When you’re at the proverbial cocktail party, and someone asks you what you do, do you have an answer? As a professional in a field known by virtually no one (knowledge management), I can tell you that one of the situations I used to fear most was getting the dreaded “what do you do?” question. It sounds so innocent, doesn’t it? And yet it used to set my mental cogs into a twisting, mostly downward, spiral. I had no idea how to answer that question (a) briefly [in case the person isn’t really that interested], (b) coherently [so that I don’t sound like I’m making it up], and (c) substantively [so that I actually answer the person’s question and explain what I do]. But about a year ago, I finally came up with my elevator speech — a way of describing what I do briefly, coherently, and substantively. This is quite a point of pride for me not only because it took me so long to figure out, but also because I’ve found that my speech actually works! Each time I share it to respond to the “what do you do?” question, I’ve been greeted in return with genuine understanding, and even an interest in hearing more. So, what is this 30-second pitch I’ve developed? Well, here you go — I explain that: “What I do is parallel to what Google did for the web. All the websites it searches already existed and were already out there available to be viewed, but suddenly with Google people were able to find those websites much more easily.” One of the reasons I like the comparison for the layperson of knowledge management to Google is that it leverages the distinction between access to content and the content itself that, prior to Google, most people simply did not get, but which Google has since made infamous. Certainly one part of knowledge management is content development and aggregation, but that part is typically easier to explain. The aspect that always tripped me up in the past was how to express the access part of knowledge management. I could say I design, build, and launch a tool that searches; a tool that files email; a new portal; a practice toolkit; a tool that tags documents; a more streamlined process to create documents; etc etc… but listing out projects is hardly the right response at that party to the person asking what you do. So I’m pleased to say that I now have an elevator speech. But I’m always interested in hearing how others describe what they do to those completely outside the legal industry. So if you have an elevator speech too, please comment here and share it with me.