Lately, people have been noticing a more polished Mark Zuckerberg. The 28-year old Facebook founder and CEO recently spoke at the TechCrunch: Disrupt technology conference for the first time since the company went public in May. The tech world and Wall Street eagerly sought his explanation of the smattering of fumbles that occurred since the IPO announcement. Zuckerberg offered a pretty good explanation, but the audience had a different take-away. For the first time, Zuckerberg was truly a public speaker.
As the private Facebook CEO, Zuckerberg’s presentation skills were not his strong suit. Chief amongst the complaints about Zuckerberg’s presence were: the hoodie, the dripping sweat, the relentless use of “Um”, an awkward laugh, and the inappropriate use of technical jargon for a general audience. As Beatweek Magazine reported in 2011, “Zuckerberg at times appeared to be attempting to channel Steve Jobs in his presentation style. But too often he lost sight of the fact that most of his online audience members were from the non-geek general public.”
So what changed? In short, a new speechwriter. His name is Dex Torricke-Barton. He joined Facebook in April and has been assisting Zuckerberg since. He earned his stripes as Google Chairman Eric Schmidt’s personal speechwriter and a UN communications officer. But imparting his oratory skills is just one ingredient. He must also be teaching Zuckerberg that public speaking is about presence.
The public Zuckerberg has matured. He is without hoodie. He is cool, calm and collected. He is anticipating tough questions and using well-rehearsed answers. He speaks confidently, admitting to mistakes but explaining a strategy for doing better. His optimistic tone complements his smart choice of words. He is believable: so much so that Facebook market shares were trading up more than four percent after the convention.
As one Twitter fan noted after the conference, “Looks like Zuckerberg is in good hands. I actually think the guy could be made likable.” And that’s just it. A little public speaking training can go a long way towards upgrading the likeability factor.
For more tips on media and presentation training, please visit our website.