Enroll Now

Stories on a Massive Stage | Stories With Traction Podcast


SUMMARY: In this episode, Rachel Simon and Matt Zaun talk about how to view LinkedIn like a massive stage.

RACHEL SIMON BIO: Rachel is the Founder & CEO of Connect the Dots Digital, where she focuses on LinkedIn corporate strategy and how companies can utilize the platform with their employees for maximum results.

For more info, check out Rachel here:

MATT ZAUN BIO: Matt is an award-winning speaker and storyteller who empowers organizations to attract more clients through the art of strategic storytelling. Matt’s past engagements have catalyzed radical sales increases for over 300 organizations that range from financial institutions to the health and wellness industry.

Matt shares his expertise in persuasion with executives, sales professionals, and entrepreneurs, who he coaches on the art of influence and how to leverage this for profits and impact.

For more info, check out Matt Zaun here:


*Below is an AI-generated transcript, which may contain errors. 



Matt Zaun 

September of 2019, I was focusing on something that every business book taught me to do, which was networking.

In fact, to this day, I have never had a business book that is down on networking and has said anything negative about it.

We all know that networking is unbelievable unbelievably powerful for us and connecting with our target market. But the way I was doing it, I was doing with in-person events and I was obsessing about this, going to as many in person networking events as possible in 2019.

And I became extremely burnt out. And in fact, September of 2019, I was so burnt out. I didn't know if I could continue that pace.

And one of my friends said, why don't you start sharing your stories on LinkedIn? That way you're still able to network, but do it in a much quicker timeframe.

And get to people that need your services quicker. So in September of 2019, I jumped on LinkedIn. And at that time I thought it was a glorified resume.

Not the amazing social media platform that it is today, which is an amazing tool for sharing our stories, but I started sharing stories, messages, and different concepts, and I did it for six months with very, very little results, but I was building different relationships along the way.

Well, six months. after September of 2019, the world was shut down due to COVID. And I didn't realize at the time what I did, but what I did was cultivate a little bit of a following that when COVID happened, I was in a position to really connect with more people and I was in a great spot to continue to build my business.

That's why I'm so unbelievably excited to talk about the importance and power of sharing our stories on social media platforms, especially those like LinkedIn.

Today's conversation is going to focus a lot on that. How do we take the ideas we have in our head and crank out incredibly engaging, powerful, and specific stories to our target audience on social media platforms like LinkedIn?

I'm excited for this topic of conversation today with a returning guest, Rachel Simon. And I highly recommend everyone go check out the last series I did with her in December of last year.

called Share Your Stories on LinkedIn. Today, I want to take the concepts that we talked about in that episode and dig even further and unpack a lot of different elements that have come up since them.

So Rachel Simon, for those of you who have not listened to the episode, she is the founder and CEO of Connect Dots Digital, where she focuses on LinkedIn corporate strategy and how companies can utilize the platform with their employees for maximum results.

Welcome back, Rachel.


Rachel Simon (Connect The Dots Digital)

Rachel Simon Always glad to be here.


Matt Zaun (mattzaun.com)

Thanks for having me. David And I appreciate your time. I love these conversations. I learn so much. And the beautiful thing is not just learning, but applying.

I love taking what you say and then applying. And that's what we learn. We do learn and adjust. There's so much learning and adjusting that I do after these conversations.

So I personally appreciate it as well. And I know that my audience loves it because the downloads prove it.

Every time you're on this show, the downloads just skyrocket. So I don't know what's going on there. So let's, uh, let's talk more for sure.


Rachel Simon (Connect The Dots Digital)

That's awesome. I love it. Uh, yeah, your story is great and I think it's so common. Uh, you know, of kind of being in the background on LinkedIn, uh, and then deciding, okay, I'm going to go for it.

Right. And I, and what's funny is your timeline is very similar to mine as well. So in, you know, I've had my business now since 2018, but my posting strategy in the early days was pretty sad, I would say.

Uh, and in towards the end of 2019, I, uh, invested in a course that really helped me see the value of content.

