Professor Steven S. Vrooman spoke at the 2014 TEDxSanAntonio event “Ideas in Action” about adapting to the overload of information that we are constantly bombarded with in our social media feeds. Professor Vrooman teaches Communication Studies at Texas Lutheran University and is currently working on some new projects. See what he’s up to now:
What was your experience like working with a TEDxSanAntonio curator?
Steve Vrooman: When I first met Jeff Adams, with his tattoos, his mohawk, and his Dunder Mifflin shirt, I knew the experience was not going to be anything like what I expected. Here’s the thing: I am a Professor of Communication. I literally wrote the book on public speaking (at least, a book, called The Zombie Guide to Public Speaking). I was sure that if there was anyone there who could manage this talk on his own thank-you-very-much, it was me. Of course, I was very, very wrong. Jeff could listen to me and immediately drill down to the pieces that needed fixing, everything from cutting supporting studies and stories that didn’t quite work to helping me work through something like six or seven different kinds of introduction.
In fact, the experience was so awesome that I revised my book to emphasize the importance of revision in public speaking and added some suggestions for how to find your own curators if you don’t happen to be in the TEDx preparation process at the time. I have also totally revamped how I teach public speaking. Public speaking has been taught virtually the same way for 100 years, with the same set of four speeches the students make over the course of the semester. But that’s really never been the right training to actually connect with real audiences. I have been doing this for 20 years and TEDxSanAntonio was a revelation. I will be running a faculty development workshop at East Tennessee State University in a few weeks about that very thing. I’m only one person, but TEDx kind of makes you want to start changing the world, so I’m hoping to continue to spread these ideas.
What first brought you to TEDxSanAntonio?
SV: I heard about it on TPR! I’d always loved TED and for years have required various talks for my public speaking classes, but it always seemed like this magic thing out there that magical people got the opportunity to do. But when I heard about it on the radio, all of the sudden it seemed real, and so I gave it a try.
What tips do you have for future speakers?
SV: First, listen to your curator and REVISE REVISE REVISE. Second, find a group of family, friends, coworkers, people you find at HEB, whoever, and give your talk to them. By the end of the official practice and curation process you will become friends with all the TEDx people, so presenting to them will get easier as you go. But, at the actual TEDx event, you will be in front of a lot of new people, which can be nerve-racking. So practicing it with other groups and getting their feedback as well is extremely valuable. Third, relax on the slides! Everything on them distracts from everything else and from you. Keep cutting slides and items off your slides. Be ruthless! Simplicity is the key to connecting with the audience, and I will tell you that I have never had an audience as excellent as the crowd at TEDxSanAntonio. Don’t let anything get in the way!
What’s your favorite TED talk?
SV: It is still the first one I ever saw. Ken Robinson’s “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” His talk is the perfect combination of humor, narrative, evidence and simplicity. He doesn’t need slides, just jokes and the truth. The story he tells at 3:30 is genius.
How has your life changed since doing your TEDxSanAntonio talk?
SV: Well, aside from totally changing the way I teach, TEDxSA has brought all sorts of interesting opportunities I would never have predicted. I still have people call me up and invite me to speak at their event almost two years later.
I edited scripts (added jokes, really) and performed for a series of sleep-related cognitive behavioral therapy videos for the Air Force Medical Support Agency (which became the perfect joke for my students, by the way — Dr. Vrooman, expert at putting people to sleep).
I delivered a talk at the National Association of College Auxiliary Services convention and will be giving a keynote at the upcoming Texas Self Storage Association annual conference. Both groups wanted a talk on social media, so for each I did research on their memberships’ social media use to report on what’s going right and what’s going wrong. Social media consulting on such a large scale is really interesting. I think organizations get a lot of generic advice on social media that may not be tailored to their needs and experiences. I like to be able to provide something different.
Where/how can we keep up with you now? What projects, etc. are you working on now?
SV: Aside from the upcoming start of the semester at Texas Lutheran University, where I am a Professor, and preparation for my upcoming speaking events, I am most excited about a podcast I am developing called “Every Speaker Has a Story.” I am interviewing people about their public speaking experiences and feelings, good and bad, and editing those interviews together into thematic episodes on things like technological breakdowns, nervousness, and people’s best speeches ever. Quite a few TEDxSanAntonio alumni are in my interview pool! Although there are public speaking podcasts already, there is nothing like this. I hope for the first episode to premiere at the end of August. You will be able to get it on iTunes and the other usual places.
You can get news about that, as well as find public speaking and social media advice and analysis on my blog, The MoreBrainz Blog, my @MoreBrainz Instagram, where I critique visual aids, and on my MoreBrainz Facebook page. Folks can also find me via my website.