How comfortable are you appearing in the media? When the opportunity arises to make a public appearance or go on TV, do you leap at the chance or do you cringe?

However good or bad you are at presenting yourself in the public eye, you can get a whole lot better if you work on it. Don't believe me--take a look at these videos of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who is anything but a natural-born communicator. From the early days of "The Facebook" to last year's announcements about Internet.org, watch him as he slowly transforms from a socially awkward nerd out of Central Casting to a polished public figure. There are lessons here for us all on how to get and stay comfortable in the spotlight.

1. June 2005: The beer-drinking geek

In what may be Zuck's first video interview, the beer-swilling Harvard dropout explains why "The Facebook" will never go beyond colleges. (His idea that the service should focus on what it knows best does make some sense, or did at the time. Still, this is a good illustration of why you should never rule anything out.)

 

2. October 2005: Language doesn't work for me

In an only slightly less unprofessional appearance, Zuckerberg, wearing a pink hoodie and odd striped sandals, comments, "Language isn't really a perfect idea transmission vehicle." Not for him, anyhow.

 

3. January 2008: The deer in the headlights

In a 60 Minutes interview, Lesley Stahl speculates that Zuckerberg may be the next Larry Page or Sergey Brin. After a few seconds and zero response, she says, "You're just staring at me." 

"Is that a question?" he responds--a line that later made its way into the film The Social Network. It's a perfect geek response: Strictly speaking, she has phrased her inquiry as a statement. On the other hand, any idiot knows that you don't sit there and say nothing when being interviewed on a major television network. She gets her revenge in the following voice-over: "We were warned that he can be awkward and reluctant to talk about himself." 

 

4. June 2010: The flop sweat debacle

Zuckerberg takes the stage at an AllThingsD conference for an interview with the site's founders Kara Swisher and Walter Mossberg. Faced with tough questions about privacy, Zuckerberg breaks out in profuse and embarrassing "flop sweat." She suggests he remove his hoodie; he replies that he never does. But then, after one more privacy question, he takes it off. To make matters even odder, the lining turns out to be inscribed with a mysterious graphic related to Facebook's mission, which Swisher likens to an Illuminati symbol. 

 

5. December 2010: 60 Minutes revisited

Zuckerberg returns for a second interview with 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl, who also interviews Swisher about the flop sweat incident. Even so--presumably after intense media training--this time Zuckerberg is noticeably more professional and self-possessed.

 

6. January 2011: I can laugh at myself

A good-natured Zuckerberg makes an appearance on Saturday Night Live alongside Jesse Eisenberg, who played him in The Social Network. Zuck doesn't say much, but he does smile and laugh with his alter ego. When Eisenberg asks what Zuckerberg thought of the rather unflattering film, he responds, "It was ... interesting." 

It's a start.

 

7. April 2011: Chatting with POTUS

Though he jokes that he's nervous, Zuckerberg seems relaxed as he welcomes Barack Obama to a Facebook Town Hall. Maybe it's easier when he's asking the questions instead of answering them.

 

8. November 2011: It helps to have a wingman

Zuckerberg is interviewed by Charlie Rose with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg at his side. Sandberg is a media natural--perhaps that's why Zuck seems happier than in any previous TV interview.

 

9. October 2012: You can't rattle me

Six months after its widely publicized IPO, Facebook's stock price has fallen 40 percent. NBC's Matt Lauer grills Zuckerberg mercilessly about the effect of the loss on his employees and investors. Despite Lauer's best efforts, Zuckerberg remains calm, professional, and upbeat, and suffers no excessive sweating. A public figure is born.

 

10. February 2015: A good communicator

Zuck sounds and looks completely earnest and professional as he talks about Internet.org with Bloomberg's Emily Chang. Though he still says "um" just a little too often, he's otherwise evolved into a polished public figure who now seems at ease in the spotlight and in front of the media. 

Which should give hope to us all. If Zuckerberg can transform himself from the sweating, stammering, staring geek of his early interviews into the effective communicator he is today, then anybody can!

 

Published on: Feb 4, 2016