What Do You Do?

I dread the moment when people ask me, “What do you do?” I don't know how to explain that I am a performance technologist, or an instructional designer, or a facilitator. So I cheat by saying that I am a trainer.

Here's an activity that helps you become more fluent in explaining what you do for a living.


To describe the nature and significance of your job.


Participants are divided into three teams. Members of each team work cooperatively to come up with the best way to explain their jobs. During the first round, two of the teams have one-on-one conversations to toot their horns. During the second round, members of the third team make individual presentations.


30-45 minutes, depending on the number of participants.


Form teams. Divide participants into three teams. Label them A, B, and C.

Brief the participants. Give a pep talk about the importance of being able to explain one's job interestingly, concisely, and clearly. Ask team members to brainstorm how they should talk about their jobs and to practice their technique with each other. Announce a 5-minute time limit for this activity.

Conduct one-on-one conversations. Ask participants to reorganize themselves into triads so that each triad has one member of each team. Explain that the member from Team A will act as a judge. Ask the Team C member to cover her ears while the Team B explains her job to the judge. Follow this with a similar presentation from the Team C member. After the two presentations, the judge quickly announces whose presentation was better and explains why.

Conduct small-group presentations. Send all members of Team A outside the room. Explain that the members of Teams B and C will act as audience members. One by one, Team A members return to the room and explain what they do on their job. Immediately after everyone from Team A has made her presentation, the audience members vote for the best presentation.

Debrief the participants. Conduct a discussion of what features made the presentations clear, concise, and interesting.

Encourage personal action. Pause for a few minutes while participants individually jot down the key ideas from the activity so they can prepare a better explanation of their job to others.


Do you have more time? Ask each team to watch two different TED lectures. This will enable them to discover how different presenters use the same humor technique.

Do you have less face time? Ask participants to watch different TED lectures before they come to the face-to-face session. Also ask them to come prepared with individual lists of humor guidelines.