For anyone who watches Elon Musk’s live interviews or presentations, the first thing that sticks out is that his speech doesn’t have a good flow.
The founder of Apple, Steve Jobs, was the king of presentation. He was a good orator, speaker, and presenter. People used to love Steve and his demonstration skills.
Tesla and SpaceX have as much influence as Apple had during Steve Jobs’s time. However, Elon Musk’s product demonstrations, live presentations, and in-person interviews aren’t as charismatic as Steve Jobs’s. It’s hard to follow and riddled with choppy sentences. There are several reasons for that.
Elon Musk has a stuttering problem. He also has Asperger’s autism. When he stumbles upon a word that he can’t pronounce, he inserts “ummm” to remove the block. Sometimes, he brainstorms to replace the word that causes the stuttering block. Thus, it feels like he can’t speak, but it’s not. He is only trying to hide his stuttering with “ummm” with word replacement.
Elon Musk has Aspergers (source). It’s a form of autism that is not visible but impairs people’s ability to understand their surroundings physically and socially. People with this condition may be socially awkward and have an all-absorbing interest in specific topics (source). Therefore, he has difficulty understanding social cues to steer the conversation.
Elon Musk was born and grew up in South Africa. Since his childhood, he has had a speech impediment. For which he got bullied a lot. One time, he was beaten so hard that he lost consciousness.
Elon Musk can’t speak fluently because of his speech impediment. However, public presentations from 2018 to 2022 have shown that his speech has improved over the years. Earlier events such as the Model 3 unveiling event, were almost unwatchable. He stammered and faltered a lot. However, recent interviews show a lot of improvement.
Anyone listening closely to Elon Musk will notice that he has an accent. It’s actually a South African English accent. As Elon grew up there until the age of 17, he can’t overcome this SA accent.
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He is considered one of the most intelligent people living on earth. Even though many of his critics disagree, his track record of success proves otherwise.
Anyone watching Elon Musk’s interview will notice that his eyes move a lot while he talks. It shows he is thinking too much, too fast. This too-fast thinking prevents him from expressing his entire thought cohesively. His brain is trying to say too much in a short period. Because of this, for an outside observer, it feels like Elon can’t speak, but the reality is he has too much to say in rapid succession, which prevents him from speaking fluently.
In short, his brain is formulating ideas at a faster speed than a human can articulate.
Most CEOs and public orators aren’t good speakers. However, before any public event, they rehearse a lot. They have their slides and script. This helps them confidently say everything without missing any essential points they want to convey. Even the product demonstrations are meticulously rehearsed backstage.
However, most of Elon Musk’s presentations are unrehearsed and unpracticed. Sometimes he even acknowledges it during his public interviews.
He is too busy to rehearse anything backstage. Thus, he comes to the interview without prior preparation and says whatever comes into his mind. Unlike other CEOs who tiptoe not to upset anyone, Elon Musk says whatever comes to mind. It’s why most of his public appearances feel like he is unprepared, and his speech falters.
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The way Elon Musk speaks shows he is genuine and honest. He isn’t hiding something. Many of his admirers seem to like it. They don’t care about how he talks as long as the core message is conveyed.
Elon Musk has a double bachelor’s degree. One in physics and one in economics. He also went to Stanford for Ph.D. even though he didn’t complete it.
Over the years, he has established many successful companies such as Paypal, OpenAI, Tesla, SpaceX, Neuralink, etc. Thus his knowledge far exceeds that of the general population. However, during his interviews, he tries to explain everything in simple terms so that everyone can understand. Thus, this overthinking also hinders his speaking flow.
Nevertheless, not everyone is an excellent public speaker. Some leaders are better orators than others. Similarly, Elon Musk is a genius in his own rights. He is a sound engineer, has excellent problem-solving skills, and can dissect everything through first principle thinking. However, one drawback is he is not an excellent public speaker, and he doesn’t pretend to be.
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Elon Musk doesn’t face speech issues all the time. He speaks fluently if the interview is casual, not on the international stage, pre-recorded, not on stage, or if he is not under pressure. In these scenarios, Elon shows no speech impediments.