Elon Musk

In praise of um

Watching this video, in which Elon Musk rolls out a new generation of solar roofing materials, I'm not sure whether my first thought was "that's very cool" or "I may actually be a better public speaker than Elon Musk." Because those two thoughts came so close together that they were virtually inextricable. 

I've seen other Musk presentations in which he came across as a more polished speaker, but even at his best, he has a conversational quality, laced with uhs and ums, that suggests he left his 3x5 note cards at home and is nervously winging it. People in the audience compensate by yelling out encouragement when he stumbles or pauses a little too long. 

They didn't do that to Steve Jobs. I imagine an Apple employee who interrupted the one of the big man's meticulously-crafted presentations would probably have found the contents of their desk boxed up as they left the auditorium. Generations of CEOs and salespeople alike have studied Jobs' public persona. Even when it became clear that his legacy is dubious, we were willing to believe that genius comes with a rider for bad behavior, like a rock band demanding only green M&Ms in their dressing room. 

But Musk comes across as the anti-Jobs, and is arguably selling us something much more important than a phone or a laptop. 

Anyway, I might actually be a better public speaker than Musk, although my experience is limited to teaching classes, yelling at bystanders to get out of the road on the scene of car accidents, and recounting a story about Easter bonnets in front of a crowd during a Moth Story Slam. I found that very encouraging. Turns out you don't need to be P.T. Barnum to change things, although it helps to be a visionary with a huge bankroll.