Communication is the backbone of society. It is vital to every business, to every relationship, to every beginning. When we speak, we motivate each other; we influence; we tell stories of success and failure–hoping to impart knowledge or make someone feel something. This is not only what makes a speaker great, but serves as a priority for the speaker to reach before facing an audience. They have to genuinely care what they are talking about.
Recently, I attended a day-long company conference that consisted entirely of going over numbers, company values, and goals for our future–all things that might make a person, by their 5th hour, become a little weary. Our guest speaker, James Morgan, former CEO of Krispy Kreme, shared the story of how he came into the company, just as it teetered on the brink of failure. Nevertheless, he made it his mission to rescue the company through rebranding efforts, looking beyond just turning a profit. With his soft voice and kind smile, James stood behind the podium and began making his speech to all 82 of us.
About 40 minutes in, the room began laughing as James told the story of Krispy Kreme’s “Talk Like A Pirate” day. James laughed as well, remembering the time one of his employees excitedly entered his office proposing a marketing idea. He suggested giving one free donut to anyone who came in and talked like a pirate. To anyone who wore at least three items of pirate clothing, they walked out with twelve free donuts. James was hesitant at first, worried that a day of making almost no revenue could set them back immeasurably. However, James trusted his employee and told him to do whatever he thought would work.
Talk Like A Pirate Day arrived, and James visited some Krispy Kreme stores to see how it was going. He couldn’t believe his eyes as he saw the long line of cars entering the parking lot, as well as the long line of people wrapped around the building. James entered to see pirates everywhere carrying their dozens of donuts.
A couple of days later, James was in his office when he noticed a handwritten letter on his desk. Reading it, he soon discovered why Talk Like A Pirate Day was not just needed for the company, but was needed for a family.
The room became very still, as James told the story of a little boy with Leukemia asking his parents if he could dress like a pirate and go to Krispy Kreme to get his very own dozen donuts. His parents admitted they thought he would forget, however he continued to remind them. A week later, Talk Like A Pirate Day was here. His parents dressed him like a pirate and made their way to Krispy Kreme. James smiled as he recalled the manager having a pretend sword fight with the little boy. Just as promised, he was granted his dozen donuts for dressing like a pirate. When his parents took him home, he put the box beside his bed and looked at them, smiling.
The mother, who wrote the letter, told of her son not smiling or laughing for quite some time. That day, she wrote, she and her husband heard their little boy laugh and rushed into his room, desperate to see what was now considered a miracle to them. Their little boy sat on his bed, pointing his finger at the box, laughing at the excitement of having his very own dozen donuts.
I believe I can speak for everyone in the room that day, when I say that James’s speech left an impression on everyone. James gave us a lesson in company values, missions, and branding—foundations crucial to the future success of a company. However, I don’t believe that was his first priority. The emotion behind his words had more of an impact than anything he said, than any large number expounded. The story he told was one impossible to forget, because of how much he cared.
Emotional appeal is the most cogent way to make an impact on people.The emotion behind James’s words created an experience that we will never forget as a company. The story of one company creating something, led another company to feel something. As I looked around the room at my colleagues, I realized why James put this story in his speech. Words are informative. Emotion leaves an impression.
The power of speech is undeniable, and it only takes a compassionate speaker to spread a story and mission. Making an impression on your audience is not only important to your speaking career, but ensures you will have a profound and impactful effect on others.