100 Alternatives To “So Whadda Ya Do?”


Heading to a cocktail party, co-working space, tea at grandma’s Haus, (un)conference, world-shifting summit, or biz building immersion?

Chances are, you’re gonna be doing a fair amount of hustling, jamming & pro-active connecting. URLs will be flying. Business cards will be volleyed. You’ll wanna polish your pitch, and add a layer of high-gloss lacquer.

You’ll be curious about your new comrades, and hell’s bells — they’ll be curious about YOU.

But please. Good lord in heaven above. I beg of thee! Use “so whadda ya do?” sparingly. Just as a brain-tugging experiment: what would happen if it was your final question, instead of your first?

To kick off your next convo in supercharged style, revel in these non-sleazy networking prompts, inquisitive pressure-points, and relationship-tipping triggers.

When you lead with CURIOSITY — rather than convention — you’ll be STUNNED by the gems you unearth.

1 :: What’s the most potent compliment you ever received?

2 :: We’re talking ‘bout blog-crushes and Twitter-romances, over here. You got any secret Internet spouses? C’mon, spill it.

3 :: Do you have a lucky charm or self-love token that you keep close, at all times? I’ve got a heart-shaped rose quartz crystal, on a silver chain. Pretty literal, but it works for me. How ’bout you?

4 :: Who do you turn to for humble-pie, keep-it-real, tone-it-down reality-checks? Your momma? Your mentor? Your BFF?

5 :: What does money represent, for you? Independence? Luxury? Energy? Power? Possibility?

6 :: When have you been COMPLETELY wrong? How did you figure it out?

7 :: I never how how to behave when I come in contact with homeless folks, out on the street. Give ‘em a buck? Turn a blind eye? Donate directly to a shelter, and trust that the cash will flow to where it’s needed most? What’s your stance on street-peddling?

8 :: If life was like a musical, and you could have a specific theme song or anthem blasting every time you step into a room, what would it be? (Mine would be “Can’t Keep It In” by Cat Stevens.)

9 :: If you had to create a new job title — and the words that you currently use to describe yourself didn’t exist — what would you call yourself?

10 :: Do you have a worst-case scenario, screw-it-all, burn-every-bridge Plan Z? FYI: I ever go missing, you’ll find me pouring Guinness for fishermen in an pub on the Aran Isles.

11 :: Do you ever get performance anxiety, when you’re getting ready to pitch yourself, or jam with a super-elite client? What’s your bells-on, game-time, pre-show mantra?

12 :: When you need to give feedback or criticism to a colleague, what’s your approach? The ol’ compliment-critique-compliment “feedback sandwich”? Or just straight-shootin’ facts — all killer, no filler?

13 :: I’ve started using a Committed Impulse technique, where I say “I’M BACK!” — out loud — whenever I’m floating away from the present moment. How do you re-center yourself, when your mind is flickering in ten thousand directions?

14 :: If you were sending out invites for a fanciful afternoon tea party, who would you invite? Could be anyone — alive, dead, fictional, or cartoon-sketched.

15 :: I recently did the StrengthsFinder assessment, and I gotta say — I’m a little torn about the whole “personality profiling” thing. What’s your stance on talent assessments? Brilliant, bullshit, or somewhere in between?

16 :: If you could choose one super-power — mind-reading, time-traveling or limitless energy — what would you pick?

17 :: Have you ever fallen in love, at first sight? With a person? With an idea? With a vision? With a website?

18 :: Damn, this coffee is fantastic. The blend actually reminds me of a fabulous little mom ‘n pop cafe, back home. It’s my secret hideout, when I need to escape and buckle down with my laptop and a cranberry scone. Do you have a Fortress of Solitude, back on your home turf?

19 :: So, I’ve got this question percolating in my mind, and I’m asking everyone I meet. What’s your absolutely perfect day, from dawn till dusk?

20 :: I’m feeling pretty overwhelmed by the deluge of info that’s being firehosed at us, today. Is there one nugget of brilliance that’s really resonating with you?

21 :: Damn! The minute this event is over, I’m totally gonna revamp my bio, strip down my service packages, and do a pricing mega-boost. What’s the first thing you’re going to do, when you get back to your workspace?

22 :: I’m one of those people who reads my horoscope every single day — pretending that it’s nonsense, but secretly DEVOTED to it. Are you a surreptitious star-charter, too?

