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.