I've been fairly loyal to you since 2004, when I signed up for Facebook as a senior at Purdue University. Outside of a few "I'm leaving Facebook forever" posts, I never really left more than a few weeks at a time.
You've been taking lessons on humility and charm in preparation of your upcoming testimony to Congress, according to the New York Times. I'm a little bit insulted I wasn't one of the executive coaches you called--but I'd like to help anyway.
Here are the four most important lessons you need to learn before you testify this week:
1. The first words that come out of your mouth, should be a genuine and authentic, "I'm sorry. I messed up."
Congress has released a copy of your prepared testimony, and while you do apologize in it, it's buried in the third paragraph:
"It was my mistake, and I'm sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I'm responsible for what happens here."
It took you 207 words to say the words everyone is looking for: "I'm sorry."
207 words! You're going to be talking for two straight days, and you buried the apology in the opening introduction.
I know your team told you to talk about all the great things you've done for the world. This isn't the time for that. You're wasting time, because Congress has already made up its mind.
Your No. 1 goal is to change the velocity of questions they ask you. You do that by being genuinely sorry.
2. The moment you appear defensive is the moment you've lost, even if you're right.
I know it seems appropriate to talk about the positive impact Facebook has had on the world. I can see why you would be coached to say that.
In this congressional testimony, nobody cares. It's going to go in one ear and out the other. You don't need to tell them--they already know
When the members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee ask you questions, it's not in their best interest to admit that you've done well. That's a sure-fire way for them to lose their fan bases and show their biases.
Instead, they're going to throw every single book at you. They're going to interrupt you. They're going to sound angry. They don't care about your answer. They want sound bites. They want you to be defensive.
They want you to show emotion and strike back.
Your prepared testimony shows you're almost ready for this--specifically, this quote: "But it's clear now that we didn't do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm as well."
That's a good start. Still, it misses the mark. Nobody is going to come back from your testimony and say to themselves, "You know this Mark guy has really great intentions."
The word "but" is the core of defensiveness. Get rid of it.
3. Replace every "we" with "I."
This congressional meeting isn't about what Facebook is going to do fix this. They want to know what you're going to do.
I counted how many times the word "we" appears in your prepared testimony: 74 times. That's 74 opportunities you'll miss to take ownership of the problem that you created.
Yes, Facebook has thousands of employees globally, but in this testimony, they're not after Facebook, they're after you. They want to see you sweat.
You created a multi-billion dollar company and still own decision making power on the board. That's an incredible feat. You set the direction of this company, and can't put that ownership on anyone else.
Show ownership of the problem.
4. You aren't going to win this debate. Instead of trying to win, you have to be agreeable.
Remember: This is a show. You're on the worst reality television show imaginable. You have a target on your back.
If you're going into this debate trying to win, you've already lost. Nobody wins during these congress meetings.
Part of winning is making sure you control your emotions and even facial reactions. Empathize and agree with the House members. It's your only choice. You aren't going to win during the next two days. You'll have a chance to win in the long term.
So, say what you mean and mean what you say. In the words of Brian Burkhart, a presentation coach known for telling it like it is: "Now is the time to be authentic and most importantly genuine. The world might not remember what you said, but they'll remember how it made them feel."
Best of luck. Sincerely,
Your biggest fan.