23 :: I don’t know about you, but I literally can’t focus unless I have my indie-electro-rock mix blasting at full volume. Do you have a go-to playlist, for slamming deadlines?

24 :: You partnered up with a sweetheart, at the moment? How did you feel the very first time you laid eyes on him, or her?

25 :: Don’t take this the wrong way, but you strike me as a woman who knows her way around a lingerie shop. I’m dying for a new bra. Any recommendations, or favorite boutiques?

26 :: If you could take a pill and instantly know how to play any instrument, what would it be? (Autoharp, for me!)

27 :: Not to be too morbid, but I’m curious: what d’you want etched onto your hypothetical tombstone?

28 :: Do you remember what you wanted to be when you grew up, when you were five? Fifteen? Twenty? What’s the connective strand, in terms of where you are now?

29 :: Be honest: what’s your opinion on emoticons? ;)

30 :: I’ve got a really ferocious suspicion that rollerskates and hotpants are gonna be IN like FLYNN, this autumn. What’s your fall fashion prediction?

31 :: When you catch yourself in the middle of a white lie, how do you pivot your message? Back-track and clarify? Just roll with it, to protect the listener?

32 :: So I’ve recently started a dream journal. Do you have any super-vivid dreams, that keep recurring?

33 :: How do you measure your own success? Do you set goals? Keep a set of metrics? Just gauge by how you feel?

34 :: True fact: I recently realized that I’m slightly ambidextrous. D’you have any hidden talents?

35 :: You look like a (wo)man of action. What’s your first-thing-in-the-morning routine?

36 :: Have you ever been so terrified, you could taste metal in your mouth?

37 :: Man, I’m really feeling the need to de-frag my mind for a few minutes. What’s your favorite mental vacation? I’ve got a lurid fascination with ’90s teen dramas, like My So-Called Life…how ’bout you?

38 :: When you hit your income target for the year, how are you gonna celebrate? Take your entire family to a B&B? Hit the spa with your long-distance pen-pal? Treat yourself to a Tarot card reading?

39 :: I have to tell you, I just love the way your voice sounds. Did you ever do any theater or radio?

40 :: Wanna play some word assocation? I’ll start.

41 :: Last week, I decided to remove all electronics from my bedroom, and I’m suddenly sleeping like a Queen. Have you made any micro-lifestyle-tweaks, that really shifted your world?

42 :: Dude, these kinds of events really bring out the hermit in me. Oh, you too? Wanna grab some coconut water, sequester ourselves in a dark corner, and talk about our favorite Lady Gaga tracks for five minutes? Excellent.

43 :: Have you ever read something so fucking brilliant, it made you sad, because you’d never get to read it again…for the first time?

44 :: I recently learned how to make a heart in my coffee foam. It’s all in the wrist, man. What’s your favorite super-mundane-but-totally-lovely little ritual?

45 :: What’s your opinion on facial hair? Be honest.

46 :: Jeez, you are seriously well put together. Who’s your ultimate style icon? And what goes through your mind, as you curate your outfits?

47 :: After today, I’m seriously thinking about doubling my hourly rate. I gotta admit — it terrifies me. How do you feel about your current price-point? You thinking about going double-or-nothing, too?

48 :: What’s the biggest epiphany you’ve had over the last year, in terms of attracting your ideal clients?

49 :: When you’re feeling scattered, how do you re-center and root into what needs to GET DONE, pronto?

50 :: Do you have any smutty, private treats? Once a month or so, when I’m tanking up my car, I always grab one of those horrendous, sticky, machine-brewed gas station coffee drinks. Y’know, flavored with pumpkin-spice-amaretto-midnight-delight creamer. And then I drink it, alone, in my car. What’s your we-must-never-speak-of-this-again pleasure?

51 :: Have you ever been so grateful for something, you felt like 40,000 thank you notes just wouldn’t cut it?

52 :: What makes you supremely jealous? And how d’you deal with comparison-envy?

53 :: It might be those cool specs you got on, but you strike me as a big reader. What’s the last book you read that really moved you?

54 :: Sometimes, when I’m feeling dislodged and disjointed, I have a little mental pow-wow with my fantasy mentor, Oscar Wilde. Do you have any fantasy advisers?

55 :: Have you ever been to a concert that shifted your entire slant on life?