And I started creating content more, uh, more regularly and just slowly dipping my toe in towards the end of 2019.

again, was well positioned for when the world moved online due to COVID in the early part of 2020. And then once you start building that momentum, it's just hard to stop because it's like you see the growth and you build these great relationships and it becomes very satisfying, both professionally but also personally because you are making, I mean it's fun, it's fun.

That's what I think it is. I try to get people to see how much fun it is.


Matt Zaun (mattzaun.com)

That's awesome. It's fun and addictive, right? It could become a good addiction once you start to see the results business-wise for sure.

And I appreciate you mentioning kind of your journey as well. And it's interesting, I didn't even realize that we both started toward the end of 2019, but that was a really great place to be in, especially with what happened as everyone knows in 2020 for sure.

But what's amazing to me is I have always been obsessed with the power of words, right? How can some people share stories that grab a hold of their audience?

and connect with them in a powerful manner. So I've always been fascinated regarding a public speaking perspective, right? I've I've loved unpacking different speakers like a Martin Luther King Jr.

or John F. Kennedy. How can these people get up and just unbelievably captivate an audience? And there is something to be said about public speaking, right?

I mean, if we are in front of people at conferences and meetings and whatever session, you know, pick a, pick a venue.

That really does build connection with the audience. And there's a lot to be said about that. I don't think that skill set will ever go out of style.

Everyone wants to be masterful at public speaking, but for me, where I knew I needed to change the corner, not that I wanted to, but I needed to, was you can only scale that so big.

You can only speak at conferences that are so large. You can only do so many events as one single person, right?

Until you run out of people, right? Even the green cursing area, I think. greatest speakers, so to speak, on the planet, there's only a certain amount of physical human beings that they can speak to at a given time.

But what the internet has done is it has allowed us to share messages better than ever before. And that's why I started obsessing over platforms like LinkedIn.

How can you take your stories and get millions and millions and millions of people to see? Okay, so that's a whole other ball game, whole other ball game.

When you have millions of different impressions and think about that from a business perspective, setting up a sales funnel through that, a content machine.

So I want to talk about that, but I want to talk about fear, right? When I was talking about public speaking, a lot of people start off being afraid of public speaking, then they see the benefits and then there's ways to get over that.

This conversation is not about public speaking, but I do think that there is a fear when it comes to posting in general.

When unbelievably successful C-suite leaders have fear of posting at the start. So what are your thoughts regarding just the sheer fear of starting and what would be some things that people should do to start the process of doing it anyway?


Rachel Simon (Connect The Dots Digital)

It is scary. It's always scary to put yourself out there. And I think that relating it to the public speaking, you know, the idea of getting up on stage.

I mean, you're getting up on a massive stage on LinkedIn. It's just your words are showing up versus you, your voice, unless you're getting on video.

And for both of those things, and I mean, I'll use again, myself as an example. The idea of public speaking a couple of years ago is completely terrifying.

But after having done it a few times, it's really fun. And so you see the fear kind of leads into enjoyment of doing something.

And I think the same happens when you're sharing content. Fear is very, very common. And I actually think it's more common with the higher you go within an organization.

And the main areas of fear are fear of judgment. What are people going to think? What if nobody likes my post?

What if somebody says something negative? Fear of feeling like I'm going to look silly or, you know, just that fear of how will this come across to my audience?

There's also a common fear of just sounding redundant, right? And this is talked about a lot. You know how many LinkedIn trainers there are out there?

There are a ton. But there's only, we all share content and talk about the platform from our own perspective.

So there might be multiple people in a certain industry. And the CEO is looking at their peers and saying, well, there's so many people talking about.

this? Like, why do I need to talk about it? But there's only one way that person talks about it, right?

They're bringing their stories, their unique perspective into their approach to their business. And that is unique and special and worthy of being shared.

So I think those three main areas of fear are really, really common and also time, how am I going to do this?

I don't have the time. So sort of that fear of judgment, fear of putting yourself out there fear of being redundant and fear of not having the time to adequately do it.


Matt Zaun (mattzaun.com)

Yeah, so there's so much I want to unpack with what you said, Rachel. So I love that. I love you saying fear leads to enjoyment.

It sounds weird saying those two words fear and enjoyment in the same sentence, but it's true, right? It's anything in life.

