This article was published on December 11, 2013

The art of saying nothing

The art of saying nothing
Martin Bryant
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Martin Bryant


Martin Bryant is founder of Big Revolution, where he helps tech companies refine their proposition and positioning, and develops high-qualit Martin Bryant is founder of Big Revolution, where he helps tech companies refine their proposition and positioning, and develops high-quality, compelling content for them. He previously served in several roles at TNW, including Editor-in-Chief. He left the company in April 2016 for pastures new.

Gary Vaynerchuk says that he lives with the assumption that he’s speaking ‘on the record’ 24 hours per day, seven days per week, 365 days per year, and yet at LeWeb Paris today he wasn’t afraid to give engaging, entertaining answers to Loic Le Meur’s questions about his approach to business and technology.

We’ve come to expect that from Vaynerchuk, but it was a refreshing change from something all too familiar at tech conferences – what a woman sitting next to me this morning described as “The art of saying nothing.”

It’s a common problem; a high-profile speaker from a big-name firm takes to the stage and manages to say nothing new or interesting during the whole 20 minutes they’re on stage. Any challenging question about the company’s future plans or a controversial episode in its recent past is met with an “I’m not going to comment on that.”

It makes sense – especially for employees of public companies who don’t want to be responsible for a dive in stock price thanks to an unfortunate turn of phrase – but the watching audience is left with… nothing.

Vaynerchuk is a master of the personal brand who knows that an expletive-laden truism is retweet gold and a great way to help achieve his business goals. It would be boring if every speaker at conferences was like him, but his time onstage today was an important reminder that you have to give us something when you take to the stage. Why appear at all if you’re just going to reiterate your company’s mission or story that has been reported time and time again?

This may sound like the moan of a writer looking for stories, but conferences are a powerful opportunity for companies to get a message across. It’s not enough to simply turn up. Give us some news! If you can’t give us news, at least make sure that the person you send to speak on stage has an engaging story to tell.

This certainly isn’t a complaint about LeWeb (and there have indeed been interesting talks here), it’s about tech conferences in general. “Oh, they said nothing worth writing about,” is a common complaint from our members of our team when we visit events around the world. If you have the opportunity to share your story at a major event, make sure you make the most of it and give the audience something they can’t help sharing.

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