Secrets of Storytelling and Public Speaking with LaToya Smith | PoP 484

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Secrets of Storytelling and Public Speaking with LaToya Smith | PoP 484

Do you know what your story is? Do you want to share it with the world? How can storytelling benefit you?

In this podcast episode, Joe Sanok speaks to LaToya Smith about storytelling and public speaking.

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Meet LaToya Smith

LaToya Smith

LaToya is the owner of LCS Counseling and Consulting Agency in Fortworth Texas. She firmly believes that people don’t have to remain stuck in their pain or the place they became wounded. She encourages her clients to be active in their treatment and work towards their desired outcome.

She has also launched Strong Witness which is a platform designed to connect, transform, and heal communities through the power of storytelling.

Visit LaToya’s website and connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, Strong Witness Instagram, and Twitter.

In This Podcast


  • Can you hear us?
  • The importance of storytelling to LaToya
  • Mindsets that get in the way of good storytelling and public speaking
  • Telling your story
  • LaToya’s first storytelling event
  • Prepping your brain for the storytelling webinar and Killin’ It Camp

Can you hear us?

In collaboration with Practice of the Practice, LaToya ran the “Can You Hear Us” webinar which featured five black leaders coming together to share their personal stories of how they dealt with racism. Hearing their stories and voices was amazing and really special to LaToya. It’s one thing to read these stories but to actually see the pain in their faces and hear it in their voices allows you to connect more emotionally. That is the power of story… we may have different experiences but you can connect to the emotion.

The importance of storytelling to LaToya

I’m feeling like a superhero almost, because I can own what I’m saying, and it’s mine, and I’m in control of this narrative. And I think so many times in life, if we just sit back and say nothing, everybody else controls the narrative but us.

LaToya started Strong Witness because she had a story inside of her that was bound up for years and it created a lot of pain and struggle. Once she started telling her story, she realized that it was the easiest thing and she wishes that she had done it years ago so now she wants to help other people to share their stories. Story has always been in LaToya but she didn’t know how strong it was and didn’t fully embrace it. Shifting and understanding how powerful story is has become a bigger part of LaToya’s story and is now a part of her vision.

Theories are important but she would rather hear somebody’s story because that is what’s going to help her connect. LaToya realized how important storytelling was to her when she saw the power it has. When she begins to speak, it brings so much power and ownership that she wants to tell the story over and over.

Mindsets that get in the way of good storytelling and public speaking

I know so many good therapists. I know so many great people with great ideas, but we never get to hear about it or the world doesn’t get to hear about it because they freeze up at the idea of getting on camera or being recorded.

As soon as you say the words ‘recorded’ or ‘live’ this nervousness or sense of anxiety falls over people. A little bit of nervousness is good because it means that you respect what you’re doing but it can sometimes be crippling and almost paralyzing.

We’re made of stories, we’ve been telling them all day long since we were kids. The way that we should communicate in presentations should be the same way, especially when you’re passionate about a topic. You want to be able to get to a comfortable place that is like talking to your friends, not being an authority with the goal of perfectionism.

Telling your story

I can listen, I can read your bullet points and you can tell me the end result but if you give me the story why you’re doing it, now I’m locked in, now you’ve connected to my emotions, now I want you to win.

We get captivated by stories we’re drawn in to but people are also drawn into us. Nobody can tell your story like you because you know your why, you know the struggle, you know what you want to convey and the idea of a story gives your vision greater meaning.

LaToya’s first storytelling event

Just the idea of that whole room and that whole space being changed, and everybody being changed by the power of story, that let me know this is something amazing.

LaToya was nervous because she had never done this before and it was a really heavy topic. It was Child Abuse Prevention and Sexual Assualt Awareness Month and she began to reach out to people in her community to share their experiences related to that. These people told the part of their story that was most important to them and felt so liberated, not knowing before that they could tell their stories like that. Even the people listening were able to connect with them and had a new respect and greater understanding of these issues, even if they weren’t victims themselves.

Prepping your brain for the storytelling webinar and Killin’ It Camp

  • What are you passionate about?
  • Where do you see yourself going?
  • What is your reason why?
  • How do you want to communicate the above?

Register here for Online Storytelling: How to rock out FB Live, social media, and online presentations with LaToya Smith

Useful Links:

Meet Joe Sanok

private practice consultant

Joe Sanok helps counselors to create thriving practices that are the envy of other counselors. He has helped counselors to grow their businesses by 50-500% and is proud of all the private practice owners that are growing their income, influence, and impact on the world. Click here to explore consulting with Joe.