We're afraid to ride a bike for the first time and you keep getting up and then it can be a very enjoyable activity, right?

So fear leads to enjoyment. But I want to talk about two things that I want leaders to recognize. And this might be a little bit of a gut punch, but I love giving this example.

There are too many leaders especially Especially in the United States that like to quote unquote, delegate branding or delegate marketing.

I love sharing this because I want people to truly grab a hold of this. Steve jobs. Okay. If Steve jobs would have delegated the storytelling marketing branding of Apple, Apple would not be the company that it is today.

Apple, as everyone knows, is one of the most successful profitable companies in human history. This individual got up on stage, speaking of public speaking and shared powerful stories that led to incredible marketing and branding of these products.

I want leaders to recognize that, that this is not something that can just be delegated. Yes. You can have teams of people around you that are helping you 100%, but.

It is not good when you are delegating your stories to other people. In addition, there are so many messages that have

happen on a daily basis. I was reading a few months ago that the average person sees 8,000 messages every single day.

That was before AI was really launched in the way that it is now with chat GPT, which we'll get to in a moment, Rachel, but think about that.

Think about where we're going as a culture that imagine that times two, which is coming, you need to get in front of people, regardless of what position you hold, it's only going to become even more important what you do, Rachel, and I want people to recognize that for sure.

So let's talk about the AI piece. Cause I think it's on a lot of people's minds. So yes, there could be a fear of posting.

You got to get over the fear. You got to get to the point where it's enjoyable and you have to start building that habit because what's coming is we're going to need to work much harder on this to get above the noise.

What are your initial thoughts with what you see with what you've seen regarding AI?


Rachel Simon (Connect The Dots Digital)

Yeah. So I haven't played in chat GPT. or myself because when I finally went to go look at it, it was full.

But I think that it's sort of that, you know, like you said, you can't delegate your branding. I think that AI tools that are gonna help on the writing piece are best seen as a tool, not as this strategy.

Because otherwise everyone's gonna sound the same. It's gonna be just a bunch of very, very generic content. And if you need, you know, I think there's definitely a good place for it, right?

To generate content ideas, maybe if you need to write a really, really lengthy blog, maybe it can help fill in some of the, you know, in-between stuff to kind of stretch it out a little bit.

But I really am hoping that particularly leaders don't just see this as a way to, okay, there we go.

Now my content strategy is taking. care of, I'll just have AI creative for me. Cause I think that while there might be a big, we're going to see a peak.

I think we're going to see a drop off too. Cause I think people are going to be able to see through the, um, the AI created content and then the actual real people and real stories will rise to the top.


Matt Zaun (mattzaun.com)

So when you say real stories, do you mean people are going to be hurting for authenticity even more?


Rachel Simon (Connect The Dots Digital)

Yeah. And I mean, that's a word that's like kind of overused these days on LinkedIn. Yes, it is a super buzzword.

However, you know, you can tell when something is coming genuinely from the individual and that it's like representing who they are versus when it's, it's not.

So I think that's what we're going to see. You know, again, you need like real tactical content. Maybe AI is the right way to crank that out, but if you can't tell your story.

about how you had this experience earlier in your career and how that informed where you are today. Right. That's coming from you, not from a machine.


Matt Zaun (mattzaun.com)

Amazing. There's this frenzy where people lock into these different thoughts. Right. So right now the big thing is the AI piece and who knows where it's going to go to.

There's still a lot that needs to be worked out. I've been seeing a lot of stuff regarding, there's even lawsuits that are coming out regarding this on different elements of plagiarism.

Right. So this still needs to be worked out. A big question I have is how does this work out legality wise from state to state?

There's a lot of states that have different laws regarding using chat bots, especially for hiring. So I know a lot of companies are starting to experience that and we're just in the initial phase of that.

So who knows what happens? What kind of technology can detect AI versus human? You were the one that actually pointed that out to me.

I mean, Talk about that.


Rachel Simon (Connect The Dots Digital)

I think that's going to be really interesting to see. It's no surprise, right? Is that now these tools are launching that are going to just be able to distinguish between AI written and human written content, which is really important because, and I'll use an example that is sort of relevant to my current life.

