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Nov 08
Communication Tips from CZ

This is written by CZ (Changpeng Zhao), CEO of Binance.

In today’s fast-paced world, many people often miscommunicate or inefficiently communicate, even entrepreneurs. How you communicate is often more important than the content you are trying to convey. Let me share a few personal tips. These tips may not work for everyone everywhere, but they work for me, hence “personal."

Pick a Right Time and Place to Pitch

I am often privileged with enthusiastic entrepreneurs coming up to me right after my speaking engagement at a conference and starting a full-on pitch of their awesome project. There are a few issues with this approach. It’s rushed, there are usually a dozen other people waiting in line. It’s in a noisy environment and I am distracted. There are often far better times to pitch projects. But most importantly, I don’t review projects. It’s much better if you contact Binance Labs, Binance X, or Binance Launchpad directly, depending on what you want. More on relevant contacts and how to contact the right team below. 

Be Direct and Effective

Prepare your 1-minute elevator pitch. I am a curious person and would love if I had more time to learn about new projects, but time is of the essence. Instead of talking excitedly about your project or yourself for a number of minutes, and me dying to ask what this conversation is all about, just say what you want upfront.

If you say “Hi, my name is X from Y project, and I am looking for investments into my project,” I would at least know exactly how to respond. “A pleasure meeting you as well. But I am not in charge of investments or reviewing projects, please contact Binance Labs directly (labs@binance.com).” 

Another variation is people finding me in a chat (such as WhatsApp or Telegram), and saying, “Can I have a meeting with you?” while not specifying the detailed agenda or “I want to meet with you to explore how we can work together” or just “hi.” Messages without context are easily lost and inadvertently ignored. In general, if you are approaching someone to seek support or initiate a conversation, make it easier for the other person. Best to say what you want, in the very first sentence when reaching out for the first time.

For the right structure on how to say what you want, keep reading.

Know Who to Contact 

A common (and often fatal) misassumption is the CEO is in charge of everything and has the most power, so talking to him will yield the best result. The truth is, CEOs are usually the least hands-on and most distracted person in any organization. Most of the time, it will take the CEO longer to get something done as they have to find and relay to the people involved. All successful CEOs build strong teams around them.

It is often better to ask the CEO who you should talk to about a certain topic, rather than going into elaborate details about the topic and ask the CEO to weigh in for you. Also, when a CEO is involved in something, it often causes shifts in priorities, confusion and other side effects, not to mention political capital expenditure. It is usually better to go through the proper channels to get something done rather than going directly to the CEO.

An example, a friend of mine sends me a message saying his email account was hacked and asked if I could lock his Binance account for him. I send him a canned response, “Please contact our Helpdesk ASAP, with link.” He says, “I have a couple million on your platform, and you send me a canned response?” I say, “I am about to board a 12 hour flight, and even if I am at my desk, Helpdesk is the fastest way.” Silence for 2 minutes, then he says, “all done, thanks.”

While on this topic, here are a few things I am explicitly NOT involved with at Binance:

I also don’t make personal investments or become advisors of any project. Any investments I wish to do are done through Binance.

I’m All Ears

So, what do I do at Binance? They say CEOs are supposed to do three things: set strategy, get funding, and find top talent. Well, I don’t spend much time on the first two. I spend quite a lot of time on hiring the best people. So, if you are looking to build your career with Binance and be part of building the new financial industry, do talk to me.

I also spend a significant portion of my time listening to our community and improving our products and services. If you have suggestions, I am all ears.

Written Bullet Points

I don’t know everyone and what they do. But, I find the most efficient form of communication is when people are talking to me, there is also some bullet points in writing in front of me. It just helps me understand much better, or at least, significantly reduces the chance of misunderstanding. As when I am listening, I could catch one word wrong, and misunderstand the whole thing. I also find when people take the time to write a few bullet points down, they are much more organized in their thoughts and have less tendency to ramble. 

My limit seems to be one page or screen (phone). Shorter is better, but it has to clearly document the key points. Longer than one page takes too much effort to read and is usually also too much information to sink in. I hear Amazon uses 6 pages, but I think those are for longer, more in-depth and internal meetings.

Personally, I don’t need fancy graphics, I just need simple, clear text. A bar chart may be useful to show trends, but that’s as fancy as I need them.

If you are looking for work, have a printed resume handy.

Business Cards

Contrary to the popular saying, and consistent with the above point, I do find business cards useful. I recommend you always give one out, especially if you approach someone, and are not 100% confident they remember your name.

Admittedly, there are numerous times when someone says: “Hey CZ, good to see you again. How are you?” I go: “ooooh hey, good to see you too. I am good. You?” While racing in my mind “what’s this guy’s name again?” It could be the name is just at the tip of the tongue but escapes me, or it could be a complete stranger. It happens to all of us. But, if the guy said “Hey CZ, good to see you again, how are you? Oh, this is my new card...” Problem solved. Now I can focus on the actual conversation.

More commonly, if I am meeting a dozen guys at the same time, having a name card just helps me. Maybe it’s just me in my old age, but I usually can’t remember a dozen names in one shot, and I don’t want to be rude to people.

The Right Time - 5 Minutes

I like to keep my first meeting with new contacts (or even most meetings I have) to less than 5 minutes. Get to the point, and be done with it.

This is one place where many people have a hard time to adjust to. Some even think it is rude. But I believe this is a key reason that makes me efficient and effective. I won’t spend the most limited resource I have (time) just to be more polite.

One mistake people often make is they try to be a salesperson. Talking about industry background, potential market size, all the sales pitch stuff, before they say what they want, or want to do. This makes the meeting much longer. I much prefer if they started with “I want to do xyz," or "I want you to do xyz.” This way, if I question the usefulness of the task, I will ask about market size, etc. I am not afraid to ask dumb questions. I am afraid to spend more time than absolutely necessary.

The Right Structure

The structure I most prefer when receiving communication from a new contact is:

1. I am ___ (plus name card if in person)

2. I want ___ from you.

3. The benefits are ___.

4. On one page or screen (think mobile).

Talk to Me

If you wish to speak to me, you can try @cz_binance on Twitter. That’s where I engage with our community. I try my best to respond to as many messages as I can. But it is humanly impossible to respond to them all. If you wish to speak with me privately, please submit a request using this form. I appreciate the fact that you read all of the tips above.

I apologize for the cold impersonal form, and I very much like to interact directly with everyone, but alas, there are only 24 hours in a day, and I have a busy job.

This form is actively monitored by my team. If your request is clear and helpful, a meeting will be arranged with me and/or usually someone else from Binance who is a subject matter expert.

I am very direct to the point in my communications. Usually no small talk, no warm-ups needed. Hope you don’t get offended and hope we will talk soon.

- CZ


Catch CZ and the Binance team at Singapore Fintech Festival, our first Binance Super Meetup in Singapore, and several blockchain events this coming week. Read here for more details.