All great leaders know it’s important to understand the basics of emotional intelligence, and with it practice effective empathy, compassion, and communication. We look to CEOs, founders, politicians, trendsetters, and change-makers for motivation and vision. We trust these people to lead us in changing the world.
Few leaders are as famous, or as influential, as Elon Musk. Between Tesla, SpaceX, Neuralink, The Boring Company, and Solar City, the co-founder of PayPal loves to take fixing some of the world’s most pressing problems into his own hands.
Musk is famous for his insane work schedule, grandiose visions for the future, and relentless perseverance in the face of adversity. The guy does it all and just won’t quit!
Despite his influence, Musk seems to consistently lack in one single aspect that, more than anything, may just serve as a reminder to mankind that he’s still human.
Elon Musk is a terrible public speaker
From his 2014 USC Commencement to his 2017 Tesla Product Reveal, it seems like Musk stutters through every presentation. His speeches are marked with awkward body language, copious filler words, and shaky hesitation.
In the photo above, captured from the 2017 Tesla Product Reveal, Musk has one hand in his pocket as he stutters to explain the features of Tesla’s revolutionary semi-truck. What’s worse?
His audience isn’t in front of him. Musk is looking at the ceiling.
So Why Does Elon Musk Struggle so heavily with Public Speaking?
Musk is what we call a Smarts Dominant speaker, meaning he is incredibly analytical to the point where facts skew his speech. These speakers typically place a very heavy focus on logic and often struggle with emotion or voice fluctuation. We also see this with Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg.
Basic tactics of information prioritization and effective pausing would go a long way for Elon Musk. His pausing and flow of information tell us that he knows exactly what points he wants to hit, but no idea how to actually go about explaining them.
In his product reveal, he looks to explain the maintenance app for Tesla’s new semi-truck. There are five points clearly laid behind him in a logical order. Musk, however, jumps around to each one. We can’t see the audience, but we know they’re confused.
What should Elon Musk do?
When we have too much information to convey, it’s important to lay everything out in front of us and create a story out of all of the information. As mentioned earlier, Musk is dumping information on his audience.
If he started with the story of a need for energy efficient cars, moved into how they’ve transformed the consumer market, transitioned to discussing semi-trucks, and then relayed to their potential to transform commercial enterprise, his product reveal would have been several times as impactful.
In Musk’s field, science and facts are the law of the land, but his heavy focus on delivering such a large amount of information and little attention to how this information is delivered leaves for a confusing presentation. Given his perseverance, he could likely master this in a matter of months with the right help.
Regarding influence, what you say is just as important as how you say it. Having a lot of information and great things to share is vital, but nobody will listen if they can’t understand it. This may seem obvious, but how many presentations have you sat through with crowded slides and stats you couldn’t follow?
Musk has managed to stay so influential because his credibility lies in the products and companies he has built, which speak for him. Imagine how much greater his influence could be if he could speak just as powerfully as his companies that change the world.
Elon, if you’re reading this, please reach out. I’ve given you a hard time in this article, but respect you tremendously and would love to work together. Few people in the world are doing more to make it a better place, and if we can expand the effectiveness of your influence we can expand your ability to make everyone better off.
Musk is a Smarts Dominant speaker. Want to know what type of speaker you are? Click here
I was once shy and introverted with little self-confidence. At the age of fourteen, I was encouraged to join my school’s debate team. I did not enjoy being behind the podium and could not handle being the center of attention. Practicing and learning public speaking is what changed all of that, and as a result, my life has significantly improved.
My passion is helping others learn public speaking and improve their self-confidence. This has driven me to found Learn to SpeakOut.
Influence grows when great leadership meets great communication. The best investment you can make is in yourself.
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