Take a page from business consultant and best-selling author Jim Collins: Start a conversation 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).
Then 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.
Although you’re asking someone to talk about himself, your line of questioning will make you seem more interesting, too.
If you can make one favorable impression with someone early on, it will build positivity in other areas of your business relationship, too.