Why a Genius Like Elon Musk is Such an Awful Presenter

According to reports, the recent unveiling of the Tesla Model X was “a marketing and PR disaster.” Venture capitalist, former journalist and Tesla customer Stewart Alsop called the event, which was delayed by almost two hours, “unacceptable” and “insensitive” and called the presentation and slideshow amateurish.


Note: We didn’t say the car was a PR and marketing disaster. The car was a hit and has received tons of positive coverage. It was the event that bombed.


That his event was so sloppy and “Un-Steve-Jobs” in its presentation finesse will come as no surprise to the readers of a recent best-selling biography of Elon Musk.

No doubt, Elon Musk is a genius and has achieved business success of epic proportions. He has played a major role in founding and leading such companies as PayPal, SpaceX, SolarCity and Tesla.

But one thing Elon Musk is notoriously bad at doing is orchestrating a launch event or dealing with the media in a strategic and consistent way.

Why is Elon Musk the Un-Steve-Jobs of Presentations?

Ashlee Vance, in his generally positive biography of Musk, Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, writes that the extraordinarily gifted inventor and entrepreneur is hypersensitive about how he and his companies—especially his companies—are covered by the media.

How sensitive? So sensitive, writes Vance, that he has “burned through public relations staffers with comical efficiency.”

Because of his obsession with how he and his companies are covered, Musk is quick to fire PR and communication staffers who work for him. “(Musk) tends to take on a lot of the communications work himself, writing news releases and contacting the press as he sees fit,” writes Vance.

Musk demonstrates a mastery of even the smallest of details when it comes to products like SpaceX rockets and Tesla automobiles. But according to Vance, when it comes to presentations, Musk’s attention to detail is nowhere to be found.


 

elon-musk
“Musk does not rehearse his presentations or polish speeches.
He wings most of the announcements from Tesla and SpaceX.”

Ashlee Vance
Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future


 

Oh, well …

Perhaps when you’ve accomplished what Musk has (against great odds, as Vance’s book records in inspiring fashion), it’s hard to accept the reality that you can’t be perfect at everything.

However, in business—any size from Musk-size to the corner market—there comes a time when you can’t just “wing” communications. Accept your weaknesses and surround yourself with pros whose skills complement your own.