AI chatbot for office workers: a crash course

"We asked it the best recipe to bake a prinsesstårta*"

I was baffled.

This company had hired a consultant to teach its staff to leverage AI chatbots (such as ChatGPT or Bard), and what they remembered of it was this. The recipe to bake a cake.

What followed came with no surprise: nobody was using AI at work after this training.

Now, I’m not saying that training on the topic is done this way.
I’m sure that there are plenty that focus on teaching people to slash the time required to do their work. But evidently, not all of them.

So, I’ve decided to write this essay to share what any person working in an office should know.

0. I’ve written before about AI in general and why it is indispensable for you to learn how to leverage this new tool.

1. Prompting 101
2. Knowing what tasks to use an AI chatbot for
3. Some pitfalls to avoid

Here we go.

1. Prompting 101

What we call prompting, is the act of crafting a prompt for an artificial intelligence. AI (and chatbots in particular), accept natural language. While it’s possible to wing it and simply ask what you want from it, you will often get better results if you follow a certain structure.

This structure is composed of three parts:

a) Purpose: "Help me draft a follow-up email."

b) Context: "I had a meeting with Jane from XYZ Company last week to discuss a potential partnership."

c) Expectations: "The email should be friendly, professional, and inquire about the next steps."

A good prompt could look something like this:

Help me draft a friendly, professional follow-up email to Jane from XYZ Company. We had a meeting last week to discuss a potential partnership, and I'd like to inquire about the next steps. Keep it short!

2. Knowing what tasks to use an AI chatbot for

A difficulty that I see, is that people don’t think about use cases for AI on their own. Until you start using it frequently enough, it won’t be top of mind when dealing with a task that would be a fit.

Keep in mind this simple statement:
AI chatbots excel at producing first drafts.

It doesn’t matter if what you’re working on is an email to a customer or to your boss, a report, a presentation, or a contract.

Instead of starting from scratch, the AI enables you to start from what is often a solid piece already.

Describe roughly what you need, and let it do its magic.
Then take it from there and edit at will.

3. Some pitfalls to avoid

Because of the way they work, AI chatbots can sometimes hallucinate answers. They can assert blatantly wrong things as facts. They are also totally unaware of biases in the responses they produce.

Therefore, you should always check its work carefully.

What about privacy concerns?
While the big platforms are complying with GDPR, it is important to be careful with what you share. For instance, your data can in some cases be used for training purposes. Talk to the legal department of your company if you have any doubt.

There you have it, your crash course on using AI chatbots at work.

If you’re interested in learning more, I’ve written a short practical guide on the topic. It’s called AI chatbots for office workers and it expands on what I’ve written in this essay, and provides learning examples.

* Princess cake (Swedish: prinsesstårta) is a traditional Swedish layer cake or torte consisting of alternating layers of airy sponge cake, pastry cream, raspberry jam and a thick-domed layer of whipped cream. The cake is covered by a layer of marzipan, giving it a smooth rounded top. The marzipan overlay is usually green, sprinkled with powdered sugar, and often decorated with a pink marzipan rose. (Source: Wikipedia)

Get my practical guide on the topic: