Elon Musk's public speaking: So bad he's good
There’s a lot to be learned from studying the presentations and public speaking techniques of some of the world’s great leaders.
Here we take a look at an Elon Musk presentation, and ask.
Despite a number of obvious flaws in his technique, what makes his presentations so popular?
A few things about Elon Musk straight off the bat.
- Musk is rich (in 2021, he became the richest man in the world)
- He’s extraordinarily passionate about his projects (which range from migrating to Mars to underground drilling to brain-machine engineering to next generation cars)
- He’s a genius
And yet when Musk gets in front of an audience, he can sometimes turn into a public speaking car crash.
He gave a presentation earlier outlining his very ambitious plans for rocket company SpaceX.
That presentation garnered him a lot of social media attention, but for the wrong reasons: there was his stammering, and his style of delivery, which was clunky and awkward.
And yet that long speech had been watched over a million times online within a couple of days.
So the question is:
Why are we still interested in watching an Elon Musk presentation when so much of his delivery is soooooo bad?
Well, here are a few insights that might make sense of this bizarre dichotomy of brilliance and bumbling.
1. He gives us the why before the what
Elon Musk does big plans big style – humans on Mars in just a few years!
He tells you WHY his projects are important right off the bat.
When he outlined the SpaceX plan to go to Mars, he tells you “why” it’s important before he tells you the “what”.
In this case, that SpaceX will ensure the survival of humans as a species and to inspire the belief that the future will be better than the past.
He always gives his audience a reason to listen and engage with him.
Public speaking is not rocket science.
Next time you are preparing for a presentation, think about this.
Do not tell your audience WHAT you did, until you have told them WHY.
It’s a classic mistake we’ve seen time and time again here at Confident Speak in working with business leaders to improve their communication, speaking and presentation skills.
2. The art of imperfection
Musk is very good at making his audience feel like he’s just like them, that we’re all in it together, so his stammering and stumbling actually doesn’t bother us so much.
Many great speakers, like Steve Jobs, were great at public speaking.
They talked as if they’re on a higher plane and that they’ve got everything perfectly down pat and present you with a finished product.
That’s great and we buy into it.
Elon Musk is the opposite of Steve Jobs.
He tells you that he and his employees have been figuring things out.
He shares with you how a product crashed and burned and landed in the ocean. Musk lets us know that he has failed more than he’s succeeded.
That shows us Elon Musk’s humanity, and we love people who are human. Perfection is overrated, this is authentic presenting.
Musk and other imperfect speakers may not have the best delivery on the planet but they can make up for it with vulnerability, honesty, and passion for their subject.
You can teach techniques for great delivery, but it’s mighty hard to manufacture real, honest feeling.
When you’re presenting, be sincere and your audience will follow you anywhere, regardless of how much you stumble or stammer.
3. Elon Musk is the definition of authenticity
Many people describe Musk as “authentic”.
The word “authenticity” has been bandied about a lot in corporate circles of late so let’s just remind ourselves what it actually means.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines authenticity as:
True to one’s own personality, spirit, or character. Not false or imitation.
Musk gets down to brass tacks, lets the audience know that he’s down-to-earth and vulnerable, and lets his feelings show about what inspires him.
The idea of living out amongst the stars excites him and he tells the audience exactly that.
He is telling us his dream — and audiences love people who follow their dreams.
Especially when it led them to become billionaire entrepreneurs.
There’s a lot to be said for credibility when presenting. Sometimes we gain credibility because of our position or from the amount of money we have or how many accolades we’ve collected.
All these factors do carry a certain weight and give the speaker gravitas, ensuring they have a better chance to get the audience on-side before they’ve even stepped on stage.
Yet when it comes down to it, two things will always sway an audience.
- Great delivery
- Great humanity
Next time you get up in front of an audience, give them a clear, confident, credible delivery and you’re on your way to a winner.
Give them humanity, vulnerability, and passion in addition to that and you’re on your way to home-run World Series victory.
Here’s the full Elon Musk presentation from SpaceX. Watch for yourself: