Three things I learned from Steve Jobs and Elon Musk about pitching

I am not good at presentation. Following Lionel Bui’s presentation where he showed us two of the best at pitching, I wanted to see how similar Elon Musk’s Powerwall and Steve Jobs’ 1st gen iPhone presentation were. I kept three approaches that both of them adopted that will help me and my presentation.

Don’t hide your enemies


It is easier for our brain to remember stories between a villain and a hero thanks to all the books and movies we’ve all came across. A little drama will retain far longer than abstract ideas or numbers.


Right in the beginning of his presentation, Elon Musk introduces Tesla Energy’s enemy : Fossil Fuels. Followed by a chart showing how bad the world would end up if we do nothing against that villain. It is emotionally striking but also engaging. It is no wonder why Elon Musk is sometime referred as the IRL Tony Stark, multi-billionaire, tech visionaire, achievements, trying to save the world… He is indeed somehow, a hero.




Of course, enemies have to be introduced with delicacy. You can’t just name them and say how bad they are. The way Steve Jobs does it, is by introducing competitors as a group. He never criticizes enemies individually but always as a group. He is not here to say that they suck because they each have good and bad features. By grouping them, it suggests his smartphone is the one that is different, the one that shines, the one that will save us : the hero.



“you want to be the hero in the story”


Build the tension


The way most people structure their pitches is by quickly showing the problem and the solution. It is harder to convey to the audience the reason they should care about the problem. This is what Andy Raskin, an American strategic messaging and positioning, calls the Move : showing a glimpse of the outcome and the obstacles.


Musk doesn’t immediately address the problem after talking about fossil fuels’ issues. Instead, he first decides to bring the source and heart of his solution, the ammunition feeding his weapon : the sun.

People don’t realize that it takes a small portion of the U.S. to supply the whole country with solar power. Because “The sun doesn’t shine at night”, Musk is facing different obstacles : the energy generation varies during a day and existing batteries suck. Now that the problem and the obstacles have been carefully laid out, the audience only wish is to know the solution.




Steve teases his audience by stating three revolutionary products :  “The first one is a widescreen iPod with touch controls. The second is a revolutionary mobile phone. And the third is a breakthrough Internet communications device.” which is actually only one product. This is the equivalent of Musk’s ammunition. He continues to build the tension by repeating it three times. By doing so, the expectation and surprise can only grow, holding his audience’s emotion at the grasp of his hand.


Like Musk, Steve lays out the obstacles before showing the solutions. From the “ugly plastic keyboard” of the smartphones of that time to the “baby web browser”, he covered all the hindrances. Rather than addressing all the obstacles at once, he gives individual solution to each barrier because of the number of them which is significantly longer than the Powerwall’s presentation. Still, by repeating this scheme for each obstacle, Steve is building tension for the whole 1h20 presentation without us getting bored.



“play with the audience’s emotions”


It works


Now that the audience has their emotions all shambled, you can blow their minds. The best way to do so is by showing a working prototype to the audience keeping them impress.

Elon Musk surprised his audience by showing them that the presentation was powered by none other than his Powerwall batteries. It serves as proof, there is no better way to convince the last people who would still be sceptical. Any more ?

Yes, how about the Gigafactory? Using his own batteries to produce more batteries.




In Jobs’ presentation, it’s obvious. One third of the time has been spent on demoing of the iPhone. Moreover, he is interacting with some of his co-worker in live. Although, it doesn’t always work the way he wants like his iPhone 4 presentation where the wifi didn’t work because there were too many people on it, he always has backup.



“this is pure pornography for the audience”



I could have talked about many other similarities such as the usage of Twitter-friendly headlines but I decided I would just keep three ideas to remember from two of the best at presentation. We can obviously see many similarities in term of structure.


Talking about inconvenience competitors have, isn’t outrageous as long as you see them as a group. It distinguishes yourself among them and helps building the hero image you want people to remember.

Tension is very important. Correctly arranging your presentation will keep your audience excited and focused. As we saw, don’t bring the solution right after stating the problems.


At last but not least, show that your product work. It is way more convincing than beautiful but static pictures. If you can interact with your audience during the demo, it’s even better.


Elon Musk is a genius but IMO, he is not good public speaker but he is as passionate as Steve Jobs and they both deliver with great fascination.


Christopher Trang – @yTsoKay – Promo Mastère Web Design