I used to think that “What do you do?” and “Tell me about yourself” are a bit too direct and too cliche for strangers to start a conversation with at an event. However, today I heard a much more comprehensive opener while attending a fairly low key networking event – a female attendee approached me and said: “So, tell me about your background.” I then asked her for clarification – “Do you mean my ethnic background? Professional? Educational? Sexual orientation?” She chuckled with an obvious appreciation for my response and said “everything.”
I have had mixed feelings about her approach. On one hand, I hated the fact that she was trying to size me up so openly and overtly, and that she chose the laziest way to do it – just throw out there a generic request for information instead of having a normal conversation. On the other hand, I appreciated her boldness and directness. I know I don’t have what it takes to start a conversation this way, and I would have to sell a few cars before I get there.