Sunday SXSW '08

Keynote Interview with Mark Zuckerberg

Sunday, March 9th 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm

Sarah Lacy Author/Journalist, BusinessWeek/Yahoo!
Mark Zuckerberg CEO, Facebook Inc

If you’ve read anything about SXSW in the last day or so, you’ve probably seen what a disaster this interview was. I think most of this can be attributed to the interviewer, Sarah Lacy. Things went from awkward to ugly in this keynote throughout the duration of this session.

Things started out ok, but quickly turned downhill when Sarah started to talk about her relationship with Mark and the other times that she interviewed him… we don’t really want to hear about this. We’re here to hear Mark Zuckerberg talk about what is going on at Facebook. This became the pattern for this interview. Sarah kept interjecting herself into the interview and making odd statements (not asking questions) and bringing things around to what she is doing or her relationship with Mark.

Mark was pretty much like I expected in this session. From what I’ve read about him, he’s a quiet guy and isn’t really into the interviews or getting up and talking in front of a large number of people. So the fact that many of his answers were very canned to the point of repeating the same talking points over and over didn’t really surprise me. At some points it was almost comical. They guys sitting next to me were tracking the amount of times Mark repeated certain points.

“Communicate Efficiently” – 20 times

“Empathy” – 8 times

I guess I would have liked a little more information, but wasn’t surprised to get what we did get from Mark.

If you want to see the full write-up of the conversation, CrunchGear has a good write up. You can count up the broken record talking points on your own. The bigger news on this keynote is how the audience turned on Sarah’s interviewing skills. She constantly interrupted Mark and turned the conversation on herself – at one point trying to sell her book (about facebook). Near the end of the interview Mark got in a zing or two by mentioning that there wasn’t a question in her “question” and the audience started to cheer for quite some time, hitting home that Sarah wasn’t doing her job. At one point she came back with “my job is hard” which riled up the audience even more to the point where she just switched to questions from the audience (finally).

The interview was kid of an awkward session on both sides. Sarah obviously didn’t know what she was getting into. She must have been matched up with Mark for their familiarity (she’s interviewed him before), but there is an obvious difference between sitting down for coffee and interviewing for a book or an article and sitting on a stage doing a public interview. I kind of felt sorry for her at first, right up until she told us her job was hard and it was obvious she was oblivious to what she was doing. I can forgive a somewhat canned interview, but her performance just pulled things down much lower.

A video of the keynote is available at SXSW Videos.