Let’s keep this one short and sweet: You’re at a networking event and don’t know anybody. What should you do? Take a page from best-selling author Jim Collins, and pick someone. Then start with the question: “May I ask, where are you from?” You’ll receive a host of varying responses, upon which you can build the rest of the conversation.
Individuals may respond by mentioning a locale (“I’m from Pennsylvania.”), a company (“I work at Microsoft.”), an industry (“I work in the tech sector.”) or even a discipline (“I’m in finance”).
Next, ask an intriguing follow-up question: “How did someone from Pennsylvania end up all the way out here in California?” “What’s the best aspect of life at Microsoft?” “What’s the most common misconception about working in the finance world?”
You’ll more than likely receive an engaged response, which is fantastic. Because although you’re asking someone to talk about himself, your line of questioning will make you seem more interesting, too.
Try this approach, and you’ll soon find out engaging with (and persuading) strangers is easier than you think.