Jarvis on the Zuck Interview

Doing interviews is hard. I’ve been interviewed many times and few really become interesting. The handful of times I’ve been on the questioning side I’m always struck by how hard it is to get to something revealing in a short period of time.

For those not following the SxSW conference scene, BusinessWeek reporter Sarah Lacy conducted a disastrous on-stage interview with Mark Zuckerberg. It’s a worthwhile study for anyone interested in the art of interviewing. It’s also a fascinating example of how powerful online crowds can become: it didn’t take long for people Twittering and blogging the interview to turn against Lacy, and this online negative momentum carried into the physical room and led to heckles and shouts.

Jeff Jarvis, one of the sharpest bloggers on journalism and blogging, has a good post-fiasco analysis. He starts by saying Lacy didn’t know her audience. Knowing your audience: the golden rule for all writing and public speaking.

4 comments on “Jarvis on the Zuck Interview
  • I think she mistook Zuck’s audience as hers – imbibing an osmotic vision of hollow personal grandeur commensurate with that of the person sitting opposite. She comes around as a naturally bad listener and the result is of course, predictable. She blew it.

    I watched her response to that feedback. She thinks she’d done a good job 😉

  • It was a disaster. Those trying to spin it otherwise or blame the audience (i.e. Michael Arrington) need to ask themselves why this has never happened before. The same people go to SXSW every year, and these kinds of interviews happen every year. These are the constants. The only variable is Lacy. I’m sure she’s probably a good writer, but she’s a terrible (live) interviewer.

  • Ah yes, I’ve heard about this one. Knowing your audience is one of the most important first steps in almost everything that requires other people. But I heard that what happened was a case of the person not really knowing how to address a rebellious crowd and instantly losing control of her emotions. In situations like that, it’s always best to remain calm.

  • Derek,

    Arrington contributes to Business Week occasionally. He’s as well experienced the impact of a full glass of water hurled at him by Lacy earlier. Now he’s using the occasion (you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours) to advance his business interests while preempting physical harm 😉

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