Monday, March 10, 2008

Public Speakers Owe Something To The Audience. More on the SXSW Mark Zuckerberg / Sarah Lacy Interview

It will be interesting to see if the controversy over the Mark Zuckerberg / Sarah Lacy interview at SXSWi continues to go wild today, or if it will just die out. A friend from the West Coast who read my blog post last night asked me if it could have really been that bad? YES, it was.

The first rule of professional speaking is that the speaker / moderator is NEVER allowed to say "Screw You Guys!" to the audience. Lacy had not delivered the goods, and blamed the audience for not loving and adoring her as the person charged with getting Mr. Zuckerberg to say something interesting. She came off as less than professional and not very skilled at leading a discussion in this type of arena (which is okay, because she is a print reporter for BusinessWeek).

Some are making her out to be this brave misunderstood soul who got attacked by the mob of techies at SXSW. NOT. She even twittered about her own bravery for going out to all the A-List parties after the day concluded by stating: "going to gawker [party]. If that doesn't show courage after my day not sure what does :)". So now she is a self proclaimed heroine?

She is neither some horrible person or a misunderstood maven....she is just a person who blew an opportunity. It happens to all of us.

Instead of doing damage control (See this video interview by Omar Gallaga) she should confess to the fact that she blew it and that the interview was out of her element. She got up there and tried to do a good job, for that we all admire her, but it fell short. Taking ownership of the problem is what she SHOULD do to put this to bed. I don't see that coming.

When attending conferences we want the keynote address and panel discussions to offer up something. It can be informative, thought provoking or entertaining. Something has to resonate with the audience. The purpose of giving a speech is "giving" to those who are listening. It is not a PR stunt or time for a the person conducting the interview steal the show. People were there to hear Zuckerberg. Instead they got....well golly, I am not sure what they got and I was there to see it!

Fortunately every other presentation I saw at SXSWi was either good or great. The panelists, topics and breakout sessions all gave me more than I expected. I have been very pleased with the overall quality of every other event I attended at this wonderful event.

Even if Mark Zuckerberg is not a capable public speaker, the audience still wanted something more than the Blahhhhhhh. Most big company CEO's know they need to work on their speaking skills to get to the point where they can give more than single word answers to questions they had not scripted. These titans of industry are not expected to be the next Tony Robbins, but come on Mark..... you can do better. I stand by my suggestion yesterday that two active years in a Toastmasters Club would make him a new man.

Those who give presentations owe something to the audience. That will vary from event to event and speaker to speaker. That is why the audience revolted in the Zuckerberg / Lacy interview.... they felt short changed.

Have A Great Day


Cartoon from


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Liz said...

Great post. Well 2 posts. I am so sorry I missed this event. Its not often you get to see a reporter melt down in front of a crowd. I guess I missed an opportunity too.

David Morris said...

Now my interest is peaked - any chance there is a webcast of this?