom got really sick from cancer, so senior in high school, I remember. So my family has started our nonprofit that was her last Christmas present we gave her before she passed away in March. And I remember my high school teacher. It was a memorable class. It was like government or something. But it was the the class that we had to do this big senior project in. And part of our grade for graduation is we had to present our senior projects. It was like a big presentation. Everyone was freaking out about it every year the seniors go wild because they have to give this big formal presentation. I’m like y’all have my mom is literally dying, like I have bigger problems than a frickin presentation. But I remember my teacher pulling me aside and him saying it was early in the year right where she was diagnosed terminal, but we didn’t really know how it was gonna go. And I remember him, I could just imagine this teacher like trying to explain this to a teenage girl. He I get choked up thinking about it. But he’s like, are you sure that this is the topic you want to speak on? And he could like envision the end of the year, like what happens if this girl’s mom dies, like, I don’t want to like be the one having to tell her like you failed because he can’t deliver a presentation. But my whole talk was around our foundation, and my mom and it was all around cancer treatment for breast cancer. We’ll get into that. But I remember this conversations guy so clearly. And sure enough, my mom passed away in March. And I had to give this presentation in June. And I remember that we were split into rooms. And there were I was in a group with like four football players giving their presentations, one of them was going to become a real estate agent. And his mom had a real estate agency. So they were all just very dude style things. And I stood up and gave my whatever 12 or 18 minute presentation about my mom and our foundation, and I cried the entire time, cried the entire time. And I had just if interested but what I realized from that was standing up in front of a group and just sharing my truth, which is such cheesy language. But sharing the real story of why I picked the topic was one of the most freeing things I’ve ever done. And when I then went on to compete in Miss America and started my platform was breast cancer awareness. And I had to tell rehash this thing that my mom died over and over and over again, which sounds like it’d be a horrible thing to talk about, but it was the most therapeutic thing I’ve ever talked about. So for me, sharing my story was what got me through that. And it’s like the basis of the work I do now, but I never ever considered that storytelling. So for me when I think story and sharing hard things when I now connect that into business. It’s the point in the story where I wish I had a Kleenex in my office. It’s just I don’t even remember why I started talking about that, or the connection was back in. But I just, I just think that so often we’re, sometimes we’re hunting for the right stories to tell. Sometimes depending on where you’re at in your life, there is a story that needs to be told, for whatever reason, you don’t question it. And that’s definitely been my journey. But it is a thing that, like, embracing my role as a storyteller has been the biggest changer in my life. And in my business. Now. I don’t remember where I was going with that. But that was a journey.

Zafira Rajan  35:42  

That was beautiful and extremely moving. And I think on its own just goes to show how liberating the process can be, right? Like, yes, it can do all these great things for your business. And it can, you know, can really connect with your community and do so much for your audience, but can also just do so much for you on a personal level, to really get comfortable sharing the heart, sharing the heart story, sharing the powerful stories. And I know I feel it too, every time we worked together. And I ended up telling you stories, sometimes I feel so nervous before I’m about to do something. And then after it’s done, I’m like, Wow, I feel like a million pounds lighter, even though this felt really heavy going into it. And I just think that it can, it can be so freeing on its own just for you on a personal level and on how you end up showing up in your business as a result for other people as a result in for yourself in all the different ways that you share stories, I really has this ripple effect, because I think it can change you at a core level truly,

Heather Sager  36:45  

you can and I think oftentimes, I’m curious, your take on this is I get questions from people around, okay, I feel this thing I need to share on my heart. But then in the kind of other hand is here’s like, you want to make sure that you’re sharing things that are going to be helpful to others. Right. It’s not just about freeing your soul. It’s, it’s about serving others. So do you like how do you typically approach that with clients around whether or not they should share a story like whether or not that that story needs to be told in that format? Or at that time? That’s always an interesting question.

