Review of Scott Berkun’s Talk on “How to Call BS on a Social Media Guru”


Calling BS on anyone takes a certain amount of vigor and courage. There are many times when I’ve wanted to stand up, point my finger, and yell “stop bullshitting me!” Authors, politicians, radio talk show hosts, bloggers very much like myself, and public speakers are the ones I find myself internally yelling at all the time.

Last month I attended a talk entitled How to Call BS on a Social Media Guru at the monthly Social Media Club of Seattle event. Before I go any further, let me put this in context for you. Some random guy who I had never heard of was going to stand in front of a crowd of nearly 200 of Seattle’s best and brightest in the local marketing, public relations, and new media scene and call them out. Maybe he would point to a group of people and make a public example of them. Maybe he would point at me. Maybe he was here to make a joke out of everyone in the room. I was ready.

Bring it on. Show me what you got

Scott Berkun is a public speaker, former Microsoft manager, professional author and expert in creative thinking. Prior to the talk he spent two weeks researching and finding examples of credible and non credible experts. You can find a well written essay on how to detect BS on his website.

His public speaking skills were top notch and the talk was highly entertaining. I’m halfway through his latest book Confession of a Public Speaker (O’ Reilly) and highly recommend it.

How to call B.S. on any type of guru

Scott mentioned a series of questions to ask any self claimed expert.

Who are your clients?
Can I speak to them?
Can you show me a client that you have worked for that is like me?

I agree with this logic and my personal belief is to ask as many questions as you can. Over educate yourself on all the options. It’s common sense.

“If you have someone who is claiming to be an expert and can’t provide an example of what they have done, then they are not credible”

Are we in a fundamental shift right now?

It’s debatable. If you’ve read one of my latest posts Brands That Talk vs Brands That Listen, you know that I tend to stand with a group of people who believe that right now is an important time to take note of changes that are happening in new media marketing.

Scott also brought up the term Chronocentrism. Wikipedia defines Chronocentrism as the primarily belief that a certain state of humanity is superior to all previous and/or future times. He made note that the industrial revolution between 1780 – 1899 could be considered a fundamental shift with the invention of electric light, the telephone, indoor plumbing, and steam power. I’m not going to claim that the time I live in is as important as the industrial revolution and I never tend to think that now is the the best time to be alive in the history of civilization, however I am very excited about this whole “Internet thing” and the relatively new ability we have earned to connect with people in different ways. How could you not be excited about it? Maybe if I grew up in the 1930’s or 1940’s I’d be overly excited about the magic of television. If I lived in the 1800’s I might have been very much into the advancements of the telegraph. Fortunately or unfortunately (however you look at it), I am alive in the 21st century and I care most about what’s happening today and tomorrow.

Show me the data

Have you seen this video?

During his talk, Scott brought up the fact that the video is well produced, but lists a bunch of facts and doesn’t name any sources. He stated that whenever you see a statistic floating in space, there’s no reason to assign any credibility towards it. I tend to agree, however deep down I am a salesperson at heart. I’m all for selling my ideas and beliefs onto the “non believers“.

Scott referenced the book How to Lie With Statistics (Norton) and mentioned that with enough money and time you can provide statistics that show anything.

The goal should never be to lie to someone. Misleading people and using shady tactics to stretch the truth is flat out wrong and I have no respect for anyone who does it.

Everyone has beliefs and opinions and with the perfect level of persuasion, timing, and atmosphere, one person can be convinced to believe something new or change his or her position on something. During the lecture Mr. Berkun mentioned that all he wanted was for others to list their sources. Provide data and list sources. Dan Zarella is a great example. I’m all for transparency and like to see hard facts when possible.

Would you like me to use more statistics and site my sources more in my blogging efforts? I’d like to know and provide as much evidence and references as possible when necessary.

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