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Elon Musk Isn’t Polished, But He’s Funny

I have been aware of Elon Musk for the past couple of years. I see Teslas around town and I must admit, I want one. (A car aficionado friend told me the only person who doesn’t want a Tesla hasn’t driven a Tesla. I have not driven a Tesla, but I would like to.) I think they’re beautiful.

Anyway, back to Elon. I decided to watch some YouTube videos of him speaking and he’s far from polished. He seems not to know what he’s going to say next, he stumbles a lot, uses a lot of non-words and fillers. In short, he seems unprepared. So how does he get away with it? A number of things, but mostly he is funny.

The kind of humor he likes to use is self-directed, also known as self-effacing humor. When he’s poking fun at himself, he’s likable. he connects, you feel like he’s just like you. So not only does the guy make a beautiful, aspirational, market-changing vehicle, he seems not take himself too seriously. And that makes his generally weak delivery easier to bear — even somewhat enjoyable.

There are other things he does, too… he’s confident, calm, answers questions respectfully, and he is mostly polite.

So what does this mean for you — and me, by the way? Can you rely on your well-developed sense of humor to get you through a speech? No. You see you’re no Elon Musk. Neither am I. We haven’t created an object of great desire. We haven’t done all the hard work of getting these disruptive products to market. We don’t own a company called SpaceX. He’s a superstar. And when you’re already a superstar, you can get away with being a not-so-great speaker.

The rest of us… we have to be funny AND do the other work. But maybe if we do, we can buy a Tesla.

33 thoughts on “Elon Musk Isn’t Polished, But He’s Funny”

  1. If there was EVER a reason to become good at public speaking it would be to buy a Tesla. I fell in love with the car riding in a friend’s.

    As I continue to hone my skills, at least I have my humor.

  2. Hi Ruth,

    Thanks for the video. I may be the only person who said “Elon who?”
    I have heard of, and seen, the Tesla, so maybe that counts for something. Yes, I too would LOVE to have one!
    Keep up the great work!


  3. Great points Ruth! I have always found it interesting how we let celebrities slide. This is also why so many people think they don’t need to work on the speaking craft – because they see someone like an Elon Musk stumble through a presentation to thunderous applause, forgetting that he is Elon Musk and his audience is invested in loving him (if he was speaking to a gathering of the Petroleum Institute they would wonder how anyone can sit and listen to him.)

    Great post as always, and the new brand is fantastic! I love the way you use the different banners for different areas of the site and in email.

  4. Hi Ruth
    I agree as a lesson for the masses, if we just learnt to “not take ourselves too seriously, add some self-effacing humor…we maybe all somewhat more enjoyable to listen to in speeches/presentations” Great tip!

  5. Hi Ruth, love the blog!!! I had no idea who Elon Musk was, but I do want a Tesla! I think your enjoyable to listen to and thanks for the lesson!

  6. Great points, especially on the heels of the post about doing the work! I appreciate the better sound quality of this video, even though you had a lavalier on for the previous videos, this one sounded better. 🙂 I picked up a tiny cellphone tripod the other day for about $16 – it even came with a remote control! I want to test drive a Tesla, too – they seem fabulous!

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Audrey – I boosted the sound on iMovie because it actually wasn’t very too. Still, good to know. And for the info on the tripod. I was too lazy to set it up.

  7. I could not help but look him up on youtube after listening to your training. It’s amazing how you could do many things wrong and one thing right and get away with it. It also helps to have one billion dollars in your bank account. lol..

  8. I have found that when I tell stories of my travels with dogs, it can make the audience relax and realize that my training is going to be fun and informative. Shows I’m not stuffy with my presentations. You are so right with humor…it doesn’t take the place of a polished presentation, but it sure can add some spice!
    Great advice Ruth, as always!!!

  9. Hi Ruth, I appreciated how you drew out specific characteristics about Elon – respectful, mostly polite, calm, confident, self effacing and funny – a humble human being. We all can’t be inspiring inventors but we can be great in our own skin and learning to speak well in public is something I aspire to. Many thanks, Lilian

  10. I have watched some of Elon Musks interviews and enjoyed them. He just seemed charming and somehow familiar. Now I know why! We should all be driving Teslas. Great blog post, thank you!

  11. Ruth,

    Congratulations on your new book and brand – they’re awesome!Gotta love Josh Lucas and God Knows the orange aprons at the Home Depot needed a boost! I’m naturally very expressive and your vlog has reminded me to make more videos and share my voice for greater impact. Thanks!

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