Zafira Rajan  37:22  

That is such a good question. It’s one I get all the time. And it’s it’s usually so nuanced, because it depends on the context. Like is this the story on your bow pages is the story in your email. And I think that, you know, something that I’ll share, actually, from my own book writing process right now has been really fascinating in terms of like, really anchoring stories and their relevance, which is, you know, I had to outline the whole book recently, and my book coach was like, before you write anything, I want you to map out each scene and the point of each scene, point seeing point, and I have about 50, for the entire book. And I started taking that approach and sharing that with my community members, when they’re like, Is this relevant? Or like, why? You know, do I need to do this. So let’s say in an email might be like three scenes, but you know, three points, and it’s all coming back to something. So I think, when it comes to helping people identify what to Carver what to chip away and what to keep in, it still has to have a point, you still have to have an overall message or a mission and your audience, it wants you to take them on a journey from A to B. And if you go to x all of a sudden, and then he come back to me that’s a sign that that’s something that maybe we can tuck away later. Or maybe we can move it into the Yes, but the journey has to be there. So I like to make sure that people tend to end up meandering in the middle. And that’s where they get tripped up the most. And that’s usually when I do the most culling. And some people also are never sure where to start things, or they get really lost trying to end things. So it’s just it’s those beginning middles and ends that are the trickiest. And sometimes I like to switch them up depending on the kind of story that we’re telling. But at its at its core I like for, you know, the people that I support to really remember like, what’s the point here? Why are we talking about this? Why is it relevant to your reader? And that’s why many of the seasons storytellers you’ll see in your inbox will open with a seemingly unrelated story, but by the end of it, they’ve taken you somewhere completely different. And now you’re like, Yeah, I want to buy that course actually. Started with something about you on like a roller coaster. Right. Right. But you, you took them there. So yeah, yeah, I think it’s about the destination, I guess.

Heather Sager  39:48  

That’d be Aaron green thing. It’s interesting, right? Because in writing, when you see it reflected back on the page, it can feel like oh, very clear around where like strikethrough and he Even with my clients, we you and I did this right? Write it out, talk it out, transcribe it. So I can actually show you what to cut. And something that’s interesting is this happens to almost everyone, it doesn’t matter if you’re like a professional storyteller or not, everybody has the rambly first version, where the first time you tell the story, it’s not going to be your stage where the story is unique got to get off the brambles, because I find it’s almost sometimes you notice how, when someone’s on a coaching call for anyone listening who has been on group programs, the same thing always happens when someone jumps into a hot seat on a coaching call. They just deliver all of this context and backstory. And as the person speaking, we feel this was necessary that need the context in order for this to make sense or in order for to like to justify my question or something else with all this context. And I think you did the same thing in storytelling. And what I always find is, tell that story, because most of it is context that is unnecessary for the actual point of the story. And so we can like shave off and cut all of that extra and start at the good part. Let’s my favorite thing to do with people. I did this for a client, Nick, she was on the show two weeks ago, she she had keynote happening that week on a different topic. And she showed up to a session and ramble about this whole story. And I’m like, perfect. Start here. And it was two thirds of the way in the story. And she’s like, quiet, like mortified, and like, kill the darlings, as they say, start there. Trust me, and she practiced it. And she said she’s never had she’s professional speaker. She’s never had an audience so captivated and engaged as she did the start of that keynote. And I’m like, I see, I know, things. I know things sometimes. Yes, that like meandering piece in the editing process, but I don’t know, I think I think people think that oh, I’m a good storyteller, therefore, I can just ramble it out. But you’re gonna ramble out that the rambles?

Zafira Rajan  41:59  

Absolutely, yeah. And I mean, you know, I consider myself like, a good writer. But I remember writing out my like, you know, opening stories or whatever you are quick to point out like, like, this sounds great on paper. But if you are going to read this out, this doesn’t sound natural, right? Because I had gone and edited it and polished it and stuff. So I have

Heather Sager  42:19  

edited and polished. Oh, I just said sister when she read that out loud. And you didn’t I go, How’d that feel?

Zafira Rajan  42:26  

Yeah, I buffed and ate like ice, scrub just all the things, but you helped me like ramble in a different way. And I, you know, we all process differently. So I think that’s really important. And I think the whole piece around providing context and you know, the lead up to things when I see people do that, and writing too, I think we do that to protect the story a little bit and to protect ourselves, and then we get comfortable in the middle. And obviously, what is scary about sharing our story on stage, and when we’re speaking is starting and the big part. And that’s what you are so gifted at helping, you know, people realize and identify, and also really insightful to know that that is actually what your audience really cares about. Yeah, no one knows what the first drafts were, but like they are, I’m sure they would always be shocked if they knew.

Heather Sager  43:18  

Yeah, you know, okay, I have to pull off this quote, I read this earlier in a coaching call I was on today. I was listening to a book this morning. And there was a quote that stood out and I’m like, I have to write this down. And then I rift on it. But I think a lot of times when you say when you said that piece around, we have the context to kind of protect our own story. Brilliant. I love that. That reminds me of so I wrote this down. I don’t remember what was the actual quote? And then what I added to for it, but the here is this. Are you more interested in being right? Or getting it right? How you answer this question determines how you’re able to receive feedback. What makes me think about this story is sometimes we’re so tied to wanting to tell a certain story or a certain part of the story, that it’s almost like our egos are saying no, but this story, this is important. We want this and we’re wanting to be right to be able to express that. But the question is, is that more important? Or is it more important to serve your audience and serve the point, as you were saying earlier, it’s like every story even even my beloved Marine, dead mom, whatever stories like I have all these stories, right? And sometimes it can seem seemingly that it’s like, oh, Heather’s going off on a tangent again, which I do all the time. They’re always anchored in a point. They’re always come back to a lesson and it connects to my content. Like that’s my storytelling framework is ABC attract, bridge connect, like it’s there’s like three parts of a story. But if it doesn’t go into an actual point, that’s going to serve your audience. Then that goes well. You’re just now choosing your ego to like Express. And that’s great. If you want to be an artist. We’re storyteller, but as a business owner, you have a duty to serve your audience. Yeah, just my opinion.

Zafira Rajan  45:06  

Exactly. It’s just like the difference between being heard and being understood. Right. Like, people can hear the story and all the things that like they don’t get where it’s going or why it’s relevant than there’s no point. Right. So, yeah, I think you’re really great at applying a relevancy filter and building those bridges, which is often I find the trickiest part in storytelling in speaking that I have no problem doing it in writing. So yeah, there’s so many moving parts.

Heather Sager  45:33  

Yeah. You know, I okay. I’m, I’m curious. Let’s talk about choosing stories. So the last couple weeks, I’ve been talking a lot about signature story. That’s like the huge thing right now we’re in the middle of a launch. We’re talking about building your signature talks, I think, what was fascinating, and the reason why I want to ask you this question is, you and I have now built two stage talks. And they’ve been on topics that are within your core wheelhouse. And neither of them have we use your quote unquote, signature story. And this is why I love this example is because I think a lot of people think that they have to stand up and deliver the whole origin story. And if you don’t actually have to, you can weave in your credibility expertise in other ways. But you have really embodied my approach to keynotes and workshops, which is telling sparkly stories. So I am curious for you, can you share a little bit around your experience around choosing stories for your talks? I don’t know if that process surprised you at all, or just if you want to share any of that. That’d be super cool.

Zafira Rajan  46:37  

Yeah, I think it’s been really fascinating. It’s been always an exciting challenge. Because, like you said, there’s always has to be a point. And you know, for my most recent talk, like you mentioned, you wanted it to be a story palooza. So we needed opportunities to weave in multiple stories, or my first one was like one big one. So I feel like the process is always really enlightening. Because it just like I mentioned earlier, like, oh, sometimes people don’t know that stories are stories. I always relearn that every time we work on a talk. And there are so many moments from my childhood or, you know, from my daily life, where I’m like, oh, yeah, like I, I know that happened. But I didn’t understand that like, that connects to a way bigger and greater message than I realized. And it slots in perfectly right here. Well, I never knew I would use it in this way. And they love that you said sparkly stories. Because really, they are just moments that you can pull in. But they also are sparkling in the sense that like, the quality of them is such that your audience really is right there with you. And like they’re listening with bated breath, they, they are choosing to be there and being the audience and they want to see where you take them. Right. So that’s always been a really fascinating experience to me, because it is way different from writing a story in an email and segwaying into like an offer or a takeaway or whatever. I have to learn how to do it in a way where it’s has multiple segways throughout the talk, and it has like multiple functions. And I have to like close a lot of loops along the way. And that is really such an art form. I had no idea until we work together. And if I tried to figure it out on my own, it would probably ramble for half of

Heather Sager  48:26  

what’s interesting to me so I’ve worked with a lot of copywriters on speaking over the years. And I love working with copywriters, right? Because understanding the structure of things like we don’t have to spend time around like, here’s the secret. It’s like, oh, yeah, this is that part. Now, here’s how we do it live. But the thing that has always surprised me. Is this a lot of business owners, I always have people tell me Oh, I love storytelling. I’m a great storyteller. Oh, that’s not that. Remember that nails on a chalkboard question I asked you earlier. It’s not nails on a chalkboard, but I am no longer I no longer have I have high expectations, when someone tells me their greatest stories, because 9.9 times out of 10 what happens is they start telling a story. And then it’s over and unlike. But where’s the story? That wasn’t a story. You just reported facts. Or I think a lot of times what happens is people think they’re telling a story. But in their brain, they’re remembering the story but only verbally reporting about 20% of it. So it kind of skips like, you know, a movie that skips decades, except for this is not a movie because it doesn’t make sense around how the decades go together. It’s just kind of fragmented. And then they get to the end and they think this payoff and the point of the story is so compelling. And I’m left going I see what you were trying to do. We can make it do it better. Make it better always. Make it better. And that’s one of the things I’ve loved working with you is one, you’re a great storyteller. So you know the components of a story. So that’s been easy. But what’s, what’s been really interesting is that that nuance difference around speaking a story. And speaking in a way that you’re speaking for the first time. That is a different art form, because storytelling is just a much about the being in the moment and sharing it. I mean, gosh, okay, I hate coming back to this example. But y’all, I ugly cried on this podcast today. I would imagine that you teared up to I don’t know, I was looking at the cameras. Because if you’re I don’t know where you went on that one. But I imagine anyone listening, if you held it together through that, like, good for you, right, but but that piece is, I still get choked up talking about something that happened one to two years ago. And yes, I’ve emotionally healed from it. But I still, I’m able to tell my stories in a way like I am sharing it real, raw and true. And this is something that I this is what we worked on. Right? If this was in your closing story for your keynote, by the time this airs, it’ll be this week, is closing stories are what I call a heartfelt story that needs to raise the stakes, there’s a specific job of a closing story, and it has to touch someone in the heart. And if we try to get it right, if we try to have the right words, if we try to recite a script, you miss the experience in that presence of the emotion. And I think this is something I’ve mastered really well. And this is I think, the hard thing for people to grasp going from a page to trusting that they’re going to get the story. And they have to experience the emotions as if they’re experiencing it for the first time. Which is is kind of scary to do if you’re sharing something raw. But I am curious, because I pushed you pretty hard on the script piece on those. How was that experience for you? Because you really made leaps and bounds in your closing story in the last three weeks?

Zafira Rajan  51:51  

Yeah, I think what you’ve really pushed me to do is to, you know, just know, how to feel into but also, like you said, how to really raise the stakes for your audience, and not just tell the story. But to command the room in that moment, and have them be like this, there’s some serious shit that’s happening, right? Like, there’s a line, I know, I’m going to say where you’re like, stop right there, you know, pause, like, look at them in the eye and be like, this is for real, like I need you to actually go and do

Heather Sager  52:26  

like Unity. It’s like you’re yelling at them, I want like a, like a period at the end of that, like that boom.

Zafira Rajan  52:32  

Like my strict mom voice. Right? And. And those are things I might have just glossed over, I might have just, you know, set in a different way. But they really hold so much weight. And I think knowing when to infuse like the pauses and like the moments or like to slow it down or to just let the words breathe, instead of just talking and talking and talking and trying, like, you know, especially for a closing story, we’re like, I’m almost done again, like loads don’t go. I think, in both the talks we worked on, you really helped me understand how much your audience needs that for the story to land the way it’s supposed to land. And also to just, you know, it’s kind of like when someone who’s a really good speaker like is whispering and you want to lean in to just hear every word and they don’t have to be super loud. You really taught me the power of that. And also just knowing how to like bridge everything, right? So it makes sense. And like, we’re still coming back to something that like is impactful. Like you said, that’s not even just like the hug at the end. But is that like, this is the reason you’re here, right now. And like bring them back to that moment connected back to like, the theme of why they’re there or the conference or whatever it is. and have it be very full circle is again, like such an art form, I think because if you’ve delivered something so powerful, you don’t want to end it feeling like it fell flat, or you don’t want to end it have it be like a building. And that’s deflating slowly because you gave all the good stuff away. I think you helped me realize it’s got to be good and juicy all the way to till the end. And the story in itself is also an active teaching as well. Yeah.

