Sunday, March 09, 2008

Opportunity Lost - The SXSW Interview of Mark Zuckerberg by BusinessWeek's Sarah Lacy

I originally had decided NOT to blog about the train wreck that was the Sarah Lacy interview with Mark Zuckerberg at SXSWi. It was clear from the reaction of the audience that the internet would be buzzing about their keynote address / interview for days to come, and my pontifications would just be "noise". I did make a few comments on Twitter about her poor performance and ability to steal the show from Mr. Zuckerberg, but that was going to be the total of my public opinion.

That changed when I got this from a well meaning friend:

"I would stay away from any comments on Sarah Lacey on Twitter. I just ran into a group of people talking about her presentation and I think there may be blowback but I understand she carries a big stick and I wouldn’t want her to yield that at you my friend. Just feedback…consider it or not. "

First of all, if she is the type of person who has a high profile position who orchestrates "blowback" at those who critique her, then she is worse than just a bad interviewer.

Second, this interview was another example of "Opportunity Lost". I wrote about this same topic following Zuckerberg's 60 Minutes waste of time with Leslie Stahl in January of this year. Fortunately Mark did not show up in his usual brown Gap hoodie sweatshirt, but instead in a new zip neck North Face fleece. Yet even with the change of warm outerwear, there was little substance in his answers and speaking style.

Tomorrow someone on the Facebook Board of Directors should mandate that Mr. Zuckerberg join a Toastmasters Club in the Silicon Valley and participate for the one hour meeting each week for two full years! If this company is going to ever do anything real he will have to give speeches. This is a talent he MUST cultivate or they will continue to have blah results every time he addresses the public. While he claims that they do not really care about the money side of the business.... someone out there (Hello...INVESTORS) does care about making this company profitable and sustainable over the long haul.

Looking at my notes from the beginning of the interview I have words like, "painful", "really, did he just say that?" and "lost from topic that matters to the audience" to describe what was transpiring. I am certain when Mark mentioned that terrorists were just like the rest of us: "drinking beer and looking to meet women on Friday nights" that the whole Facebook PR Department gasped in horror. Really?

But the controversy that is flooding the internet revolves around BusinessWeek writer Sarah Lacy, who was nervously twirling her hair and shifting her legs all over the place as she tossed questions mixed with her own color commentary at the Facebook CEO. On more than one occasion she mentioned her yet to be released book, in which she profiles Facebook and Zuckerberg. This lead most in the audience to believe (rightly or wrongly) that she was hand picked by the company's PR department to deliver a softball interview. The SXSW crowd wanted more than this from the keynote address.

The audience couldn't stand it and revolted. Upon losing control of the interview, Ms. Lacy lost her composure. It was like wolves feeding on an injured rabbit. Not fun to watch. The rest of the night people had lots to say about this topic.

I would like to end my rant by saying "WHO THE HECK AM I TO CRITICIZE THEM?" They are the ones who were invited to address the conference in the keynote event. I do not have a company that is valued at $15 Billion, and BusinessWeek does not even know I exist. It is easy to take pot shots at those on top, so I do want to be a little self deprecating as I end here and praise them for what they have each done in their careers that allowed them to be up on the big stage in the first place.

That being said, when all eyes are on you, you must deliver more than they delivered this afternoon. "Opportunity Lost" is a huge disappointment to all....even the spectators like myself.

I recommend that you google the term "zuckerberg lacy sxsw" and go for a ride to read the feedback. Don't take my word for it. Some people thought it was a brilliant interview!

Have A Great Day.


Have A Great Day.


David said...

thom, good write up...I'm curious to see how big this "train wreck" gets in the coming days. and yes, I agree about the toastmaster enrollment too.

Anonymous said...

Someone really sent you a message to "beware" of her using her "power" against you?

ha. I think you have little to fear from Ms. Sarah.

Steve Harper said...


I think "anonymous" read more into the comment than was really there. But then again that's probably why they are anonymous. Easier to make assumptions when you don't put a name to it.

Still sticking by the advice.

Opinions vary and mine is my own. I just think you are above a lot of what is being said out there and hate to see you get caught up unnecessarily with the issue.

Ripple On My Friend!


Craig Weeks said...

The Statesman has an informal, after-the-fact video interview with Sarah.

See the video <-- (Click)