When you’re trying to build your network, there’s nothing better than attending a professional event and feeling like you’re making a genuine connection. However, it’s a lot easier said than done.

This is mostly because people get stuck on turning small talk into a meaningful conversation. (How many times can you answer the question, “So what do you do?” without giving the same ol’ spiel in a monotone voice?) I decided there’s got to be a better way to connect with awesome, accomplished professional people.

So, I took to social media and asked my followers which questions they truly love answering at events. Interestingly, the same three kept popping up over and over again. That means the next time you’re networking, drop the weather chit-chat and try these instead.

1. “What Does Your Typical Day Look Like?”

There’s an inevitable awkward pause after you ask someone what someone what he or she does—especially if it’s something vague like, “integrated media manager at Corporate McCorporation.” This is exactly where dropping a “So, what does your typical day look like?” really helps to keep things moving.

Not only does this give the person plenty of ammunition to talk about him- or herself, but it also allows you to figure out what you might have in common. Or, at the very least, it’ll help continue the conversation. Knowing someone is a marketer doesn’t give you much to work off, but learning that this person works specifically with social media and blogging campaigns give you at least one more question.

How to Work it Into Conversation

When someone tells you what he or she does, instead of just nodding your head and saying, “mhmm,” drop this nugget right away: “That’s really cool! So, what does your typical day as a [job title] look like?”

2. “How Did You Get Into [Industry Y]?”

When it comes to how people ended up where they are, everyone has a story to tell. I ended up in media after a failed run at being a collegiate politician. A friend of mine fell in love with tech after he accidentally broke his dad’s computer in middle school and spent all night trying to fix it.

There’s usually an interesting reason why people are in the fields they’re in, and if they’re at a networking event, chances are they’re excited to tell you how that happened.

How to Work it Into Conversation

Asking about someone’s start in an industry is another great follow-up question after you get the initial, “My name is Joe, and I’m a developer at Google.” Saying, “Wow, that’s awesome! So what got you into that?” can springboard that exchange into a real conversation.

3. “What Brought You to This Event?”

This question can be asked in a variety of ways (obviously robotically interrogating someone isn’t preferred). Remember: The idea here isn’t just to keep a conversation going; it’s also to find at least one more thing you have in common.

How to Work it Into Conversation

When I met several people at an event with Aliza Licht, I explained that I’d read Licht’s book and really want to hear more from her. This prompted me to ask others what brought them there.

One woman sitting next to me had also read Licht’s book, and we had a 20-minute conversation about our favorite parts. The other woman hadn’t, but it still opened up a conversation with her about why I loved the book so much—and why I thought she would too.

Fangirling brings people closer together, am I right?

Do you have any other favorite networking lines that seem to work every time? Let me know on Twitter!

Photo of women talking courtesy of Shutterstock.

Updated 6/19/2020