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Ugh! We’ve all been there. You meet someone at a party or a networking event and “What do you do?” is the typical question that comes up. A dull or perplexing answer often follows. “How about you?” might be lobbed back as a courtesy. Then the awkward silence sets in.

So uncomfortable — but it doesn’t have to be this way!  Each of us can (and, dare I say, should) claim our individual responsibility for the quality of our socialization and make sure conversations don’t tumble down into this dismal void.

Here’s one way you can do that:  Use the F.O.R.D. method. This acronym stands for Family, Occupation, Recreation, and Dreams. Use these four topics to inspire questions that will get a conversation going and headed beyond the usual predictable territory. Below are some sample questions you might try.


  • Tell me about your background and family.
  • Where did you grow up?
  • Who do you think influenced you more: your mother, father, or another family member?
  • Do you have any siblings?
  • What’s your birth order?
  • How are you similar and different?
  • Do you stay in touch with your family?
  • What are some of your fondest family memories?
  • Do you have kids?
  • What has being a parent taught you about yourself?
  • What are the biggest joys and challenges?


  • Tell me about your work.
  • Do you love it?
  • If so, why?
  • If not, what would you rather be doing?
  • How did you get into this field?
  • Did anyone else in your family do this for a living?
  • Where did you go to school / get your training?
  • What’s your typical day like?


  • What do you do for fun / in your leisure time?
  • Is this a new interest? Or something you’ve done for a long time?
  • What do you love about it?
  • Do you get enough time to do it?
  • What else keeps you busy?
  • Do you have any favorite books, movies, or shows you like to watch?
  • Do you enjoy traveling?
  • Where have you been and where do you hope to go?


  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • What have you always wanted to do / try / experience?
  • What are some of your Big Dreams? Or even Little Dreams?
  • If you could wake up tomorrow morning and have a new skill, what would it be?
  • What famous person would you like to enjoy dinner with?
  • Tell me one of your craziest goals or dreams?

Will you remember all these questions — plus the ones you come up with?  Probably not. But if you start a collection of questions in a notebook or file and review it once a week or just before an event, I bet you will get better at moving an exchange beyond Dullsville and into much more memorable and meaningful territory.

Give it a try!  And I’d love to hear your conversation questions and techniques. Please comment below or email me a reply.

Want even more ideas? Click here and receive a free excerpt from my new book More Than Just Talk, which is loaded with more than 100 other questions to get an enjoyable conversation going.

Until next time…