What You Can Learn From Ashton Kutcher About Public Speaking

8.19.13 Ashton Kutcher


Sometimes, wisdom can come from unlikely people in unlikely places.

Case in point: Ashton Kutcher at the Teen Choice Awards this week. The actor, who will be playing Apple co-founder Steve Jobs in the movie “Jobs,” gave an acceptance speech that went viral and which observers called “incredible.”

Here’s the video:

Even speechwriting experts such as Fraser Seitel, president of Emerald Partners, are praising the address.

“This speech rings true, makes sense, and is freshly phrased and well-articulated,” he says, adding a joke: “At this rate, he’d make a heck of a lot better Republican presidential candidate than Ted Cruz!”

Democrats liked the speech, too. Bob Lehrman, former speechwriter for Vice President Al Gore, says speechwriters should look for ideas they can steal from Kutcher’s approach, because Kutcher stole wisely, too.

“Since he’s making a movie where he plays Steve Jobs, I bet he saw the famous Steve Jobs Stanford commencement speech where he says something like, ‘I’m just gonna tell three stories. No big deal. Just three stories,'” Lehrman says. “The rule of three was good then. It’s still good here.”

Brad Chase, a partner at Capitol Media Partners, has been critical of Kutcher’s tweets in the past, but he says Kutcher did a good job of selecting the right message for his audience this time.

“Short sentences, simple vocabulary, good flow–it was a masterful performance,” he says. “I’ve not always been easy on him, but this was definitely a highlight in his up-and-down career.”

Another plus of Kutcher’s speech is he didn’t fall into the trap of pandering, says Scott Greenberg of Jump Start Performance Programs.

“He seemed much more interested in giving a valuable message than in going for cheap cheers, which is what most people do in these situations,” he says. “He really demonstrated the very authenticity he was advocating.”

Professional speaker Bill Corbett disagrees, however. He says Kutcher’s message was a good one, but not really geared toward the Teen Choice Awards audience. “Although he got lots of screams of ‘I love you,’ his speech was not one for young teen girls,” he says.

April Masini, writer of the “Ask April” advice column said Kutcher did a lot of things right–dressing casually for an audience of teens, for one. She points out he did a great service to his message by starting out with the revelation that his real first name is Chris; Ashton is his middle name.

“Confessions always bring an audience to silence, especially good ones,” she says. “That he was confessing his first name is actually Chris, not Ashton, was not a big deal, but to teenagers, a lie is a lie is a lie.”

At least one observer, Tamara Smith, director of marketing at DemGen, says Kutcher’s speech may have been savvy movie promotion, however. After all, “Jobs” opens Friday.

“My personal experience made me doubt he actually wrote it himself,” she says. “I figure this was part of the promotional machine’s work for ‘Jobs.’ Regardless, the overall message and delivery were excellent.”

This story originally appeared on PR Daily

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