CNLP 340: Annie F. Downs on How to Really Connect with Your Audience, Why Production Levels Don’t Matter as Much as You Think, and How to Share More of You with the People You Lead

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Annie F. Downs has seen her podcast downloads skyrocket over the last two months as millions tune in to her daily show.

She talks about how to connect with your audience, how she pivoted during the lockdown, why so many people listen, why production doesn’t matter nearly as much as you think, and how to share more of yourself with the people you lead.

Welcome to Episode 340 of the podcastListen and access the show notes below or search for the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts and listen for free.

Plus, in this episode’s What I’m Thinking About segment, Carey gives his latest thoughts on the COVID-19 crisis and how to respond as leaders.

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One of the things that’s happened in this crisis is that so many people, almost every organization’s budget, has been blown up. And what do you do if you’re a church and your whole giving plan is off? Our friends at Generis have a brand new resource called Your Budget Just Blew Up…Now What? In this eBook, Generis Principal, Jim Sheppard shares some very practical advice on how to strengthen your church right now to weather the current storm and actually thrive in the months ahead.

Generis is making this new resource available exclusively to Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast listeners before they release it to everyone else. And, there’s a bonus chapter just for you. They’re also providing a support hotline during this time. They’ve got you completely covered.

Check out Your 2020 Budget Just Blew Up…Now What?, and get a free bonus chapter by going to

Text willithrive to 33777 to get access to Carey’s Will I Thrive quiz

That Sounds Fun Podcast

CNLP Bonus 21: Crisis Leadership: Special Panel on Best Practices for Crisis Leadership and Finding Hope with Jud Wilhite, Kevin Queen and Tricia Sciortion

Cross Point Church Online


John Mark Comer

Jon Tyson

CNLP 204: Jon Tyson on Reaching Cynics in NYC and What to do When the Burden of Leadership Feels Too Heavy

That Sounds Fun Podcast Episode 213: Jon Tyson

Jo Saxton

Bethany Allen

Annie’s Fun List on YouTube

The 3 Kinds of Leaders You See in a Crisis by Carey Nieuwhof


1. Be as good a friend to yourself as you are to others

As leaders, we are often disproportionately critical about our own failures. At the time of this interview, Annie had been locked inside of her house alone for 40 days as a result of Coronavirus. During that time, she was tempted to tear herself down. You probably have, too.

You might be thinking, “I should have been more prepared,” or “I need to be as good of a leader as ____.” Don’t. Annie constantly reminds herself to be as good a friend to herself as she is to other people. We all, as leaders, need to be taking notes from Annie.

2. Your online content is only as good as the quality of your connection with your audience

One of the best pivots that has come out of the Coronavirus crisis is from Jimmy Fallon and The Tonight Show. He took his show from downtown New York to his home overnight. He had his wife run the camera, his kids draw the artwork, and he read his monologues from his phone. And people love it.

Annie notes that as a result of Jimmy’s pivot, we are all seeing that Jimmy is a regular guy just like us that got a big break. He has created a deep connection with his audience. We, as content producers, need to think the same way.

3. Don’t just share amazing content…share how that content has impacted you. 

Annie thinks that one of the biggest traps that preachers (mainly male preachers) fall into, is the trap of producing amazing content from the research of our sermons, but rarely showing how we personally have wrestled with the lessons from the text. Your audience needs to know that you’re a real person like them.

You might also shift your thinking from getting people to see how great you are as a communicator to how good a friend you can be to these people. When you think this way, you will actually begin to bring more people to Jesus. Annie points out that, “When people fall in love with the people of God, they’re going to fall more in love with God.”

Quotes from Episode 340

Be as good a friend to yourself as you are to everyone else. @anniefdowns Click To Tweet I'm the leader that nobody thinks they're following. @anniefdowns Click To Tweet Hold on to the word pivot, because what pivot doesn't require and doesn't say is that you have to let go of what you had planned. It just means you have to change. @anniefdowns Click To Tweet In crisis, agility is ability and flexibility is a superpower. @cnieuwhof Click To Tweet We believe the story of creation and redemption for everyone else, but we don't believe it for ourselves. @cnieuwhof Click To Tweet

Read or Download the Transcript for Episode 340

Looking for a key quote? More of a reader?

Read or download a free PDF transcript of this episode here.

Watch Back Episodes of The Podcast on YouTube

Select episodes of this podcast are now on YouTube. Our new YouTube Channel gives you a chance to watch some episodes, not just listen. We’ll add select episodes to YouTube as time goes on.

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Spread the Word. Leave a Rating and Review

Hopefully, this episode has helped you lead like never before. That’s my goal. If you appreciated it, could you share the love?

The best way to do that is to rate the podcast on Apple Podcasts and leave us a brief review! You can do the same on Stitcher and on TuneIn as well.

Your ratings and reviews help us place the podcast in front of new leaders and listeners. Your feedback also lets me know how I can better serve you.

Thank you for being so awesome.

Next Episode:  Joel Manby

Former SeaWorld CEO, Joel Manby, returns to the podcast and opens his notebook and heart on leading from the C-Suite through numerous crises: Including his partnership with Amazon during the dot com crash of 2000, leading through The Great Recession, and leading through the Black Fish documentary crisis as CEO of SeaWorld. Joel also talks about how to coach yourself through hard times, and how he got through suicidal seasons when things looked more bleak than he thought he could handle..

Subscribe for free now so you won’t miss Episode 341.

Lead With Confidence and Clarity. Grow Your Church.

As leaders, we tend to see the challenges and roadblocks before other people do.

We've all been there before...

  • You need to refresh your vision for the future but know that change will be an issue for that person.
  • You're overstaffed (or missing a key role) and can't find the right person to fill the role.
  • You aren't reaching enough new people even though you've tried everything that's working for other churches.
  • You can see the issue but aren't confident in what to do about it.

And with another Sunday morning coming up, it'll just have to wait until next week when you have a few minutes to figure it out.

Now ask yourself this:

What would it feel like to have those answers at your fingertips 24/7?

Whether it's reaching new people, improving your preaching, increasing volunteers, refreshing your vision, engaging your staff, or any of the countless challenges we face as church leaders, The Art of Leadership Academy will equip you to lead your church with confidence and clarity.

Between comprehensive church leadership courses, live coaching calls, staff and volunteer training resources, and direct access to an online community of senior-level church leaders, you'll get the exact insights and answers that fuel your church for growth.

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Carey Nieuwhof
Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof is a best-selling leadership author, speaker, podcaster, former attorney, and church planter. He hosts one of today’s most influential leadership podcasts, and his online content is accessed by leaders over 1.5 million times a month. He speaks to leaders around the world about leadership, change, and personal growth.