56 :: Tell me something about yourself that I’ll NEVER see in your official bio, or on your resume.

57 :: Do you think of your clients as comrades, creative partners, customers, advocates, fans…or something else? How much high-contact, 1-on-1 time do you give ‘em?

58 :: How do you cope with unhappy clients? Are you a never-go-to-bed-angry type o’ gal, or a let-‘em-fume-and-we’ll-unpack-it-all-tomorrow type of person?

59 :: Opt-in squeeze pages: yay or nay?

60 :: Where do you get your best ideas? I’m all about bubble bath epiphanies. Though hot-tubbing and long road trips work, too.

61 :: I’ve been thinking a lot about pro-actively clearing space for magic, in my life & my biz. What’s one thing you’re ready to delegate (or just destroy), like, NOW?

62 :: There are so many products & programs out there, and sometimes I have trouble filtering which ones I oughta dig into. What’s ONE investment you made, in your entrepreneurial empire, that truly paid off — in spades?

63 :: When you’ve connected with someone online, and you really wanna pull the relationship offline, what’s your non-scuzzy pick-up line?

64 :: What does “elegance” mean to you? How ’bout “efficiency”? “Enthusiasm”?

65 :: Have you ever asked someone you barely knew for a BIG favor? How did it land?

66 :: If you could have a mystical companion animal, like the witches in Ye Olden Days, what would yours be? (I’d totally go for a teacup-sized panda, or miniature fox.)

67 :: Have you ever experimented with raw food, ditching wheat flour & sugar, or veganism? What feels right, for your body? When do you feel magnetically vibrant?

68 :: How do you really feel about blogging — for serious? Love it? Loathe it? Does it feel like a creative outlet, or a marketing chore?

69 :: Do you tend to trust people immediately — until proven otherwise — or do they have to earn your faith?

70 :: I’m planning a mini media fast this summer. Have you ever dropped off-grid, for a week, or more? How did it feel?

71 :: If you could be an Olympic athlete, a champion ballroom dancer, or a Broadway singer with lungs of solid gold, what would you choose?

72 :: Are you an Inbox Zero kinda person, or do you let messages build up, and then crash through and delete / archive / file / forward / reply, in one fell swoop?

73 :: Have you ever met an idol or celebrity, and felt stupendously starstruck? Did you manage to eke out a meek “hello”?

74 :: I’m totally turned on by old-school snail mail thank you notes. What’s the classiest gift you’ve ever received, in the mail?

75 :: Are you a group mind-meld mastermind, or do collaborative projects make your skin crawl?

76 :: Do you believe that guilt is a wasted emotion? Or a lesson, trying to teach itself to you?

77 :: What’s the prickliest piece of feedback you’ve ever had to swallow?

78 :: Been thinking a lot about self-care, of late. If someone handed you $500 and said, “go nurture yourself,” what would you spend it on?

79 :: Do you believe that every relationship is an energetic transaction? Do you think it’s possible to transcend beyond transactions?

80 :: What’s a “brilliant” idea that you’ve had, for a project or business? One that you’ll never-ever actually do, but tickles your fancy, nonetheless?

81 :: How do you reel in your ramble, when you’re babbling outta control?

82 :: Is there a song, or poem, that ALWAYS makes you weep, without fail? (My tear-jerker is “Hallelujah,” by Leonard Cohen. ‘Specially when k.d. lang belts it out.)

83 :: If you were gonna send a time capsule to your future self, what would it say? What would it contain?

84 :: Do long, old-school sales pages make your eyes cross in disgust? Or are you a firm believer in heavy, info-loading conversion language?

85 :: What’s the absolute WORST business advice you’ve ever received? Did you sense the ridiculousness immediately, or did you have to learn by trial ‘n error?

86 :: A part of me wants to e-x-p-a-n-d my lil’ empire, with more minions and serfs and apprentices. And a (bigger) part of me wants to keep it clean & lean. A solo operation. What’s your take, on intelligent expansion? You got a master plan, for your universe?

87 :: Earlier this year, I was mashing into maximum bandwidth, and having a spacious day to play was tricky to come by. How do you make space for downtime, when you’re teetering on the edge of burnout?

88 :: I’ve been delegating my way to sanity, this year. What’s one thing you outsourced, that made a mega-impact in your quality of life? Laundry? Font formatting? PayPal invoicing?

89 :: I’m parched for fresh visual stimulation. What are your gotta-see design magazines, blogs and books?

90 :: I feel like I get hammered with pro bono requests all the live long day. How do you evaluate which freebie gigs to dive into, & which to pass on?

91 :: That last presentation on communication really got my brain cranking. Have you ever had an experience where your meaning was COMPLETELY misinterpreted?

92 :: If money, training, time, talent and the laws of physics were no object, what would you be doing, for a career?

93 :: Girls with guns & firing ranges: sexy, or terrifying?

94 :: What was your absolute WORST joe-job, ever? (Me? Cigarette salesgirl at a casino. Yep.)

95 :: What’s one thing you DON’T know, for sure?

96 :: If there was one band you could magically re-form & re-group for one last epic world tour, what would it be?

97 :: Your hair is absolutely incredible. Give me your styling regime, in ten seconds or less. GO.

98 :: Do you believe in “life balance,” or is striving for equilibrium a total buzzkill, for you?

99 :: What did your most agonizing break-up — romantic, platonic or vocational — teach you?

…and my personal, all-time favorite:

100 :: Who are you becoming?

Go get ‘em, kiddos.


business // acceleration lifescripts // what-ifs


i love this. i dont frequent using ‘what do you do’ in generic conversation, but i do often ask people random questions if i feel like mindless conversation for a while. Hoewever, these are usually along the lines of whats your favorite cereal and what animal do you want to be. These are way better

natalie on Apr 29, 2011 Reply

If only ALL conversations started off with such sassy instigation!

And, in the spirit of seriously stimulating chats that dig deep, what about adding one more opener to your list…

“Don’t tell me of size, or status, or surface style. Instead, I want to know the real story behind you and your work space at home. How did you and this ace place find each other? How does it make you feel? Does it bring out all that is best about you?”

I’ll definitely be keeping this list around for the next time I’m out and need a good opening line…

That question is the worst. Especially for people who aren’t passionate about what they do. Before I started my own business I used to just make something up in response. I’ve told many tales about my life as an iguana farmer, a draw bridge operator, & a ghost orchid hunter. I’m feeling your originality, Alex!

I loved the ‘what’s your blog crush’ one!

This list is just fantastic. I’d love it if you’d do a list of 100 things to do besides invite them for a coffee follow-up too!

NATALIE :: Random questions are amusing. Pointed questions are even bettah.

KATHARINE :: Mmm. Ace spaces. S’what it’s all about, no?

MELISSA :: Excellent. You could print it on a scroll, and unfurl it, as needed.

JESSICA :: W.H.A.T. ?!?! You NEED to tell those stories. Always.

ERINI :: Blog crushes are a (beautiful) part o’ life.

MARTHE :: Hmm…indeed! Sky-diving comes to mind.

Alexandra Franzen on May 1, 2011 Reply

Great post

Christina on Jun 10, 2013 Reply

Alex! This is wonderful because it is getting me even more pumped up excited about the fact that I will be going to both of these events this year. Feeling so freakiiing jazzed, happy and full of grace to be rocking out like this. And finally, we will meet face to face sans technology! : ) This is fantastic. I was totally just digging through my stuff trying to find my favorite questions list : ) I am a sucker for a good game. I think they are oh-so fun! Can’t wait for us to hang during the event!

Fabulous list! This summer, I’m going to New York (for the first time!) for a writing conference and I WILL use these questions. Thank you. :)

P.S. I really love emoticons.

I like this (even though some are somewhat offensive. The street peddler one?)

I’ve got another for ya:
“What would you do with one hundred white magical bunnies?”

This gets people thinking …
– S

Greg Hartle pointed me to this list Alexandra. I LOVE this list. Thank you sooooooo much for laying it out. It resonates.

A BIG fan of more creative questions than “What do you do” which is just about the laziest thing evah!

Thanks Alex – I just saved these in my phone, under your name, so the next time I’m stuck at a party I can dial up some of your genius.

I’m speechless at this list of fun, quirky & deep conversation starters.

I’m book marking this page to review every Thursday.

What is your street address so I may send you a small mail tu note?


Awesome questions!! which got me thinking about my own life too!!!

…and I’m pretty stoked to see that there are quite a few in there that I’m already using!!!

Love no.100 though… I can see why it’s your favourite!

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