How to communicate like Elon Musk

Elon Musk is the world’s raddest man. Sure, he’s an engineer, investor, genius, innovator, and has an actual car startup. But did you know he’s also really good at email?

Musk’s success comes (in part) from his effective interpersonal skills. He’s a stuttery public speaker, but he can pitch. He’s nothing special in interviews, but is often quoted. Being an effective communicator doesn’t mean being a great talker — that’s why politicians seldom create big changes they promise.

Communicating a vision and being a leader takes tact, it’s about having great interpersonal skills: Listening, having manners, social skills, and really understanding who you’re speaking to.

Here’s three ways you can communicate like Elon:

  1. Cut the acronyms in emails:

In an interview with Henry Blodget, CEO and editor-in-chief of Business Insider, Musk joked: “I do a lot of email – very good at email. That’s my core competency.”

His secret? Avoiding acronyms. The man hates them. I found this excerpt from his book on this Quora thread, “Why is Elon Musk so good at email?”

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Singapore’s multi-cultural business environment both breeds and suffers from too many acronyms. When staff in a big company are from different parts of a region, they might not want to spell out the whole word, but how many times have you looked up from your desk and hollered, “Hey does anyone know what AFB is!?” Sure you’re saving on word economy, but acronyms are not good for productivity.

Like Musk says in his email: “No one can actually remember all these acronyms and people don’t want to sit there in ignorance. This is particularly tough on new employees.”

So, the next time you’re sending an email out to staff, be clear! It saves everyone time and gets them on the same page.

  1. He cuts the jargon

Musk isn’t an eloquent speaker, but the worst thing than a shaky voice is one that’s full of buzzwords. In this perfect pitch for Tesla he breaks down his problem and solution in a way the audience can understand, not just in a way he understands. The man got people on their feet, over batteries.

Musk finds a common problem and tells us about a simple solution. It’s classic storytelling. See the full article on how to pitch like him here.

  1. He uses real content to advertise:

Wait but Why is a personal, yet investigative tech blog followed by thousands of people. But at the end of the day, it’s a blog with stick figures on it. Musk called up the writer Tim Urban and asked him to interview him for SpaceX and Tesla. Um what? Check out his post published two days ago on the Huffington Post.

After Urban finished gathering his brains from off the floor, the blogger agreed and met up with Musk to write the multi-part blog series.

Musk is so good at cutting the crap, he doesn’t advertise Tesla. According to Urban, he refuses to advertise for his electric car startup, because “he detests vague spin-doctor phrases like ‘studies say’ and ‘scientists disagree’, and he refuses to advertise for Tesla, something most startup car companies wouldn’t think twice about – because he sees advertising as manipulative and dishonest”.

Bonus lesson:

You don’t have to be a great orator or rocket scientist to communicate your vision. All it takes is thinking about making things clear and simple for your audience. If Elon can make electric cars and space travel easy to understand, you should be able to, too.

The last lesson on how to be more like Musk is a bonus one: Always say what you mean. We’ll leave you with this quote from the part one of the interview with Musk:

“He’s been saying the same things in interviews for a decade, often using the same exact phrasing many years apart. He says what he really means, no matter the situation – one employee close to Musk told me that after a press conference or a business negotiation, once in private he’d ask Musk what his real angle was and what he really thinks. Musk’s response would always be boring: ‘I think exactly what I said’.”

Do you need to better communicate your messaging through effective content? Get in touch with us at [email protected]

Image Credit: Elon Musk, Tesla Factory, Fremont (CA, USA) by Maurizio Pesce. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons

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