"Um... Can you tell me — again — what it is, exactly, that you do?"
As a member of the knowledgeable and passionate blockchain community, you know it's not easy to explain to people what you do, let alone convert the uninitiated to the future of finance.
People are easily confused once you start using words like, bitcoin, cryptocurrency, fork, hash, mining and scrypt.
But here are twelve general principles that may help crypto experts like you turn the ideas behind blockchain and cryptocurrencies into something anyone can grasp.
1 - Find out what they want to understand
Don't give a long technical analysis about how the world of cryptocurrency works without first finding out if — or how much — they actually want to know. Ask what they are interested in and why it is important to them.
Some people will be content simply knowing that it exists, and that's fine. Others will want to understand all the nitty-gritty details, and that's great too.
2 - Start with the basics
Even if your listener wants to know all the details, you don't want to overwhelm them with information about "digital assets" and "distributed ledger technology" before they have a chance to understand the basics.
Start by explaining what cryptocurrency is, and how it works. Use simple terms and examples that anyone can understand. For example, “Blockchain is a network of computers, called nodes, that each hold identical information. No one can change the information on one node without all the other computers knowing about it. It makes it easier to exchange information — including currency — without a ‘middle-person’.”
3 - Keep it short and sweet
It's important to be concise when explaining something as complicated as cryptocurrency or blockchain. It can be frustrating for your listener to try to follow a long explanation when they didn't fully understand the first few points.
Try to break down your explanation into small, manageable pieces. This will help your listener follow along, and it's much more likely that they'll actually remember what you said by the end.
4 - Be patient
Some people will catch on quickly, while others will need more time. No matter how long it takes, be patient and answer any questions they have.
Remember, you were probably in their shoes at one point too. It takes time to wrap your head around something new, so give them the same courtesy you would have wanted.
5 - Explain in a way that matters to them
One of the best ways to ensure that your explanation is clear and effective is to make it relevant to the listener.
Try to find a way to connect the concept of cryptocurrency or blockchain to something they're already interested in or can understand easily. This will help them see how it could potentially affect their life, rather than being another thing to add to their ever-growing list of things to learn about.
Since many people follow the news, show them blockchain news. Or at least show them how blockchain is relevant to them when it is part of the overall regular news cycle
6 - Compare: Use analogies and real-world examples
An analogy helps people understand a new concept because it compares something that is unfamiliar to something that is familiar. For example, you could explain how cryptocurrency works by comparing it to the stock market, or how blockchain technology is similar to a database. Or you could explain how mining works by comparing it to digging for gold, or how a blockchain is like a public record.
Real-world examples help your listener relate to their own experiences and make the concepts more relevant to what’s happening in their lives right now.
7 - Avoid using jargon
Jargon is the enemy of clarity. Stick to using simple terms that anyone would know, even if they aren’t involved with the blockchain world in any way. If you do need to use a jargon word, make sure to explain what it means in layman's terms.
8 - Know which details to leave out
It's important to be concise, but you also don't want to leave out any important information. It can be tough to strike the right balance, but it's something you'll need to figure out if you want to explain blockchain technology effectively.
Try to focus on the most important concepts, and don't get bogged down in the details. Focus on the big picture and leave the details for another time.
9 - Help them see the benefits
People are more likely to stay engaged and be willing to try something new when they can see how they would benefit. For example, you could explain how it can help them avoid fees, or how it can be used to make international payments.
You could also explain how blockchain technology has the potential to revolutionize many industries, make supply chains more efficient or help fight against corruption.
Find a way to make the benefits relevant to them and show them how it could potentially improve their life.
10 - Be prepared for follow-up questions
Even if you think you've explained it perfectly, there's a good chance your listener will still have some questions. Be prepared to answer them, and don't get frustrated if they don't catch on right away.
It takes time to understand something new, so be patient and keep working at it until they're comfortable with the concepts.
The more people understand how blockchain and cryptocurrencies work and how it benefits them, the faster they will be converted to using it in their daily lives.
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