Heather Sager  54:19  

It’s like, okay, we mentioned music. We started with Beyonce today. And then I talked about my love of music music. A good talk is like a song there. And if anyone knows anything about music, there’s chord progression in music, there’s like a, there’s a template structure around how songs work between the chorus, the bridge that like all those pieces, right? I won’t get into that. But when it comes to a talk, there are highs and lows. There are a crescendo so it shouldn’t be the same energy throughout the whole thing. And this is why I love storytelling so much just because it lends naturally to the highs and lows that you can take an audience on. I just had this lightbulb as you were talking. So it’s a fear you teach sensory storytelling and sidenote, y’all, you just you need to go follow Sofia, she’s got a couple blog posts around this, we have a lot of content around it. I don’t know how they can eventually hear this version of the talk you’re giving, I don’t know if you’re gonna have any content around it, but like what you’re teaching is frickin brilliant inside your talk, so she’s teaching like ways to add a sensory experience in your stories. And as you were talking about it reflected back to me, I’m like, oh, what you do for word choice? I do for like delivery. Yeah. Yeah, like, I don’t know why I didn’t get that right until this exact moment, like Hello, Heather, welcome to the party. But that idea like around the pauses around the the the connection points around the physicality, we talked a lot about stage presence and movement, all those pieces, create that sensory experience for your audience through the volume and through the pace and through just all of that. So it is I think a lot of people ignore that delivery piece. I’m obsessed with it, because I could have mediocre content, but really make someone feel all the things because I’m very good at making my voice do different things, or my eyebrows go crazy, or my hand gestures or whatever else. So it’s like, I love how our brains work bringing this full circle, like that’s kind of cool.

Zafira Rajan  56:19  

It is so cool. And it’s what I mentioned the beginning, like you are so gifted at teaching a visual language. And it is it’s all those elements, right? That’s like how you’ve taught me like what to do with my hands. You’ve taught me like, well points to walk between slides. And like all those little little details, I think makes such a big impact on the overall delivery and like the sticking and staying power of it as well. Which I think is what what you ultimately really hope for with your stories. Right and how you share them. Yeah.

Heather Sager  56:50  

It’s funny, I when you mentioned earlier around how you’re known for things like your dogs, your rescue dogs, the ocean, you views that into everything. We all have like little nuance things. It is interesting, because I think a lot of times we’re like, I want to be known for an insert the thing you do, right, like I want to be known for being the best copywriter. I want to be known for being the go to speaking coach, which Yeah, that’s great. But for me, like, this is weird, my weird things being known for the girl who? Okay, weird side tangent, here we go again. Back to my mom’s story, my mother’s day posts that I post on social, like five times larger, more popular than any other thing. Anytime I talk about my story about my mom, those things are far more popular. I have a real on Facebook right now that I don’t even remember posting it to Facebook, and I still keep getting shares that it’s like escalating like crazy. It’s the story of me taking my kids to my mom’s grave for the first time two years ago, I posted this reel two years ago. Wow. And it’s still like it’s baffling to me. But then there’s just peace and like that’s not around speaking but it is around sharing my story. Yeah, and the fact that I help so many people who have had loss, or who have a complicated relationship with motherhood or whatever else that every mother’s day or every season, every time I choose to talk about that it reaches people, and I’m known for that. I’m okay with that title. Like I think becoming known is more than just like our craft. I think there’s so many other things that we can make an impact for and that like, I don’t know, that’s the power of storytelling.

Zafira Rajan  58:30  

Yes. And I think the power in both what we both do with our stories is really just about how we make people feel right. At the end of the day. I think we both have the ability to help people meet, feel really seen and heard and accepted in ways that they might not expect from us. But those are the things they remember us for right?

Heather Sager  58:49  

Yeah, it’s so good. Y’all. If you were not on the pharaohs email list, you need to be because her emails are like they’re one of the very few that I actually read in entirety. And I reply to them, yeah, I love

Zafira Rajan  59:03  

my emails.

Heather Sager  59:07  

But it’s the one you get a masterclass around emails, but it’s just a good experience to listen to. I mean, just you do a really good job beautifully bringing in story, but also modeling what it looks like to bring personality. Without it needing to be big or dramatic. You bring in seemingly simple, everyday moments to show people how accessible storytelling is and I frickin love that like, no wonder you said it’s the easiest way to form content like you model it’s so forgiving. Well, you you make it look easy. I know for you if there’s a lot more that goes into it. You’re very

Zafira Rajan  59:38  

good at it. Thank you so much. I appreciate that.

Heather Sager  59:42  

All right, as we wrap up here if you’re any other any other things on your mind that you would love for people to know when it comes to storytelling. Phil, listen to us going okay, I hear you. I’m going to start being more aware of how I tell stories how I bring them in. Yes, we hear you let me say more than just my expertise. And then you just like tips or words of wisdom that you want to share.

Zafira Rajan  1:00:03  

Honestly, the one thing I would say is, the sooner you start, the better, I think I waited a long time for people to give me permission to share my stories. I think this is where we were going originally our origin stories, because I just remembered, but sometimes I have waited up until I have been given an opportunity, or I’ve been forced into it or, you know, I really feel like if I had been practicing it earlier, especially with speaking, you know, a lot more opportunities and collaborations and connections would have opened up for me more than I dreamed possible. And thankfully, it has stage moms like you have there, you know, not everybody has that. But I really, I would have encouraged my younger self to have, like, you know, the guts to just try and share it. And so whatever form that looks like for you, I think the sooner you start, the better just so that by the time you are ready, and you feel good. Those opportunities will be waiting for you versus, you know, waiting around and trying to see whether you deserve them or whether you’re right for them, or whether you need to be on stage or doing the things I think everybody deserves a place on the stage. And there is one free for everyone. And your stories are important. Just start now just start now.

Heather Sager  1:01:26  

I love that. I think that’s it. That’s critical. I think that’s the best advice for everyone. I think one of the things that I learned from you that you’ve really hammered into my brain and our work together for your talk, because it’s one of your core pillars of your talk. But it’s the permission to edit. Like that just that reminder has been so helpful for me in my writing. But also, I have a version of that that I do with my people when it comes to speaking is it’s don’t You don’t have to get it right the first time you do it. You also don’t need every story to be perfect. Like there are certain moments that yeah, you want to have your story more polished and more dialed in on the point. But there are so many other opportunities that you can just have a messy ramble of a story just to practice getting it out. And if it’s like, oh, that was a pretty damn good story, then you make a mental note and say, Cool, how can I tell it better? Yeah, like that iterative process of it. Like stories aren’t just a thing. Like you tell it once and it’s gone. The best stories stand the test of time. Like if you think about like the whole idea of like tribal going back in the day, people telling stories, that was how we pass things from generation to generation with storytelling. So it’s this idea that like, if you ever think like, oh, I can’t tell that story, because I’ve already told it better reason to tell it. Like if you want to be known, repeat yourself a hell of a lot and make it fun and interesting and very dynamic every time you do. Like that’s, that’s how you get really good at it. So, okay, I love that. So if you’re a thank you for this conversation with me, I know you and I both have very busy weeks, you’re getting ready to pack and get on the road for your keynote. We are wishing you all the best and cheering you on this week. And for those who want to connect and follow with you, where is the best place for them to go?

Zafira Rajan  1:03:01  

Thanks, Heather. You can connect with me through my website, www dot Sofia or you can slide into my DMs on Instagram @zafira.rajan. Thanks for such a great conversation. 

Heather Sager  1:03:15  

You were so good. It was so good. And we’ll put all the links to all of that. Plus, if you’re his first interview with me on the show from, oh my gosh, that was two years ago. 

Zafira Rajan  1:03:22  


Heather Sager  1:03:23  

And I think we also told lots of stories in that episode, too. So if you liked this one, you’ll love that one. But anyways, we’ll see y’all on next week’s show. Until then, have a great day.

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