Do you wonder how to make an influencing and more realistic live conversation with your audience in the 21st century? Then, in this article, we are bringing a fresh outlook to this question with particular reference to the presentation style of Elon Musk. To make the analysis easier, we have used one of his widely applauded presentations as a central reference.
An innovator turned business person and a real genius, Elon Musk needs no introduction. The epitome of brilliance is best known for his role in transforming the realm of global business & technology innovations, through a series of awe-inspiring and breakthrough ventures: Tesla (designing and making of electric cars); SolarCity (the US’s first provider of residential solar power); PayPal (the worldwide online payment system); Hyperloop (a conceptual high-speed transportation system) and the grandiose of all – SpaceX, the endeavor to establish a human colony on Planet Mars.
A few days back, Tesla announced the Second Generation of Powerwall – its battery system, but in May 2015, when Musk had publically announced the launch of Powerwall, the world had to take notice of his presentation, because it was inspiring in more than one ways.
Well, he began this presentation with highlighting how the global environment was worsening due to the pollution from fossil fuel based power generation plants, and then took it forward to explain how solar energy could resolve this issue and the role of Tesla’s new battery system in this mission. He also talked about product availability and price.
Seems like a regular Table of Contents, huh? Then, what is so likable about his style? Here are the highlights as to what works out well to make Elon Musk a truly inspiring presenter.
Elon Musk – As a speaker:
It is a clever combination of the vision and how he delivers his message – that received a big applause across the globe. He anchors a frank, honest, genuine and engaging conversation throughout, without any shade of manipulation. No glitter, no fluffs. However, he passes on his message to everyone, and in the most sensible manner. Here is how:
Start with a right target and scenario:
Ambiguity kills the interest. Keeping this in mind, Musk began with targeting the worldwide use of fossil fuels to generate electricity and the effects on the environment. He used the graphical presentation and ran two scenarios: with fossil fuels and with naturally available solar power. Even the images were chosen smartly which clearly indicated the superiority of solar energy over the polluting, dirty fossil fuels. This simplified it for the audience to co-relate the product concept with the present day crisis, and also helped them switch between two different states and compare them against each other to blow away any objections.
Focus on fundamentals and need of an hour:
The followers of Musk would admit that every time he connects with his audience, he throws up some out-of-the-box ideas, all of which offers something to improve our lives. Against this visionary trait, those minute slips and frequently heard fillers in speech do not matter. The world recognizes him as a person of ideas and since decades, he has been seeing and realizing his world-changing dreams. In the case of Powerwall too, he focused on transmitting the crucial issues with environment, all on the account of the heavy usage of fossil fuels and how the solar energy could take care of it.
Make a contextual and meaningful comparison of data:
When you sell a product with high technical details along with the universal application, it is important that you represent the data in a clever way that makes sense to the most novice part of the audience. The capability to deal with data and statistics could differ from individual to individual and the trick to tackle this is to use various known contexts against which you can compare your data. This is what Musk has done throughout the presentation.
The best contextual explanation was the “Blue Square” and “One Pixel”: He showed a tiny spot on Texas – the “Blue Square” – in the blank map of the US to contextually present as to how much land area would be covered by the solar panels to empower the US. And in that Blue Square, he put a red dot. Later on, he zoomed in the screen and described that dot as a single pixel, which indicated the space used for the batteries in this endeavor.
He also talked about Powerpack, the device with a working principle similar to Powerwall, but with multiple times higher in the capacity. While talking about Powerpack, he again made a smart use of context to help the data look more digestible and easily achievable.
Motivate them to an immediate action:
Be it an eBook subscription or buying battery, it is important that you make your audience believe why they need to take action today and why they just should not delay it further. The reason why it is hard to close the sales call is that the target audience always has that notion that things were pretty Ok even before this product came into the market so why it has suddenly been a call for an action. Things would work out themselves etc. So, the catch behind every successful sales call is to make the audience feel that today is the right time, and any further delay would bring a catastrophe. That’s called the sense of urgency, which is what Musk smartly advocated by the CO2 concentration data and follow up statements like “we should collectively do something about this..”
Perceived problems v/s proposed solutions:
It is imperative that you lay down the commonly perceived hurdles right before they arise in the minds of your audience and also offer solutions to them. This elevates your status in the eyes of your audience and boosts their confidence on your product as they feel that you have done a required legwork. Musk effectively applied this tip when he talked about problems with currently used batteries, the need for Powerwall (to store the solar energy during the daylight) and the land requirements explained with the help of “Blue Square” context (as mentioned before).
Word selection – Simple and engaging:
Musk knows the pulse of the audience, in the sense that he uses layman terms to present the techiest of the information in an understandable manner. He has the skill to talk about his great and fantastic ideas in a way everyone can relate.
Essentially, it’s a sales pitch and must solve the purpose. The presentation was meant for a wider market and so data representation in generic terms was a key to keeping the interest of the audience intact. The entire 18-minutes slot was exciting and filled with humor wherever possible.
As a speaker, Musk has a humble, approachable and also a bit of casual attitude due to which he looks realistic and far away from those well-practiced speeches. His honesty appears effortlessly and pays him well all the way! In fact, he has not attempted to seem flamboyant in spite of having a real breakthrough in his hands for tackling the global environmental challenge. Modesty is always inspirational. He focuses more on convincing the audience about how relevant his idea is.
Check out the statements he used:
“..It’s something that we must do, and we can do, and we will do..”
“Tesla is not the only one…”
Make it memorable with the use of live evidence:
You can’t under-rate the importance of the early users of your products and/or beta versions as well as the testimonials which work for building a first-hand image for your product. Creating a live product use case can be a smart technique to impress the audience, make the first experience memorable and lasting, measure the impacts in real time and conduct a hands-on primary research.
It made the presentation all the more memorable when Musk revealed that the auditorium rooftop had solar panels installed, who fed the Powerwall and powered the entire building (where the talk was held) that night. He also asked the cameras to show the meters which were displaying that there was no grid-based energy used at all! The howling was terrible because the audience was amazed by what they were experiencing.
Break the stereotypes:
Differentiation helps create lasting memories, and so, Musk broke many industry stereotypes. The audience also included industry fans and avid supporters who kept on cheering up on each punch. And so, unlike other automobile launches, this launch show appeared entertaining and catchy. Also, Musk revealed the cost of the device. The automobile industry peers do not disclose crucial facts like price or even simple estimates too, during the launch.
Keep it concise and straight:
TED has researched that an ideal presentation length should not be more than 18 minutes, which is the threshold for an average man’s listening capacity. Musk could keep it simple, to-the-point and precise so as to finish it within 18 minutes. To punch with the power, he used various means such as graphs, images, videos as well as the physical products.
Musk used a storytelling approach. Use of impactful images and less text to support the scenarios. The image display was stunning and able to create a necessary extent of distress regarding worsening environment and also the promising success of the solar energy. Other notable features:
- Less than 10-12 slides.
- Product samples.
- Live product use.
- Product video embedded in the presentation
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: RIDHDHI PAREKH
As a Marketing and Communications professional, I have 6+ years of combined corporate & freelance work experience in content development, product marketing, promotion and business communications. During initial career years, I found myself naturally inclined towards writing. That’s when I dug deeper and today, I have developed a capability for creating SEO-driven, well-researched and compelling content for print/online resources. I enjoy exploring and writing about: business, travel, gardening, cooking, feminism, startup/tech news.
Writing apart, I love getting absorbed in diverse creative activities. I am especially interested in quick DIY waste-utilization projects, gardening, cooking, and traveling. I am passionate about sustainability and human services. Research, detailing, exploration, knowledge – all of them attract me at once.