I have a senior in high school. I've gone through the whole college application process. There's a lot of writing that's involved with that, with essays.

Don't you think that high school students would really love to just be able to tell the AI bot to write their college essay?

But we need to be able to distinguish what's written by them and written by a machine. So I think that we're going to start to see these tools being rolled out that can tell who, if it's actually written by a person.

Uh, and that's, you know, you don't want to pass, fail that test. I think as a leader.


Matt Zaun (mattzaun.com)

Sure. Yeah. And there's, there are some systems it's not chat GPT. There's so many AI. Software pieces coming out, but there are systems that have a plagiarism piece.

Again, it's in the very, very early stages of this. So who knows what happens in the next few months.

It's going to be very interesting to see, but what a great way to destroy your credibility. Like imagine, imagine a content creator out there and people finding out that that person just utilized AI for everything, like that's a great way to just destroy someone's credibility, which is not a good position to be in for sure.


Rachel Simon (Connect The Dots Digital)

Yeah. I think again, it's sort of figuring out how can you utilize this tool? I'm all for tools that help us more be become more productive.

Right? So how can you utilize this tool to support your content strategy? As opposed to building your content strategy on an AI tool.


Matt Zaun (mattzaun.com)

I love that. I love that. Support. It actually makes me think of something. My fitness coach told me recently regarding the difference between the base and a supplement.

So I have been working with a fitness coach for quite some time, but I, you know, the, the new year, I tend to go into high gear on here, my goals here, my expectations, and one of the things that was interesting to me is when she built a program for me, she said, you're focusing too much on the exercise piece and supplements you're not actually focusing on your diet as a whole, where when you look at the breakdown of percentage, it's like the main focus is.

The intake, right? With what we're putting on our body from a diet perspective, it's not a supplement or even work is not even the exercising piece.

So I think people that use AI as like their base, it's not going to be good. And people that use it more of a supplement and actually have the copywriting skills themselves.

They actually have the writing skills. They actually have the skills to produce on video. They, they have those skillsets and they're just using it to find.

to an increase, those are going to be the ones that win, not the ones that they don't know how to do any of this stuff.

And they're just exclusively using AI.


Rachel Simon (Connect The Dots Digital)

Yeah, I completely, completely agree with that. Um, you know, the other piece that I think is just going to be interesting to watch over the next year is, I don't know about you, but I'm seeing more and more people putting their shingle out as ghostwriters on LinkedIn.

And I think the other piece is, you know, how are they creating all that content? Are they writing it themselves?

Are they leaning heavily on AI? I really don't know, because there's just a lot of that, those businesses that I'm seeing kind of coming up in my feed.

But I think it'll be interesting to sort of observe that, that trend. Um, and I, you know, the other piece that will be interesting to watch is, is the plagiarism slash like who owns the plagiarism slash like who owns the

the content, whose is it? If there is a plagiarism question, who was the ultimate owner of that content? I have no idea.


Matt Zaun (mattzaun.com)

Sure. Sure. You know, it's amazing to me. So my oldest son got swept up into some type of marketing piece where he really wanted me to order something for him.

So I ordered something for him on Amazon. It came and it was not what he thought it was going to be.

And I don't know if you've ever stared into a unbelievably disappointed child's eyes, but like he was so incredibly disappointed.

And it just got me thinking, there are times where I'm really impressed with someone or so I think based on what I've seen regarding their online persona.

And then I meet them in real life and I'm just unbelievably disappointed. And I wonder if AI is going to do this.

I wonder if people are going to their identity management. So to speak with the story they tell on social media and then people actually meet them in real life and they're so disappointed, like that is a credibility crusher, like a credibility crusher.

So I think that's really important to recognize, like we should be striving for the credibility piece, not for the, how much can I crank out?

Content wise piece.


Rachel Simon (Connect The Dots Digital)

A million percent. Yes. I mean, you, you want to be showing up the same online as you do in the real world because otherwise that's just very weird, I mean, it's, it's a credibility crusher, but it's just, I mean, create your persona, like you don't have to give it all away online, but I would say that most people, I mean, you and I have met in person and it was exactly the same as us knowing each other online.

