How to Grow into Your Leadership and Speaking Role.

Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, has been under unrelenting criticism since his company came to prominence. The young CEO has been under constant scrutiny for his leadership and speaking ability.

People have mentioned his sweating and preference for wearing hooded sweatshirts. There has been a real concern about this 20-something guy running one of the biggest Internet companies in the world.

Yet here we are in 2013 and he’s still the CEO and the company continues to grow in terms of users and sales. It’s impressive to see how a really young CEO has improved over the years.

Just a few months ago Zuckerberg gave his first public chat after the much criticized IPO of Facebook.

The chat provides an interesting example to analyse. We can see how Zuckerberg has improved as a speaker and leader even while being under scrutiny.

Video: Mark Zuckerberg at TechCrunch Disrupt

Don’t Use Jokes

We’ve touched on this before. Jokes are very tricky to deal with when giving presentations or speaking to a group of individuals.

It takes skill to tell good jokes and even if you possess the skills to be good with jokes you risk offending the audience.

In the chat with Zuckerberg the host goes right into the Facebook IPO discussion by saying, “You went public on May 18th and the stock has lost roughly half its value since then.”

Zuckerberg cuts in with the self-deprecating, “Just get right into it.”

The audience laughs and it seems to lighten the mood in the room, this was natural humour – that made it work.. Zuckerberg quickly let the humour subside and he took on the topic with confidence.

Avoid jokes when speaking. You run the risk of offending someone. Use your natural humour instead.

Slow and Calculated

When Zuckerberg answers the question about the Facebook IPO he takes a breath and collects his thoughts. He’s likely prepared for this question for some time and has probably been discussing it for months with key stakeholders in the business.

He talks about the original concept of Facebook, which was providing a useful tool for people. He mentions the next three to five years and the current changes happening at Facebook in regard to mobile.

Zuckerberg gives concrete examples of what’s happening (mobile apps) and does it with confidence. His responses are slow and calculated. He’s not trying to speed through the discussion and feels comfortable sitting in front of the audience, which makes him appear confident.

The talk about how good mobile is from the inside perspective shows that Zuckerberg wants to prove the naysayers wrong. It’s something of an inspiration to see him get just a little fired up about succeeding in the future with his company.

Confidence is part of the battle for leading and Zuckerberg seems like a leader in the early stages of this chat with TechCrunch.

It’s easy to talk fast during presentations, as we’ll see next. Slow your pace. Allow people to hear what you’re saying instead of trying to speed things past them. A slow pace shows confidence in the material you’re covering, which is the sign of a strong leader. You can do this by just standing/sitting there and taking a few moments (seconds) to absorb what is going on in the room.

Talking About the Facts

Things get interesting when Zuckerberg talks about the facts regarding the Facebook mobile efforts. His voice speeds up and he starts adding a few more “ums” to the discussion. This is in contrast to how he was speaking just a minute earlier.

This could show a potential sign of weakness. Zuckerberg may be reaching on the facts here. There’s no way of knowing for sure, but if you’re taking the speech for what it is then Zuckerberg is looking a little flustered at this moment.

Slow yourself down while speaking. Even if something flusters you take a moment to collect your thoughts. Silence is something that can be your ally. It shows the audience that you’re comfortable with the silence and have the confidence to carefully prepare your thoughts.

Share The Passion

After a couple minutes of fast-talking and discussion about the stock things make an interesting turn and it leads to a round of applause.

Zuckerberg talks about the pride the people at Facebook have in their work. He talks about how people are proud to create something so they can show their family and friends.

This is a good turn in the discussion for Zuckerberg. You can tell he is really passionate about this point and it kind of makes you want to work for him. If you’re a developer or someone else in the audience or watching the video you feel a little inspired.

People connect with passion. We all want to work on something that makes a difference and that makes us feel good about the work we’ve done.

Silence Is Good

The host changes subjects to products. He mentions that he’s often criticized Facebook and Zuckerberg cuts him off with the comment, “We’re very self critical too.”

It’s a slightly awkward moment.

This comes off as defensive. Even though Zuckerberg is trying to make a quick point he feels will better represent the company it comes off as being at issue with the point.

Resist the urge to interrupt. Let others talk. The audience can analyse what is being said and when it’s your turn you can speak your point. You’ll come off as confident and collected, which are appealing traits for leaders.

This can be difficult to learn so work at it. In your normal conversations try adding silence to practice.

Comparisons Work

There is an art to comparisons, but they work.

Zuckerberg says that mobile is an exciting opportunity because the platform is much more like a TV experience than the traditional desktop experience has been.

He talks about how the ads on Facebook mobile will need to be more integrated into the features and platform. He’s excited about this because they’re already seeing better clickthrough rates and engagement with ads in the early stages.

The comparison to TV is thin, but it works well. Commercials are integrated with TV and so are product placements. Facebook mobile will integrate ads instead of just placing them in the right hand column like on the desktop version of the site.

Comparing things allows people to visualize the point you’re trying to make. By making it easier for them to understand you can easily continue with your point without having to repeat the same explanations.

Stories Bring Confidence

Zuckerberg talks really fast for most of the chat. It’s probably just who he is and that’s fine. He does come off as a little nervous, which is not unusual – a successful billionaire nervous in front of an audience – it happens more often than you think it does!

But he slows down when the discussion turns to Instagram.

The reason for this is Zuckerberg is able to transition into the story of how Facebook acquired Instagram. He slows down and gets his confidence back as he talks about the people at Instagram and the exciting things they’re doing. It’s almost as if he’s more comfortable talking about others than he is of himself.

When you’re feeling yourself struggling during a presentation move into a story. In my coaching program with CEO’s I show them how to create half-a-dozen stories they can call on for such situations.

Stories bring confidence. You can tell the story and because of the nature of storytelling you’ll naturally slow down and find a good pace.


Zuckerberg uses a short list to describe the focus at Facebook. He mentions Mobile Web, iOS and Android as the focus at Facebook.

Using lists allow people to easily understand information. It’s only three items, but it’s easier for people to remember when they visualize the items as a list.

When presenting information use lists where it makes sense. You’ll find that people remember more when you do.

Talking Specifics

The best part of the chat is when Zuckerberg talks about search. You can tell he’s excited about it and comfortable sharing information. He feels it’s an area where Facebook can really grow in the coming years.

When people hear specifics they feel the talk is genuine. Zuckerberg is not talking over the heads of those watching. He’s making the information easy to understand, but also making sure the audience is convinced that he and his team are making the right choices for the future. It’s very convincing.

Talk specifics when sharing important news about your company. Some may go over the heads of those in the audience, but understand that specifics do well to convince people that you’re doing something worthwhile.

Improvement of Mark Zuckerberg

This chat with Mark Zuckerberg shows improvement over his appearance and performance in previous years. He’s come under fire in the past for being a fast-talking, nervous presenter who didn’t look the part. He’s been criticized for his profuse sweating and choice of clothing. He’s come along way.

While the presentation here is not perfect there are elements that are good. Take the points above and include them when you speak.

Great leaders speak with confidence. It’s been a difficult year at Facebook, but Zuckerberg comes across as a confident leader of the company even though he’s still in his 20s.

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