Thanks For Listening!

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Podcast Transcription

There are so many ways to keep your practice organized, but TherapyNotes is the best. Their easy to use secure platform lets you not only do your billing, scheduling, and progress notes, but also create a client portal to share documents and request signatures. Plus, they offer amazing, unlimited phone support so when you have a question, you can get help fast. To get started with the practice management software, trusted by over 35,000 professionals, go to and start a free trial today. If you enter promo code JOE, they will give you two months to try it out for free.

This is the Practice of the Practice podcast with Joe Sanok, session number 484.

Well, today’s episode is part of a series all with Killin’It Camp speakers. So this year Killin’It Camp is going to be completely online, we have over 20 speakers, we have it all getting recorded – assuming the technology doesn’t act silly on us – and we have some killer deals from TherapyNotes, Brighter Vision, and other folks during Killin’It Camp. So in early October, we are going to be having Killin’It Camp, and you can come live to those, or if you get a ticket and you want to just pop in pop out, they’ll get recorded for you as well. And so for only $95 you can get access to all of these speakers, all of the recordings, all of the bonuses, gotta head on over to These are just a couple of the speakers that I’m having here on the podcast, but we’re having over 20 speakers, it’s gonna be amazing. We have three tracks. One track is called Pillars of Practice. These are short form, Ted Talk type talks that are 25 minutes long. They’re on very clear, particular things of private practice. The other types are 55 minutes long and those are how to scale a practice. So that’s gonna be all around group practices, and expanding, and scaling your practice. And then we also have the multiple streams of income track. And the thing about this is you don’t have to choose between the tracks. We’ve set it up that only one session is going at a time. We have one login that you can pop in, pop out wherever you can catch the talks. So we really want it to be accessible to you. Again, it’s only $95. So head on over to, and you can learn all about the speakers that will be there; we can’t wait for this. So without any further ado, here we go.

Well, today on the Practice of the Practice podcast, we have LaToya Smith. LaToya is one of our Killin’It Camp speakers, she’s also now a consultant with Practice of the Practice, she has her own practice, and LaToya, I’m so glad to be talking with you. Welcome.

Thank you, Joe. Glad to be on.

Well, officially, you are now a part of our team. It’s just so awesome. You were on the podcast, you ran our Black Leaders Matter series, and the Can You Hear Us webinar, and it’s just been awesome to see you grow over the last few years into the consultant you are now.

Yeah, it has been. I’m really excited actually. So I just appreciate it, and everything I learned along the way, and even doing like the Can You Hear Us and Black Leaders Matter, that was really special.

Yeah, well, let’s let’s talk about the Can You Hear Us. So that was a webinar that you ran, that we kind of co-ran with Practice of the Practice and Strong Witness. And so then maybe talk a little bit about that series.

Yeah. To me it was really special, it was important to have those five black leaders be able to come on and share – they’re therapists and leaders in their own communities, but share their personal stories of how they dealt with racism either personally, or professionally. And so listening to their stories and how they flowed, I’ve heard some of their stories before, but actually having that experience to hear their voices was special to me.

Yeah, I mean, it was amazing to hear just, I mean, so many stories that it’s like when you see it in the news, or you hear it in the news, but then to have it come down to like an individual saying, this is what happened to me. I feel like the power of story really had a nice spotlight within that.

Definitely. And like you said, it’s one thing to read it and be detached from it, but to actually sit there and see the pain in their faces, to actually hear it in their voice, and have them paint that vivid picture of the experience that they went down. And I think that even if you weren’t a black individual listening to that, but being a therapist and being in those situations, or being a mom, a parent and being in those situations, I don’t know how you cannot connect emotionally, which is also the power of story. You may not have walked the walk that I walked, or you may not have experienced the things that I’ve experienced, but you can connect to this emotion. And that’s why I thought that was special. And I’m proud of them for coming out and sharing their stories. And I think from the feedback that I got, that I have received thus far, it’s helped people understand even what the black community was going through, currently is still going through, or what they had to experience. So I just loved every second of it.

Now, when you look at your own journey, why are stories important to you? Because there’s a lot of directions that you could go outside of your practice. I mean, you could have gone any number of directions, you have a lot of talents, but you’ve decided storytelling, public speaking, like, that’s where you want to spend more of your time; you’ve been doing Strong Witness and putting on events. Why storytelling?

