If the cocktail party summary is in any way comparable to the elevator pitch, I have had to produce one fairly regularly... Actually, I think they are different, because the elevator pitch assumes that you want something from the person listening (preferably money) whereas the cocktail party version only assumes that you want your listener to remain interested. But they pose the same kinds of formal constraints on time and vividness.
Here's a first written attempt (for both the TEIC and the TEIG, so to speak):
So glad you asked! The TEI [consortium] is an international consortium that focuses on standards for representing textual materials in digital form, for research in the humanities and related fields. It's a very broad-based community and of course includes many different ways of understanding what we mean by "textual materials" and "represent", but the emphasis is on supporting a detailed, rigorous, and critical engagement with the text, and on enabling the resulting data to be used in ways that are powerful, flexible, innovative, reusable, and shareable.
So glad you asked! The TEI [Guidelines] are an international community standard for representing textual materials in digital form, using XML markup. The markup describes the structure and content of the document in (potentially) a great deal of detail, which makes it possible to build advanced interfaces for search and analysis. The great thing about the TEI is that it provides for a wide range of different encoding approaches, so it can be used by many different disciplines and for many different purposes (individual research, publication, digital archiving, etc.).
I know, I know--I really do talk like this :-) But if you shortened the sentences and added a few filler phrases, it could work even at a child's birthday party when someone asks what you do...
On Jul 8, 2010, at 5:52 AM, stuart yeates wrote:
> Since I returned to the antipodes I seem to have explained the TEI to a
> great many people, because the TEI is not as well entrenched here as in
> Oxford. I've been struggling to come up with a really good
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elevator_pitch that captures the essence of
> the TEI.
> The best I've come up with so far is:
> Would anyone who has already gone through this process be willing to
> share their ideas?
> Stuart Yeates
> http://www.nzetc.org/ New Zealand Electronic Text Centre
> http://researcharchive.vuw.ac.nz/ Institutional Repository