two men sitting at a table in an office

#27: How to tell people what you do

Bob Ewing
July 30, 2021
two men sitting at a table in an office

Talking Big Ideas.

“What would you say . . . you do here?”
~ The Bobs, Office Space

It can be surprisingly hard to explain what you do at work.

Especially when you’re trying to be succinct. I started a company to help people with their speaking. Yet when people ask me what I do, often I end up rambling. It’s ironic.

Thankfully, a good friend of mine named Matt taught me how to solve this problem. He’s one of the best public speakers I know. He’s always pushing himself to grow. Whenever we get together to work on his upcoming talks, I learn something new.

A few weeks ago he taught me The Office Space Formula. It’s from a book by Allen Dib called The 1-Page Marketing Plan. Anyone can use it to clearly explain their job. Here’s how it works:

  1. Clarify a problem you’re working on.
  2. Explain your solution.
  3. Give an example showing progress.

That’s it! Dib encourages you to speak in a natural way. He gives you a verbal prompt to get started:

the problem solver is shown in this graphic

Consider how much different this is from how we normally explain our jobs. Matt used to say: “I work at a non-profit non-partisan think tank”.

Why do we lead with our tax status?!

And then follow it up with our political status? And then, for the icing on the cake, use a jargon phrase like think tank?

Here’s one way Matt recently used the Office Space Formula:

You know how our friends and neighbors are moving out of Illinois because of our high taxes and low services? [heads nod in agreement]

Well, what we do is work with elected officials to pass laws to make Illinois competitive, and to keep our loved ones here.

In fact, just last week, we helped preserve a $75 million tax credit scholarship program, by creating videos showing the impact of school choice, and now lawmakers are looking to expand the program.

I’ve had other clients try this out. They’ve all said it’s been helpful for them. The formula is simple, clear, and works well!



Be ready to explain what you do in a clear and engaging way.

Set a timer for five minutes. Ask yourself what problems you’re working on solving. How are you doing it? What progress can you share?

See if you can draft an effective answer based on the Office Space Formula.


This week Maryrose and I met with a research center interested in working with us. We had a delightful conversation. Inspired by the Dib Formula, at one point I said something along these lines:

You know how academics often speak in jargon? And it can be hard to understand what they’re saying? And they often feel uncomfortable and awkward when they’re put in the spotlight?

What we do is help them to clarify their ideas. To draw out and fine tune their most important insights, and then deliver them in their own voice with confidence. And in a way that regular people can understand and get excited about what they’re saying.

It’s super fulfilling for us when we get to help people like Ben really come alive. To be a part of their transformation from terrified and closed off to crushing it on stage and getting a standing ovation. The best part is, everyone can do it.

I hope you give this week’s challenge a shot. If you do, please type it up and send it to me. I’d love to see what you come up with.

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