I mean, it wasn't like, well, that's not, you're very different in the real world. I mean, it was, we had a great.

And it was such a treat to meet in person. And that's been my experience with most of my LinkedIn connections that I've had the opportunity to meet in the real world is that it's just like instant friendship because we've built this relationship over several years, just through engaging through each other's content.

Um, I don't know how that's possible when you're having a machine create your content for you.


Matt Zaun (mattzaun.com)

Sure. And I appreciate that compliment. It was awesome meeting you too. And I'm excited because I'm coming back to Atlanta this year.

So it's going to be a ton of fun. I love the Atlanta area. That was so much fun. That's just, it was a great, great time.

So I love everything you're saying, but I know there, there are leaders that are, that are listening to this and they still think to themselves, I have a million other things going on.

Why in the world would I do something like that? Why in the world should I even consider or care about posting on any kind of social media platform?

And one of the things that I will say is that we have never, we have never been in a time in human history.

When you think about civilization in general, okay. Even the last few decades, we've never been in a time in human history where you can almost get immediate feedback based on our ideas.

Okay. Like even think like even a few decades ago, all that would it take to create the stories that you needed to, to actually be persuasive, inspirational, have incredibly riveting meetings.

Like that took a ton of time. Today, you could post stories on LinkedIn and get feedback pretty quick and see what sticks, you can get engagement.

I've refined my messaging so much just based on LinkedIn. I've, I've literally taken, so I have a workshop, I have a keynote, I have a training, I've literally taken the stories and the messages and all the concepts I teach and I paint.

attention while putting that out on LinkedIn. What kind of comments do I get back? What are people more interested in?

What doesn't do as well? I cut that it is, it is refined my messaging so well. And that's what I think a lot of leaders are missing out on.

They're not using it as a tool to help in other areas. So it's still radically increase your ability from a public speaking perspective, like think about going into meetings, even having all hands on meetings as a company, whether it's in person or virtual, think about all the messages that need to be shared.

You could start to get those messages out to see what works and what doesn't work. It's mind boggling to me.

More leaders don't think about this. Superbowl ads have always been like the peak of marketing, like all the eyeballs on screens.

They started doing this prior to the Superbowl. They start leaking quote unquote different advertisements. They're refining the message. Why do you think some of these?

What do you think some of these ads really are? Leads a month or two in advance. They're seeing the metrics, what works, what doesn't work.

So when it does go on the big stage, meaning the big screen, it's tweaked by that point. So I love that idea.

And, and I'm sure Rachel, you've seen. There are content creators that they just refine and it gets better and better and better and better.

And people look around, they're like, how did this person get so good?


Rachel Simon (Connect The Dots Digital)

It's all the reps that they put in. Just like, you know, I'm sure your, uh, your fitness coach, right?

You, you gotta put in the reps. I mean, you don't build muscle by showing up to the gym once a month.


Matt Zaun (mattzaun.com)

Sure. You show up consistently.


Rachel Simon (Connect The Dots Digital)

So that consistency piece is super, super important. Um, yeah, absolutely. I mean, you were finding that message, uh, figuring out, take and taking content that, you know, that's why I love repurposing content because they can't, because if you're, if you have evergreen content, you just make a few little changes and push it out there again.

and you can make improvements and say, oh, you know what, this one didn't do as well. I'm gonna change the way I described this or I'm gonna put it in a different format.

But leaders, I wanna share two stats because I think that I completely agree on the piece about best practices, right?

Continuous improvement and companies always wanna have continuous improvement. They wanna be refining all of their systems and processes. But there's two stats.

I know leadership is very much about how can I quantify this, right? So here's two pieces I wanna share.

One is on the sales side. So these are stats. I've been collecting these stats from different people I follow on LinkedIn.

So this stat, I believe, was shared by Daniel Disney, who's a trainer out of the UK. So that is that 81% of B2B buyers are more likely to engage with someone who has a strong personal brand.

on the sales side. Another big, big, big challenge and stress that keeps people up at night, leaders up at night, is, and we've talked about this on episodes in the past, winning the talent war.

