Public speaking tips…by Ashton Kutcher?

Award shows are fun to watch , because I like watching celebrities step out of their screen personas and face an audience as…themselves. Most of the time, award ceremony speeches follow the standard formula: “I can’t believe it” “I don’t deserve this” “Thank you to the fans, family, studios, colleagues, and all sorts of other people that I may or may not forget to mention.” But every now and then, a celebrity will provide an extra-special sound bite; something more witty, more eloquent, and more meaningful, which people will talk (and write) about after the event.

Like Ashton Kutcher’s speech at the 2013 Teen Choice Awards.

Ashton, known for his good looks, his love life, and yes, his acting, used his opportunity winning an Teen Choice Award to teach. First and foremost, to teach the younger generation of the value of hard work, the value of being smart, and the value of living life by your own terms. And at the same time, he used this platform to highlight all the components of a powerful speech – in only 4-and-a-half minutes.

Overall, this is what his speech included:

  • He focused on the message, despite the distractions of the screaming women in the audience.
  • Self-deprecation
  • Real deprecation (“I feel like a fraud”)
  • The “big reveal” (his real name)
  • WIIFM (What’s in it for me)
  • Tell us what you want to tell us, tell us, tell us what you told us
  • Rule of 3
  • Repetition
  • Quoting notable individuals
  • Call-to-action

That’s pretty good for 4 ½ minutes.

Here’s what stood out within his speech structure:

1. Introduction. A speech introduction should include 1. An attention-grabber; 2. The WIIFM (the What’s in It For Me); 3. An indication of what he’s going to talk about (the “Tell us what you’re going to tell us”). And he had all three:

a. The attention-grabber: Self-deprecating humour about him being the old guy in the room, the “big reveal” about his real first name, and his feelings of being a fraud. These were all compelling enough to make the audience want to listen.
b. The WIIFM: Ashton talks about the “insider secrets” to keeping his career going, things that he learned before becoming an actor, things that helped him get to where he is today – which, we can assume, is a place where many people in the audience want to be.
c. The “Tell them what you’re going to tell them”: The 3 things that he’s going to talk about. 1. – Opportunity. 2. Being sexy. 3. Living life.

2. Body (“Tell us”): He talked briefly about each of the three points, using examples and stories to add life to the points. He used repetition well by introducing his point, talking about it, and then repeating it at the end. And like any good [subtle] self-promoter, he plugged his new movie at the beginning of his third point.

3. Conclusion (“Tell us what you told us”): A conclusion should include a recap of the main points of the speech, as well as a call to action. Since his main points can also be considered calls-to-action, he merges them together. I wonder if he left the “always be sexy” to the end (even though it was actually point #2 in his speech), because it’s just a cooler point to end on.

Emotion and passion trumps the “errors”

Did you notice that he said “like” and “you know”? Or that he pointed his fingers at the audience? Or that he spent a full 7 seconds scratching his face in the opening moments of his talk? When a speech is delivered so powerfully and passionately, the little errors are easily forgiven (that being said, I would try to cut down on the face-scratching. Ouch).

This speech is a great example of how impactful a 4.5-minute speech can be. It may not be what the audience expected to hear from Ashton Kutcher…but maybe that’s what makes it even more memorable.

Showing 2 comments
  • Red

    Thanks for sharing this article. More helpful tips here Engage – What NOT To Do When Presenting . Verity can help you be a great public speaker.

    • Suzannah Baum

      Thanks for sharing, Verity. I always appreciate when others share their expertise on this topic, and there’s certainly no shortage on what NOT to do when presenting. Great video.

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