Yeah, it’s a good question. Originally, I started Strong Witness just for the name of being a witness of my own personal experience, life journey, struggles, etc, but then also using the power of my voice. And I started that specifically because I had a story on the inside me that was bound up for years, and created a lot of pain and a lot of struggle. And then once I started telling it, I realized that that wasn’t that hard. Like, it was the easiest thing and I wish I would have done it years ago. I’m like, No, now I want to help people share their story. And also, even as I was leading up to even chat with you today, that’s something I’ve always heard throughout the years, people have always said to me, like, you know, when you speak, people listen. Or, when you stand up, it’s like, we’re just so engaged in what you said. And I think story has always been in me. I just didn’t know how strong it was, or fully embraced it. Because that’s one thing about when you go to school for counseling or grad school like, nobody… we all have our personal strengths and characteristics, but it’s like we got to conform to this is what education says it is. If it’s not on the syllabus, then we’re not doing it. And I think that’s a big part of storytelling, a big part of presentation, like bringing yourself into and owning your story. And actually, shifting and understanding how powerful story is to me, is a part of my bigger story and a part of my vision. And so it was coming to terms with that and I realized, this is me, this was always who I was, you know, I understand theories is important, but I’d rather hear somebody’s story. And that’s what’s gonna help me connect.

Now, are there any stories about storytelling that for you, really, like when that came to life for you, like this moment, let me explain that moment in a story, that it really kind of put an exclamation point or underlined why storytelling is important?

Yeah, I think for me, when I realized just the power it has, because a lot of times when we have things locked up on the inside of it, like that emotion has control of us. And then when I begin to speak, to me it brings so much power and then ownership, like you want to tell that story 10-20 times over, because you’re feeling emboldened now, I’m feeling like a superhero almost, because I can own what I’m saying and it’s mine. And I’m in control of this narrative. I think so many times in life, if we just sit back and say nothing, everybody else controls the narrative but us, whether it be okay, I’m a therapist, and I work for this agency, my boss controls the narrative. Or where I live, it’s the homeowners association or whomever, like, you control the narrative. But now, when I start telling, like, no, this is my piece, and I’m taking ownership, that power, to me is one of the most beautiful things. Not that, okay, you want to tell a story that’s truthful, you don’t wanna start making up facts, nothing like that. But when you start speaking and you start owning your voice, to me, that’s like one of the greatest strengths and allowing all your character to come out and all your gifts to flow.

Yeah, I mean, I think that it then transports people to that moment. I remember the moment when I left my community mental health job, and we were moving back to Traverse City, and Christina and I didn’t have kids yet, and we took a six week road trip out west, and I still remember this rest area – it was like in the middle of like Iowa or something, and I had to go to the bathroom. And it’s like, taking longer than normal and I had this moment where I’m sitting there just thinking, I have no identity at all. I’m not a therapist, I don’t work for CMH, I’m just this guy on the road with my wife. I had no job lined up at that point. And for me, even just like telling that little story, you know, when I need to talk about uncertainty and taking next steps and living an adventurous life, I mean, that freaked me out to be in that moment. I have no professional identity, and have no plan, I mean, a working plan but who knew what was coming? And just I think that’s different than me just saying, oh yeah, I’ve been there. To just say, taking a dump in the middle of Iowa and you don’t know who you are. A lot of people are like, we didn’t need that visual, Joe, but thanks a lot. But just the uncertainty, you know, and vulnerability of going into that phase of my life. Finding those stories and articulating those stories professionally to make your points, I think is so important.

Now, what do you think gets in the way, like, you’ve coached people in storytelling, you’ve helped people with Strong Witness do well, you coached the people with the Can You Hear Us. When you coach people, when you talk to people, what are the typical hang ups? What do they freak out over and they’re like, oh, my gosh, I can’t do that? What are typical mindsets that get in the way of good storytelling, good public speaking, and all of that?

Yeah, I think first and foremost, it’s just the nervousness, like as soon as you say recorded, or live, or people will be watching, it’s like this nervousness or sense of anxiety falls over people. And I just want people to understand too – a little bit of nervousness is good. It means that you respect what you’re doing. I remember asking one of my [unclear] at a church I used to go to years ago, I just be like, wow, you get up there and do it so easy. She said, every time I get up, I’m nervous. And I was like, oh. Or you hear professional athletes say like, before the game that they’re a little nervous, oh, man, you know. But then they go out there and do great. It’s like they still respect their craft and what they’re doing. So a little bit of nervousness is good. But I think that part of just that absolute fear that is just crippling and almost paralyzing because you think… automatically we start to think, what will they think of me? And we start to compare ourselves, will I be good enough? I don’t do it. I don’t do it like Joe does it. You know, he gets on those zoom videos, and he’s just so smooth, like, how can I do that? I’m not this person, so I can’t. And then that imposter syndrome starts to creep in. And it’s just, that’s what blocks it. I know so many good therapists. I know so many great people with great ideas, but we never get to hear about it – or the world doesn’t get to hear about it – because they freeze up with the idea of getting on camera or being recorded or oh, I may say the wrong thing, so they don’t do anything at all.

