Some of my favorite speeches to listen to are ones that effectively combine sad emotions with humor. This can be very difficult to pull off, but there’s nothing quite like taking your audience through an emotional rollercoaster.
Jimmy Kimmel nailed it last month when he spent a segment of his show on an emotional speech about his son’s medical issues. While Jimmy usually keeps his show light and entertaining, this time he had a serious message that was important to him. You can find a link to watch his speech in the description of this video.
Here’s what made Kimmel’s presentation so good.
There’s nothing quite as persuasive as stories. In 2007, three researchers conducted a study to find out whether statistics or stories are more effective for persuading people to donate to a charity.
Half of the subjects were given a brochure citing statistics of starvation in Africa, and the other half were given a brochure telling the story of just one girl in Africa. The subjects that were given just one story donated much more.
Telling a sad story is simply more effective than citing sad statistics, because statistics turn off the emotional side of your brain.
- Vivid details
One of the keys to a successful story is to give vivid, specific details. Don’t just summarize what happened; tell the audience some things that might not seem directly relevant. Those details are what make the story lively.
Jimmy gives details like: how old his daughter is, the names of nurses and doctors, how insightful these nurses and doctors were, and exactly how he felt at various moments in the story.
- Passion and emotion
This is the crux of Jimmy’s speech. No matter how good you are at speaking, nothing can ever replace the raw passion you have for certain topics. Even a poor public speaker can give an impactful speech if they show their emotion.
Throughout this talk, Jimmy Kimmel breaks into tears multiple times. But he’s able to keep them down just enough to squeeze out his words. That’s the key: if you’re going to cry in a speech, try to suppress it just enough to continue talking. If you’re unable to squeeze out intelligible words, then just pause until you are able to. It’s hard to listen to someone crying so hard that you don’t understand what they’re saying.
As I said earlier, mixing humor and emotion is one of the most effective ways to pull your audience in to your speech. A long, sad speech with no comic relief can be difficult to listen to.
Overall, this speech by Jimmy Kimmel was excellent, and it’s certainly one to look to for inspiration the next time you are writing an emotional speech.