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Connecting: 'What’s your favorite podcast?” and other great questions

From Alana Muller, Bizwomen columnist

What’s your approach to engaging people in conversation? My friend always chuckles at my standard greeting, “Hey! What’s going on?” Sometimes it’s, “What’s cookin’?” or “How you doin’?” It may be a catchphrase, but it is also my way of getting people talking. You see, questions have that tendency. A question demonstrates to others that you are interested in talking and you want to know more about them. It’s an invitation for dialogue. Big, open-ended questions are the best. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • What brings you here?

  • What are your key responsibilities?

  • What’s the best book you’ve read this year?

During this pandemic, I particularly like, “What’s the best, most surprising thing to happen to you during the time of Covid?” Taking this engagement concept a step further, in anticipation of a recent virtual presentation I was giving, the event moderator, wanting to educate participants on how to use the chat feature of Zoom to ask questions during the talk, entered into the chat box, “What’s your favorite podcast?” In so doing, she elicited more than 100 responses! Plus, what I love about this question is that it is certainly big and open-ended; it’s also informative and conversational. Additionally, because there are so many podcasts out there these days, the responses are expansive. Sometimes the response is, “I haven’t listened to any podcasts lately. What do you recommend?” — or — “I don’t listen to podcasts. Why do they interest you?” So, whether you’re attending a Zoom networking reception, a board meeting, a coffee engagement or dinner with your family, consider having some questions in your hip pocket. It will ensure that you are never lacking for conversation. Oh, and don’t forget to have your own answers to these questions at the ready to keep the dialogue going.


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