Tips on Writing, Creating, and Engaging Your Audience in an Increasingly Virtual World ft. Ann Handley

On this episode of the Unsubscribed! podcast Pierce sits down with Ann Handley, Wall Street Journal bestselling author and Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs to discuss how Ann makes time to create great content and key ingredients to keeping an audience engaged during a virtual event. 

And bonus: Ann tells us more about her journey as a public speaker and shares key things to think about before writing a book!

Show Notes

Ann is a Wall Street Journal bestselling author and the Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs. She was named by IBM as one of the seven people shaping modern marketing. She’s also the creator and author of Total Annarchy, her email newsletter that has over 40,000 subscribers. 

On this episode of Unsubscribed! Ann shares how she organizes her day to maximize productivity and to function at her best in all the different parts of her life. Spoiler alert: Ann dedicates a minimum of two hours a day to creative work, obsessively adheres to her calendar, and is a huge believer in time blocking and matching activities based on her own mental status. 

Ann talks about her evolving relationship with journaling. After a recent mindset shift, Ann has started regularly journaling things that happened the day before. Ann expands on how journaling has helped her develop as a content creator in two key ways: first, it gets her into writing mode; and second, it makes her a more careful observer of the world and has helped her take in the little moments that she can draw from. These moments often become the framing for her content. 

Ann also discusses the important elements everyone should consider when planning a virtual event. She highlights the importance of actively engaging the audience, and ranks live chats and elements of surprise as critical components to keeping the audience engaged. The shift to virtual has changed the speaker/audience dynamic and Ann urges speakers to rethink the deliverability of virtual events: “Think about how you can improve the experience of that one person on the other side of the camera, think about moments of surprise.”

On the topic of engagement during virtual events, Ann shares that she uses lots of slides (over 100 slides for a 40 minute speaking ops to be exact) to help tell a story. The slides represent the evolution of thoughts and she uses them to make sure all of the ideas are there. 

The other key to Ann’s detailed slide decks is to keep the audience engaged: 

“In a virtual setup, I think the quick flips as I call them… when I go from one powerpoint slide to the next, it definitely does keep people leaning forward a little bit more. That promise is different online versus in person because in person you’re there on stage, you can walk around, you can interact with the audience a little bit more. But when you’re at a virtual event like this, like you’re seeing right here. And so the slides become much more important to creating momentum because I can’t create that momentum just with my story telling or with my body or with interacting with people in the audience.”

Thinking of writing a book? Ann spills on what you should think about before sitting down to write the first chapter such as writing the landing page that sells the book before you write the book itself and testing some of your ideas in some sort of public format early on.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How Ann structures her day to build momentum and maximize productivity
  • Important elements of a virtual event and how to keep your audience engaged 
  • Ann’s thoughts on cryptocurrency and her own cryptocurrency $WORD coin.
  • Things to do and think about before writing a book

Check it out to hear all that and more. Enjoy!

Follow Ann on Linkedin, Twitter @MarketingProfs, or check out her website.


Thanks for listening to Unsubscribed! – a podcast created by Knak. If you enjoyed this episode, please do subscribe and leave a review on your favourite podcast player. We release new episodes every Wednesday.

Join the Conversation

If you have any feedback, or want to chat, feel free to reach out to Pierce on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter @marketing_101.

Pierce Ujjainwalla has years of experience as a CEO, entrepreneur, and marketing leader. He has lived in the marketing trenches at companies like IBM, SAP, NVIDIA, and Marketo, and he launched Knak in 2015 as a platform designed to help Marketers simplify email creation. Visit his personal blog, Unsubscribed!, for more of the insight he’s gained as founder and CEO of Knak.

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