Tesla CEO Elon Musk Delivers Seamless Narratives That Captivate And Persuade His Audience

Tesla CEO Elon Musk

APR 14 2017 BY EVANNEX 27

Elon Musk

The many pursuits of Elon Musk (Instagram: docsadventurefitlife)


Elon Musk is a great persuader. Since the beginning of his career, he has shown an impressive ability to convince investors to stake large sums of money on what must have seemed highly risky, even Quixotic, business propositions. More recently, he has somehow persuaded over 400,000 people to put $1,000 down on a car that they haven’t driven, or even seen.

*This article comes to us courtesy of Evannex (which also makes aftermarket Tesla accessories). Authored by Charles Morris.

Undoubtedly, one big reason that Musk inspires such confidence is that he so obviously believes deeply in what he’s doing. This commitment and clarity of purpose is an asset that he has had since the beginning. Over the years, he has earned another powerful persuasive tool: a track record of achieving things that others said were impossible. “Don’t bet against Musk” has become a maxim in the business world – one which many a stock market short-seller has learned at considerable expense.

However, even the greatest idea is unlikely to become reality if it isn’t explained in a way that people can understand. Fortunately, Mr. Musk is exceptionally good at explaining what he wants to do, and not in stilted techno-speak, but in plain language that capture’s people’s imaginations. In other words, he is a gifted storyteller.

Elon Musk

Tesla CEO Elon Musk

Since long before the days of the European bards and the African griots, storytelling has been a basic human skill. Today’s business world is well aware of its primal power. In an article published by Sparkol, a seller of presentation tools, writer Ffion Lindsay points out that it is stories – not cold, hard facts – that will most effectively get your point across. “Humans are hardwired for stories,” she writes. “They love heroes, journeys, surprises, layers and happy endings.”

Lindsay describes eight classic storytelling techniques that are valuable tools for any writer or public speaker (and also includes links to more fascinating material on the art of the story). Her article has nothing in particular to do with Tesla or electric vehicles, but anyone who follows Musk and the Tesla story can’t fail to see the parallels. Consciously or not, Elon skillfully uses several of the structures described in the article.

The eight classic storytelling techniques (Image: Sparkol)

Perhaps the most familiar of story frameworks is the one Lindsay calls the monomyth, in which the hero leaves home to undertake a perilous journey and returns a wiser person (think of the Odyssey, the Wizard of Oz or the Lord of the Rings). Musk’s life loosely fits this framework – his quest to change the world led him to America, “where great things are possible” – but this story is mostly the domain of his biographers.

Some of the other story structures evoke more obvious resonances with the Tesla saga. What Lindsay calls a “sparkline” contrasts our present world with an ideal, improved world that we could build if we only had the will (for example, Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech). This is a rhetorical device that Musk employs often. For example, speaking about the Hyperloop in 2012, he said, “How would you like something that never crashed, is immune to weather, goes three or four times faster than the bullet train that’s being built…and would cost you much less than any other mode of transport?”

Above: A look at why Elon Musk is positioned to be one of the most influential people of our time (Youtube: The Oracle of Ottawa)

In fact, encouraging us to use our imaginations is a Musk specialty. He has often spoken of business and political leaders’ failure to think big. Musk inspires us to imagine a future world free of soul-crushing traffic jams and parking nightmares; a world in which far fewer people die in auto accidents or from respiratory diseases; a world in which humans work together to face the threat of climate change. He can also paint a picture of a dystopian future – Musk co-founded OpenAI to address the threat of runaway artificial intelligence. And just in case that or some other catastrophe makes things too hot for us here on Earth, Musk asks us to imagine other worlds that we could colonize.

Not only Musk’s speaking style, but the entire strategy behind Tesla, seems to have been based on tried-and-true narrative structures. Even the Master Plan (Roadster-Model S-Model 3) follows the classical rule of omne trium perfectum. The traditional narrative arc called a petal structure, Lindsay explains, is a way of organizing multiple stories around a central concept. “The petals can overlap as one story introduces the next but each should be a complete narrative in itself.” This perfectly describes Tesla’s current business organization. Tesla vehicles, the Powerwall line of energy storage products, SolarCity – each would be valuable on its own, but they overlap and fit together into a comprehensive whole. At the heart of the flower is the central concept – a modern, sustainable energy and transportation system.

*Editor’s Note: EVANNEX, which also sells aftermarket gear for Teslas, has kindly allowed us to share some of its content with our readers. Our thanks go out to EVANNEX, Check out the site here.

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27 Comments on "Tesla CEO Elon Musk Delivers Seamless Narratives That Captivate And Persuade His Audience"

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Elon Musk always follows through on the things he says he will do, that bills trust and confidence.

“Builds” trust and confidence.

Absolutely correct

Much better than a storyteller

Thanks, that’s the funniest thing I’ve read all day. Stories, indeed. Fictional ones. His statements about the progress of the Model X are my favorites.

Dear cult members, I love you.

Elon Elon Elon

Less poetically. He is a salesman. He knows his pitch and when to switch.

Hey Elon
I need to talk to Larry Monday and reveal some info that we need to know.

Sonya, much love

I think the reason why I like hearing Elon Musk talk sometimes is I feel like he is the only serous show in town when it comes to Space Travel and Electric cars.

Reason one all of the electric cars he is so far making look cool. The Nissan Leaf and Chevy Bolt are not as big as Tesla and don’t really have a wow factor compared to a Tesla.

