Graham Daniels (above) began his message at FORUM by telling the story of Dennis Bailey. Dennis was a striker for QPR in the 1980s who scored a hat-trick against Manchester United at Old Trafford. Let’s just pause and enjoy that fact for a moment. Ah.
Anyway, the story goes that QPR’s Chairman hosted the directors, partners and players for a black-tie Christmas dinner, and during the post-dinner speeches something unexpected happened. Dennis Bailey, the youngest member of the squad, felt prompted to raise his hand and ask the Chairman for the opportunity to say something about the meaning of Christmas.
The Chairman obliged, asking Dennis what he had in mind, and the shy seventeen year old stood up, to stutteringly announce: “I’m not very good at speaking Mr Chairman, but I know a song”. “Well that’s not very helpful”, said the Chairman, but Dennis pleaded: “can I sing a bit of it?” (And Graham Daniels – or ‘Danno’ – sang the first chorus):
Thank you Jesus… Thank you Jesus… Thank You Lord… For Loving Me…
You went to Calvary… And There You Died… For… Me…
Of course this brought the house down, Dennis faced mockery in the changing rooms ever afterwards, but one of his team mates was sufficiently intrigued by this inexplicable lunacy that he ultimately became a Christian!
This set up Danno’s message, challenging UK student leaders to talk about Jesus in similar places of vulnerability, and he referenced the story throughout, before closing with another moving rendition of the chorus.
So What Can We Learn From A Singing Footballer?
I would suggest this opening story is GENIUS for three reasons.
First, it sticks. Not only is it simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional, in story form (see memorable messages), but it has a catchy tune! The stickiness means the message sticks with it, and can be retold by bloggers and other fine folk. But this is just the beginning.
Second, it integrates. By referring back to the story throughout, and even closing with a poignant repeat of the chorus, the whole talk is given a beautiful unity. And by singing while being an ex-professional footballer himself, he offers the nerdy talk buffs a pleasing second level of illustrative meaning. But being ‘sticky’ and ‘integrating’ the talk are only useful to the extent they serve this third value.
Third, it IS the goal of the talk. What do I mean? Well, what did Danno pray his student audience would do when back on campus? He longed they would be similarly courageous in confessing Christ from a place of vulnerability. So how did he make that goal more tangible and achievable? He enabled us to visualise it. The story IS the goal of the talk.
What Can We Learn From A Singing Footballer?
Help your audience to visualise what the application of your talk would look like in real life, build your talk around that, and make it memorable.
Danno’s talk is almost as good as scoring a hat-trick against Man United at Old Trafford. Ah, those were the days..
NOTE: Danno did qualify the story by saying he didn’t want us to be ‘NUTTERS’ (in a strong welsh accent), but an extreme example can make the point more memorable.