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The Uncomfortable Awkwardness of Mark Zuckerberg's Keynote

F8 zuckerbergI cringed a lot yesterday. It was a bit painful at times to watch Mark Zuckerberg's keynote presentation at Facebook's F8 conference yesterday.

Regarding the keynote, much is being written now about Facebook's new (and very cool) Timeline feature and about how the OpenGraph API encourages further sharing.

All that is very cool... but for me I found Zuckerberg's keynote interesting more in the human side.

In how it didn't work.

Zuckerberg made attempts at jokes... and at least on the live stream there was often no response - or at best a small smattering of applause.

More attempts. More crickets.

Awkward pauses at times when perhaps he thought there might be some reaction.

Over-repetition of key phrases perhaps because someone had coached him that he needed to say those phrases again.

It was all very... human.

Mark Zuckerberg has never pretended to be an amazing public speaker. He's an engineer... a techie... a geek. MUCH more comfortable talking about the details of some of the features than in making the jokes and surrounding contextual conversation ... or trying to connect with the audience.

And he's 27 years old.

And he was speaking to an audience of over 100,000 viewers of the live stream, X-thousand people at the F8 conference and through news and replays out to the millions of people who care about Facebook.

Just a wee bit of pressure. :-)

As a public speaker, I unfortunately can't usually sit back and just listen to a presentation... it's an inherent part of what I do that I'm always watching other speakers - listening to how they speak, watching how they move, listening to the words they use, looking at how they interact with the audience... just watching with a critical eye because that is how you become a better speaker.

And so I watched... and cringed when things didn't go the way he perhaps hoped.

We've all been there... sometimes presentations don't work the way you think they will. Jokes fall flat. Pictures don't resonate. Audiences don't interact. And it's all very well for me to sit here and comment... but I wasn't on the stage where he was... under the pressure he was...

In the end, the people watching were there to hear how Facebook was going to dramatically change the way people can interact with the site... and they got that info. Zuckerberg gave the demos, introduced the new features... all went well on that front.

And if Zuckerberg's stage presence seemed strained or awkward at times, it is perhaps a sign of his newness to this global stage upon which he finds himself. I respect him for getting out there and being that very public face of his company (as if he really had any choice). We're obviously only seeing the beginning of what Mark Zuckerberg will do in our communications industry... it will continue to be interesting to see where he goes - and indeed how he grows into presenting over the years ahead.

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