How are you gonna find and recruit and keep your talent on board? This is a stat that I came across from another one of my connections, Danielle Guzman, that 82% of employees will research a CEO's online presence when considering joining a company.


Matt Zaun (mattzaun.com)

You say 82%? Yes. Can you say that? Holy smokes.


Rachel Simon (Connect The Dots Digital)

82%. So we're looking in the high 80s for both on the sales side, right? Being able to, because you're showing up more consistently, but also on the talent acquisition side, because people wanna see who they're working for.

So I'm just gonna leave those two stats there so people can mull those over.


Matt Zaun (mattzaun.com)

Wow. All right, so. I'm going to say something. It's probably going to get me in trouble. I always am hesitant when I bring up generations, but I feel like there's a lot of truth to what I'm about to say based on what you're saying now with this 82%, so it's not a secret that the overwhelming majority of C-suite are baby boomers, okay, which is quickly being the quickly we were seeing a transition from Gen Xers into C-suite across the United States and soon there will be millennials making that transition as well.

I only think that number is going to go up. I mean, at the top of every survey I've seen regarding Gen Xers and millennials, they want impact and fulfillment, right?

They want to know, can I have an impact? Am I going to feel fulfilled at this company? That 82% number is only going to go up.

So C-suite better get, they better get their butts in gear now, because as there's more and more of that transition with Gen Xers and millennials going into the C-suite, going into leadership positions, even

Coming into companies in general, that number is going to continue to increase. And already it is an overwhelming majority of people doing that research at 82%.


Rachel Simon (Connect The Dots Digital)

So I appreciate you mentioning that. The time is now. Actually the time was a few years ago, but it's not too late to jump in and get going now.

For sure. I mean, and you know, the, I think we know this because LinkedIn is investing more and more and more in.

Making in creators, in encouraging people to post content and getting content seen. And like, we're always going to complain about the algorithm and reach and this, that, and the other.

But to your point, where else can you get thousands of eyeballs on you and your message? You can't do that unless you're, you're headlining, you know, a massive conference in your industry.

You have this great tool at your disposal. And when you show up with those authentic stories to share, then you're gonna impact your sales and you're gonna impact your ability to recruit awesome people to your organization.


Matt Zaun (mattzaun.com)

Sure, that's a really, really good point. I appreciate you sharing that. And I appreciate your time today. I know that you are extremely busy, so I always appreciate our conversations.

I took a lot away from this conversation, but there's three things that stuck out to me, I feel the most that I don't want people to miss.

I really appreciate you mentioning, basically when you do this, you're getting up on a massive stage. You said view LinkedIn as a massive stage and it's true.

Like if you're speaking in front of an audience of thousands of people, think about all the lives that you get to connect with.

It's magnified once you learn the social media game. I mean, you're able to do things that you could have only dreamed of regarding connecting with people.

So I love that getting up on a massive stage and I really appreciate the verbiage you use. Fear leads to engagement.

I think that is so true. I also appreciate what we talked about regarding AI and using AI as a supplement, not the base of your skillset.

I think that's really, really important. And then the third and final piece, I really do appreciate you mentioning the evergreen content that brings up in my mind, it leads to signature stories.

So as we crank out this content, we get that evergreen content. We're going to find our signature stories that we can share again and again, marketing, sales pipeline process in meetings, those become part of our signature stories.

So Rachel, thank you so much for your time today. I very much appreciate it. If anyone wants to get any, any, any additional information on you, or they want to connect with you and message you, where's the best place they can go to do.


Rachel Simon (Connect The Dots Digital)

They should definitely do it on LinkedIn. And they can just send me a connection request and say stories with traction and the message, and then I know where they came across me and I'm happy to.

Connect with anybody listening to the podcast.


Matt Zaun (mattzaun.com)

Awesome. Thank you. I appreciate it. I'm glad you said LinkedIn. How terrible would it be if you didn't say that?

Certainly not going to be on Instagram or Facebook. That's awesome. I will have that in the show notes, make it extremely convenient for people.

They could just go and connect with Rachel from there. Thanks again. I appreciate your time. Happy to be here.


Want weekly updates...

to take your storytelling
to a whole new level?