“So…what do you do?”

Some people think that’s a terrible way to start a conversation. Here’s what Lifehacker has to say about it, for example:

“When striking up conversations, try skipping the mundane questions like ‘What do you do?’…asking things like ‘What do you get excited about?’ instead.”

Okay, let’s get real here.

Would you walk up to a stranger and ask, “What do you get excited about?”

No. You’d sound like a weirdo. People need a little warmup before revealing what’s really exciting.

And if you want people to tell you about their revenues, or frustrations, or even when they lost their virginity (yeah, I get *that* personal off-camera), you need to warm people up.

“What do you do?” may not be the best question in the world, but it’s not a bad one.

It’s what I call a Minimum Viable Conversation (MVC).

Most of us are familiar with a minimum viable product from The Lean Startup methodology. Or the idea of creating several landing pages to see which one gets traction.

An MVC is the same thing. Only instead of landing pages, it’s general conversation topics. Small talk, like:

“How’d you learn about this event?”

“Where are you from?”

And even “What do you do?”

You’re looking for the one that “converts.” In this case, when I say convert, I mean the one that makes the other person light up. They get chatty, they get excited to talk to you.

It’s a more natural way to engage them than asking “what excites you” right outta the gate.

Once you hit on a topic that excites them, stick with it. Ask follow up questions.

Whether it’s a conversation at an event or an interview for your podcast, testing MVCs until you hit on a winner will make the conversation more memorable and enjoyable for everyone.

Now switching gears a bit, let’s talk about this video…

As you can see in the video, I ask some seriously personal questions on Mixergy. (And if we ever meet in person, you’ll see that I’m like that in real life, too–with friends, colleagues, Uber drivers…)

So if I’m telling you to start with a soft MVC, then how do I get away with asking questions like how much money they make and how much debt they have…

…and not come off like a jerk or a weirdo?

It’s because I don’t start out by asking questions like that.

Instead, over the course of the conversation, I’m building rapport.

I’m relating to them and connecting to them LONG before I throw out one of the questions I asked in that video.

And because of the specific ways I’ve learned to build rapport, over the course of more than 1,000 interviews, people don’t hate me for asking those questions.

And they’re almost always willing to answer them.

So start with this MVC approach, and let me know how it goes.

And, if you’d like to learn all of my conversation tricks (and a whole lot more), I’m opening up my Interview Your Heroes course this week…for the first time in a year.

It’s specifically created for people who want to start a podcast, be better interviewees, or just have better conversations in their business and personal life.

Check it out here.