It’s interesting, in Next Level Practice, our membership community, one of the first assignments I give people is do a one minute intro video in the group, like, here’s who I am, here’s like, where I live, here’s my practice, here’s what I hope to get out of Next Level Practice. Super, like, one minute. And so then it feels like more of a sense of community rather than just like someone typing it. And I would say a good half of the people say, this is my first time doing video on social media ever, or this is my first Facebook Live ever. And just thinking, wow, like, these therapists have such good thoughts and it’s all locked up inside of them and the world needs that, and if we can build that confidence in people, that they have a message worth hearing and worth getting out there and doing it in a way that feels good to where they’re at, like, what would that mean for unlocking all these therapists’ brilliance?

Yeah, that’d be awesome. That would be awesome. And I would love for people to understand too, that we’re made of stories. And we go all day long with telling stories. We listen to people’s stories as therapists, but we tell stories. We sit around the dinner tables, tell stories, over coffee. And I was thinking, even when we were younger, like, telling stories to our friends, meeting up in the playground, or bus rides, or family gatherings, like, this is what we do. And the way that we should communicate and presentation should be the same way, especially when you’re passionate about a topic. If we want to get to the place of being so comfortable about what we’re talking about, it’s like you’re talking to your friends on the couch, or sitting around, you know, or in the office in the break room. And just having people understand, that’s how you convey story, and not like you’re this authority, and our goal is perfectionism, or else. When we have that thought lingering, it’s hard to get comfortable, and it’s hard to really flow.

Yeah, and I think when you look at just the evolutionary nature of stories, if you didn’t listen to stories you died, right? You’re around the campfire, the people that just came back from hunting said, there’s a tiger in this area – go hunt West instead of East. If you don’t listen and you don’t pay attention, those ones got weeded out from the groups. And so we still have stories, I heard someone – I don’t remember who it was, but they said, you know, we still sit around a bright light in the evening listening to stories, just right now it’s Netflix on a computer rather than a campfire with other people. And so still, you know, whether it’s us watching Money Heist right now and being entertained by a story of good and evil and all this, we still get captivated by stories.

Yeah, I think so. I think it’s all the time. I really want people to know that we get captivated by stories, we’re drawn in, but people are also drawn in to us. Sometimes people think, well, I can’t, how can I do it? Like, no people listen to you, and I think it’s important that you use your voice and just begin to tell the story that you have to share. And even going back to what you said, like when you said, okay, I’m talking about… nobody can tell the story of Practice of the Practice like you can. I know you have consultants, I know you have people that are connected, but you know the starting point, you know the pain point, you know every where or when, and what a great story that would be. Even if you pulled out one segment and we’re already tied into it. And so what people listening I want them to know is nobody can tell your story like you; you know your reason why, you know the struggle, you know what you want to convey, and the idea of the story gives your vision greater meaning. So I can listen, I can read your bullet points, and you can tell me the end result but if you give me the story why you’re doing it, oh, now I’m locked in. Now you connected to my emotions, now I want you to win. And I just love that part of it.

Tell us the story of your first storytelling event, because I remember kind of when you were building Strong Witness, but tell us about how you got those people together. What were your fears? What was the reaction? Tell us about that first storytelling event?

Sure. The first one. And to be honest, like, I was nervous, because obviously at that point, I never did it before. And it was a really heavy topic. So the very first story event, it was people, it was child abuse prevention, sexual assault awareness month. And I began to reach out to people in my community, professionals or whomever, to begin to share stories about their experience from either one of those two, either being a victim when they were younger, or as an adult. And then allowing them to have that space to just flow. And I remember each speaker being able to say like, I didn’t know I had that in me, you know, I didn’t know that I could tell my story like that. How great they felt to be able to speak. And they didn’t give us every single detail. But they told the part that was most important to them. They told the backstory so we can understand who they were, they told the struggle, they told of how they overcame, where they are now. And they just felt so liberated to the point that every time I do it, they’re like, yeah, I’ll do it again. Like, each person. And then even the audience, the people there that were listening, the way that they were able to connect – even those that weren’t victimized in any type of way – you could tell they had a new respect and a greater understanding, even of the issues. And then each presenter that came, being able to connect with them, almost like in rhythm, you know, and then being able to be right there in that moment. And even having people come up to me afterwards like, listen, I didn’t share anything, but I’m right there too. And so just the idea of that whole room and that whole space being changed, and everybody being changed by the power of story, that let me know like this is something amazing, and I’m hoping that it can continue. And that has happened every April – of course, this year, we had to do it virtually, because of COVID – but we still continue with that, with Strong Witness each April, telling the stories around those issues.