The gas car makers are constantly dragging their feet and trying to sell low range crappy looking cars.

In terms of SpaceX well NASA says oh it will take us ten years to build the Orion Rocket system but we need five billion more dollars and maybe we could have it done by 2023.

Elon Musk says we are going to send two customers around the obit of the moon next year as soon as our new Heavy Rocket is ready which we are currently testing.

The reality is Elon Musk is really the only show in town.

I don’t think he is the only one in town as much as he is the only one talking.

Elon has a tract record of delivering and excellent vision. This record inspires confidence and trust.

Sure he’s late here and there and once in a while things do not go as planned — but all in all — he delivers.

Well, just about every con artists or marketing guy is a great story teller. But the difference is that Elon actually delivers, often late, but delivers nonetheless.

That separates him from the rest of “con artists” aka great story tellers.

Don’t have to go far to find the other side, i.e., the CON Artists who don’t deliver. That would be POTUS Trump and the Republicans.

Of course… That is the biggest Con job ever pulled.

The funny part is that they both tweet a lot.

Actually, plenty of con artists delivered initially on their promises, or seemed to do so. Pyramid schemes do work for the early entrants, not just the initiator.

Elon’s achievements are fantastic and I certainly don’t want to suggest he is a con man. But your specific distinction here is dubious. 🙂

I love Elon dearly (and have a fair bit of cash invested in TSLA) but I find his stammering just unbearable. I have never been able to fully listen through one of his talks.

Yes, this article shows all the earmarks of a Tesla cheerleader; one that cheers “rah rah rah” about Elon’s effectiveness as a public speaker, without once mentioning his problem with frequent pauses and what some have called a “stutter”.

Elon is very effective at communicating his enthusiasm and his vision, and that can take him far with many or most listeners. But he drives others crazy with his long pauses and the repetitions which some describe as a “stutter”. Personally I’m willing to put up with it if what he has to say is something I’m highly interested in, but otherwise I’d much rather wait for the transcript, which I can read much, much faster than anyone can talk… especially Elon.

I think it is precisely this aspect of his delivery that garners such trust and empathy. Slick, slippery, salesman he is not.

I agree with that. But I still find it puzzling how many describe him as a great communicator. He’s quite a mediocre communicator! The strength in his presentations tend to be the content, not the presentation. He’s a big thinker, not a great presenter. And we wouldn’t wanna have it any other way.

I don’t know about this. I personally have a hard time listening to him speak. I prefer reading his speeches over listening to them. I don’t consider it his best talent. Straubel seems better at the public speaking thing than Elon.

Elon seems more like an ideas guy to me than a communications guy. But if others like his speaking style, who am I to tell them they are wrong?

Elon stammers because his brain is quickly assessing the best words to use to satisfy all his supporters and not give his many detractors any ammunition to use against him and his companies.

So he is tweaking his statements ‘on the fly’, so to speak! Adjusting thoughts and delivery mid sentence. Makes for the broken linros that come in his spoken delivery.

On the other hand, when you can work out a plan to just go build your own rockets while on a flight back from Russia, I don’t think most people could keep up with his thoughts, and so he tries to slow down his idea delivery: that also breaks uo his flow as he tries to keep complex physics logic at a simple level for delivery to the public!

It’s a bit hard to see however why any of this should prevent him from preparing something. In fact it’s additional reason to do so.

Too automatic, obviously rehearsed public speaking can be just as bad, or maybe worse in his case as it would be totally unnatural. But a bit more prep than he appears to do, to make for more natural delivery, not less, would be welcome in my opinion.

“Musk asks us to imagine other worlds that we could colonize.” He does more than ask us to imagine- he wants volunteers… Musk is a great genius of our time. BUT statements like the above show he can be a loon, as well. Why do I say this? Because THAT ‘concept’ is indeed loony, viz- 1. There is NOWHERE habitable in our solar system except [allegedly] Mars. 2. Outside the SS- NOTHING is even remotely a possibility.Time & distance cannot be overcome, we will go extinct before technology defies the Laws of Physics. Star Trek was a fantasy show, remember? 3. So, back to Mars. Many reasons exist for not even getting there, much less living in such an environment. And who, in their right mind would want the ‘life’ in a global desert with extremes of temperature, EM radiation, solar flares & hundreds of other dangers preventing any normal life? 4. The psychological stresses have been glossed over; it is a one-way death sentence, at present. Elon is NOT a psychologist- except in his salesman mode. Why am I detailing all these factors? I shouldn’t be as they are common knowledge. There was a video interview with Elon which… Read more »

Actually, Jim, you’re simply too ignorant to be receptive to the message. You confidently judge the idea of colonizing other planets as “loony” on the basis that only Mars seems to you even potentially habitable in our solar system.

But there may be stuff you don’t know. It doesn’t take a technological miracle to colonize space. We actually have all the technology that is required, although more advanced tech would of course still be useful.

We know how to move a solar system. How to harvest the energy of a whole sun. How we could mine asteroids. None of these things require anything new in terms of technology. They are about will and scale more than they are about technology.

If you have any curiosity left in your skull you might want to check out the YouTube channel of physicist and futurist Isaac Arthur. Maybe that will cure you of some of your small-mindedness.

Oh, how we all love a happy ending…

Germans don’t. Thats why the German car industry will follow the example of the mythical figure Siegfried… and both world wars…