Explaining a technical product to non-technical people

When people ask what your company does, what do you say? If your company makes cars or chairs or smartphones, the answer is relatively easy. But if your company makes FPGAs, realtime operating systems, or programming tools, the answer can be too down in the weeds for most people.

Explaining a technical product to a non-technical audience is a challenge. To succeed, you have to meet people on their level, without being condescending. Most people love a good explanation, but everyone hates being talked down to.
One secret is to connect your product to things people do every day. At QNX, for example, we realized that our technology affects people whether they drive to work, flip a light switch, or use a credit card. So thats how I often start the conversation.
Chances are, you used QNX technology today, without knowing it. I find this a good opening sentence. I follow it up with some examples that QNX recently published in the infographic, 35 Ways QNX Touches Our Lives (see below). For example, QNX touches your life when you:
  • Flip a light switch — QNX technology controls thousands of power generation systems, from wind turbines to nuclear stations to hydroelectric plants.
  • Go online — QNX technology is at the core of massive Internet routers that handle data, voice, and video traffic for hundreds of millions of users every day.
  • Use a credit card — Banks the world over use QNX-based systems to issue payment cards and PINs, facilitating secure, reliable transactions.
  • Take a nap — QNX-based spinning and weaving systems produce high-quality fabrics for everything from bed sheets to towels, sweaters, and furniture.
  • Keep house — QNX-based robot vacuums can clean your entire home, even under beds and other furniture. So you can sit back instead of hurting your back.
Once I've provided a few of these examples, it's easier to gauge whether the listener is interested more of a deep dive  the how, rather than the what.
What about you? Have you had success explaining your technical product to non-technical audiences, be they reporters, analysts, or your great aunt Mildred? If so, what worked? What didn't?

No comments: