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What We Can Learn From Mark Zuckerberg’s Harvard Commencement Address

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What We Can Learn From Mark Zuckerberg's Harvard Commencement Address

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, recently gave the commencement address to the 2017 graduating class at Harvard. It was a wonderful, well-organized speech. And his delivery was outstanding – he was personable and funny. 

I give seminars and coach individuals on presentation skills, and having such a notable public figure exemplify what I teach is a great example for my classes. (I even diagrammed it on my Speech Organizer – yes, I am zealous about speeches!)

Two items about Zuckerberg’s address were especially noteworthy for me.

The first was that he dressed appropriately. He did not wear his typical grey t-shirt, or a hoodie, which he wore when he met with his investors in 2012 as his company was about to go public. At Harvard, he wore a suit. Yes, you read that correctly – Zuckerberg wore a suit! He chose clothing that was appropriate for the event and the audience.

The second item was that Zuckerberg told several stories. My favorite stressed an etiquette point. He talked about his first computer class at Harvard, when he wore a t-shirt that was inside-out and back-to-front, with the tag sticking out. No one spoke to him except Kang-Xing Jin. As a result, Zuckerberg and Jin did their class work together, and now, says Zuckerberg, “Jin runs a big part of Facebook.” He concluded the story by saying, “And that, Class of 2017, is why you should be nice to people.”

Are you paying attention to these two points in your presentations? If not, it may be time to consider getting some training in presentation skills. You also can read about the importance of adding stories to your talks in my new book, The Communication Clinic. They can be invaluable for making a point resonate with your audience. And, if you haven’t heard Zuckerberg’s speech, you can watch it here. Let me know what you think.

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