Well, and to be in that situation, in the same room with those people, and to know that it’s a moment that will never happen again, and that, you know, the emotions and the feelings of that. It’s just story kind of breaks through all of the analytical in a way that we can’t empathize in the same way when we hear someone say all the stats of things. I’m really excited that you and I are going to be hosting a webinar all about story, about how do you rock out Facebook Live, social media, online presentations, eventually in person presentations, specifically with online storytelling. We’re doing that on September 8, at three o’clock eastern, two o’clock central, one o’clock mountain, and noon Pacific. You can go over to Again, that’s, and you’ll get to the Zoom registration page. But if people hear what you’ve said, LaToya, and they think, boy, this is awesome, and I want to come to that webinar, and I want to come to Killin’It Camp and hear you speak, how can people kind of prep their brains for this webinar that we’re going to do in early September, prep their brains for Killin’It Camp in October? What can they do to kind of make that soil most fertile?

Yeah, I want people to begin to think about what they’re passionate about. So their vision, like, where they want to go, where they see themselves going, whether it be by the end of 2020, or the next five years, or just their practice in general, [unclear] to start the practice, how does this even look? But then what is your passion? What is your reason why? And then begin to figure it out, okay, how do I want to communicate that? You know, I had… one of my college friends years ago, she was an artist. And then we went to seminary together. And she said to me, she said… I think I asked her, man, I wish I was as creative as you. And she said, no, everybody’s an artist. And sometimes when I look at storytelling, that made me really excited because I’m like, hey, I’m an artist. I didn’t do anything. But I like the way she hyped me up with saying, you’re an artist too. And I want you to begin to look at storytelling just like that, like this blank canvas. And you have the pieces, you create the narrative, and now it’s the idea of telling a visual story or imagery of where you want that to go. So it’s kinda like anything is possible, but the starting point is understanding your why, understanding your passion, and then even what is the vision and where you want to go with it? So when you show up with that, it’s like you’re already bringing the energy to the table. And so the webinars gonna be that space where we begin to unlock so you can see, man, I have so many stories to tell, I have this story I want to craft when it comes to my practice, when it comes to getting my big idea in front of people, when it comes to moving forward with this podcast. This is the story that I want to tell. So I want them to show up with their why and their passion. And just like an outlook on their vision.

I am so excited about this webinar, and just bringing you into this team. And it’s just, I feel like every aspect of Practice of the Practice will benefit by having an expert storyteller in our midst that we can access personally or that you know, can help teach us even more. LaToya, the last question I always ask is if every private practitioner in the world were listening right now, what would you want them to know?

Definitely I want them to tell their story. I want them to own their story and realize that… not to compare themselves to anybody else, but they have a story that’s specific to them. And nobody can beat you at being you, and nobody could beat you by telling your story. So I just want them to begin to use their voice, unlock that power, and then just share it with the world.

Oh, that’s so awesome. Well, if you want to register for that webinar, head on over to Also, if you want to get a ticket for Killin’It Camp, they’re $95 and we have over 20 speakers over three days in October; it’s gonna be live online, you can pop in, pop out, you’re going to be able to just enjoy that time with all these speakers. We have three different tracks. One is going to be Pillars of Practice, those are 25 minute talks, we have a Scaling a Practice track, and those are 55 minutes long, and then Multiple Streams of Income. None of the talks are going to be up against each other so you can go to every single one of them and also you get the full ecourse as well. Thank you so much for listening today. I want to thank TherapyNotes, our podcast sponsor. Use promo code JOE to get those extra months for free. And thank you so much for letting me into your ears and into your brain. Have a great day, and LaToya, thanks so much for being on the podcast.

Thank you.

Special thanks to the band Silence is Sexy for your intro music; we really like it. This podcast is designed to provide accurate, authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is given with the understanding that neither the host, the publisher, or the guests are rendering legal, accounting, clinical or other professional information. If you want a professional, you should find one.