But his keynote kept appearing on my radar.
Readers encouraged me to watch it. A writer for the Verge titled his blog post, “The best tech keynote I’ve ever seen.” “Dude’s selling a battery and he still managed to be inspiring,” writes T.C Sottek. Twitter also lit up with comments such as these: After watching the keynote, I understand why many people are impressed with it. Elon Musk introduces Tesla Energy in a format that resembles more of a TED talk than a traditional product launch. Musk’s keynote offers leaders a blueprint for how to launch a product. Here are four specific reasons why Elon Musk delivered a “a keynote to remember.”
Define the problem and solution.
Musk opened his keynote with a one-sentence vision of what he hopes to accomplish: “A fundamental transformation in how energy is delivered across the Earth.” And with that he posed the problem. Alongside a slideshow that showed pictures of smokestacks emitting gases made up largely of carbon dioxide (CO2), Musk said, “This is how it is today. It’s pretty bad. This is real. This is how most power in the world is generated, with fossil fuels.”
Next Musk introduced “the solution” (and he called it “problem” and “solution”). Alongside a slide with a photo of the sun, Musk said, “We have this handy fusion reactor in the sky called the sun. You don’t have to do anything. It just works. It shows up everyday and produces ridiculous amounts of power.”
Musk said batteries represent “the missing piece” for storing and delivering solar power. Once again, however, he raised a problem in need of a solution. “The issue with existing batteries is that they suck,” Musk said as the audience laughed. “They’re really horrible. They look like that [slide of dirty batteries]. They’re expensive, unreliable, stinky, ugly, bad in every way.” The solution was Tesla Powerwall, a sleek $3,500 home battery that attaches to the wall.
Consumers don’t buy products and services. They buy a solution to a problem . Present the problem before the solution.
Create multisensory experiences.
Musk’s slides were mostly pictures because the visual display of content is more memorable than text alone. He also included a short video and, once the 60-second video came to a conclusion, instructed the audience to turn around. “This is a product we call the Tesla Powerwall. Look against the back wall and you’ll see a whole bunch of them in different colors.”
People get tired of text-heavy slides. Keep the audience’s attention with pictures, videos, demonstrations and other experiences to stimulate the senses .
Build in wow moments.
The wow moment is the one part of a presentation that people will talk about the next day. Musk had quite a moment. At about 12 minutes into the presentation he directed the audience’s attention to the screen where they saw a live video feed from another room where Tesla Powerwall battery units had been installed. As the camera zoomed in on an energy meter Musk narrated, “This entire night has been powered by batteries. The batteries were charged from the solar panels on the roof of this building. This entire night—everything you’re experiencing—is stored sunlight.”
Sometimes the most memorable moments of a presentation take place away from the slides.
Keep the pitch to 18 minutes or less.
Elon Musk thanked the audience and walked off the stage in just under 18 minutes from the start of his presentation. We have a very limited attention span. Scientists and researchers believe our attention falls into a range of anywhere from 10 to 18 minutes. TED conference organizers have concluded that 18 minutes is the ideal amount of time to have a substantive conversation without putting an audience to sleep. If Elon Musk can deliver his vision of a future powered by renewable energy, than 18 minutes should be plenty of time for you to pitch your next idea.
Although Musk’s presentation was very engaging, there are many experts in the oil, gas and energy industries who disagree with elements of Musk’s vision and who have strong, legitimate and compelling counter-arguments. But, as I’ve privately told leaders in the oil and gas industry, it’s up to them to present their ideas in a clear, inspiring, and persuasive narrative. I’m a strong believer in Aristotle’s admonition that, in order for a democracy to thrive, every citizen must be skilled in the art of persuasion and public speaking. Elon Musk got the memo and has something to teach us about presenting our ideas.