At the recent BMA14 national convention, Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO and Co-Founder or VaynerMedia gave one of the most talked about sessions. He was incredibly high energy and managed to command the crowd’s attention, even when competing with lunch. And then there was that other thing.
His language would make a sailor blush.
To say he only used one f-bomb per sentence would be generous. It was more like two or three, and he routinely called the audience “f@%$ers” and told us to eat our “f@%$ing salads.” Gary Slack, BMA Vice President, Professional Development, offered an apology to the conference before the session following his began, while acknowledging they gave Vaynerchuk permission to be himself.
Now, I am not going to pretend that I am a delicate flower who wilts at language such as this (anyone who knows me know that is not true), but it was slightly jarring. Perhaps it was because it was in the context of a professional business event or because I could feel the cringing in the room each time an “f-bomb” landed. Or maybe because the swearing served no real purpose. It wasn’t to make a point. It was just swearing for swearing’s sake. I overheard one of the older BMA members giving someone an earful about how swearing is not the appropriate way to make your message stick.
The thing is, he also gave the most compelling talk about social media I’ve heard to date. And I have heard a lot. More than I can count, actually. Some nuggets of the advice he gave are: triple down on your strengths, market to the current year (meaning, embrace technology as it is developed and don’t rely on old tactics to break through the clutter), use Twitter to make real connections, always say thank you, and, most of all, be a genuine person … social media isn’t a workaround to being authentic.
Really great advice. And extremely relevant.
But points that could have probably been made without the swearing. Mostly because the swearing became part of the takeaway. Every conversation about his speech had to, in some way, acknowledge it. In my opinion, it was a shame to see a powerful message weakened by something like that. There’s a time and a place, is all, and maybe this wasn’t it.
I will concede there was a solid percentage of the audience (mostly younger) who thought his use of language was energizing and/or inspiring. If you were there, or even if you weren’t, what do you think?