November 20, 2017

How to blow minds

The other day, Elon Musk announced the Tesla Semi. The excitement at event reminded me strongly of the heyday of epic Steve Jobs keynotes.

But there are BIG differences between a keynote from Steve Jobs vs Elon Musk.

In a traditional sense, Steve Jobs was a much better speaker. SJ rehearsed keynotes down to the tiniest detail. Until everything appeared to flow effortlessly, even though it was meticulously scripted. He understood the importance of his showmanship.

Elon, on the other hand, stutters quite a bit, his slide timing is frequently off, and his movements tend to be on the awkward side. But in spite of this relative clumsiness, Elon blows people’s minds just as hard as SJ ever did.

Hard to believe? Check out the Semi announcement video

There are people in the audience who are slack jawed and bug eyed. With the barest of encouragement, the audience jumps the barricades and mobs the stage at the end of the presentation. I’ve never seen THAT at an Apple announcement.

So how does a relatively mediocre public speaker inspire an audience to storm the stage?

Not with smooth talk of “magic” and “delight” but by methodically rewriting the audience’s sense of possibility.

From the reaction of the crowd, you’d think Elon was explaining that he had changed the laws of physics. Point by point, he dismantled seemingly every “taken for granted” reason a semi truck buyer would have for NOT buying a Tesla Semi.

If you take him at his word, Elon’s trucks are safer, faster, cooler, prettier, roomier, easier, and yes even cheaper per mile than a diesel truck. Heck, they’re cheaper than RAIL when in a convoy. (To underscore this, Walmart has reportedly placed a big order for Tesla Semis.)

But here’s the thing that struck me... many of the details that Elon shared kinda went over my head. Even when I understood a particular feature or spec, I had no real idea of the significance to the owner of the truck.

I would argue that Elon “rehearses” his announcements plenty. But not by practicing the delivery of the message... rather by doing the homework necessary to deeply understand his ideal buyer before he even builds the product.

Once you can put yourself in your ideal buyer’s shoes, you can create products and services that blow their freaking minds.

If you can do that, it doesn’t matter if you stutter a little when you let them know about it.