How to Talk about Bitcoin: A Short Guide

By Adam Evers 8/15/2014

Minnesota isn’t exactly known as the tech headquarters of the world, so being the CEO & Founder of a Bitcoin startup in the Midwest is always the start to a fun conversation with someone who’s never even heard of Bitcoin. I find myself attempting to explain not just what Bitcoin, is but how my company adds value to the Bitcoin community and why people want to use it. The conversation normally goes something like this. Maybe you can relate:

Person – So what do you do?

Me – I run a Bitcoin startup called Coindera.

Person (with a polite smile and a blank confused stare) – What’s Bitcoin? 

**Get started with Bitcoin at Coinbase.**

This isn’t always true, but in my life it tends to be more true than not. Personally, I believe Bitcoin and the technology stack behind it is going to revolutionize the way in which wealth is defined, managed, and transferred. With that belief I tend to talk to everyone I know about it. I’m passionate about it. I care about the technology and want more people to use it so that we can overcome this adoption curve. I truly believe it can help solve real world pain points that people are experiencing now. 

From my experience talking with people who have no idea what Bitcoin, is I’ve discovered a few things that work and a few that don’t. I’d like to share my techniques in the hope that my experience can help others spread the word about Bitcoin.

What works

Analogies – Compare it to something they know. Depending on who I’m talking with, I normally compare bitcoin to currency and banking. It’s something almost everyone is familiar with and can easily grasp. For example, rather than talking about the technology behind Bitcoin (like the blockchain), I simply tell them that it’s a new kind of internet money that you can get, save, and spend without having to use a bank or credit card. Not having to use those companies means that they don’t have to worry the conditions, fees, penalties, and all the other hassles that come from having to deal with those companies. Sometimes I like to ask them if they’ve ever had any problems with their bank or credit card companies. That usually gets them a little more on my side.

After I have them hooked, I try to make it personal by using examples that use them. This connects the idea of Bitcoin to something that they do. It helps make the idea of stick in their head better and make more sense. Here are a few things to ask them about:

  • Do you do any shopping on the Internet? Bitcoin can let you pay instantly without the high fees of credit cards. More and more Internet stores are taking Bitcoin and many are offering discounts.
  • Did you know that businesses that take credit cards have to pay a percentage of the sale, often as much as three percent, pay for rental of the card reading equipment, pay fees to a processing company, etc.? When all is said and done, taking credit cards costs businesses a lot. Paying by Bitcoin helps local businesses by keeping more of that money in their hands – which means that more of that money stays in the community helping the local economy.
  • Have you ever wanted to donate money for a disaster you saw on the news, but didn’t trust the aid organizations pounding the drums for donations? Bitcoin can let you donate directly to the people working to alleviate the situation on the ground. When a Typhoon recently hit the Philippines, more than 11,000 dollars in Bitcoins were raised to help the people on the ground.
  • On the same note, have you ever had a relative who needed money while traveling? Bitcoin can put that money in your relative’s hands nearly instantly.
  • Do you still have a savings account? Do you earn interest on it? How much do you think the banks earn by being able to loan out your money? Now this one is no guarantee, but despite all the volatility you hear about Bitcoin, in the long term it could really be a huge winner. Even putting a few dollars in Bitcoin and just forgetting you have them could really pay off big in a few years.

What doesn’t work

The people who got interested in Bitcoin early are almost necessarily the people who are the most technical and the most open to change. This of course was necessary as we are the people who needed to prove that Bitcoin works and build out the infrastructure that the next wave of people adopting will need to use comfortably and easily. Unfortunately, these are the people who are most interested in the technology behind Bitcoin and that’s how they talk about it. Talking with people who have no idea what Bitcoin is about block height, addresses, block hashes, transaction hashes, or wallet IDs is a good way to make people’s eyes glaze over. You might as well explain Bitcoin in Chinese to someone who doesn’t speak Chinese while you’re at it. It’s a good way to make someone feel stupid and make them hostile to the whole concept.

We all get excited about Bitcoin and want to explain it with the enthusiasm of Andreas Antonopoulos. Don’t. Keep it simple, keep it calm, and let people come to an understanding of how Bitcoin can help them in their own time.

Now go, talk to people about your passion. Spread the good news of Bitcoin. I’m curious: What works for you? What doesn’t work for you?

About the author: Adam Evers is the founder and CEO of Coindera, a company that lets you monitor and receive alerts about what going on with more than one hundred cryptocurrencies. Real-time alerts are sent via email, SMS, and push notifications to your Android or IOS device. Visit Coindera to learn more.