Four words — so simple, yet so revealing: "Tell me about yourself." If you have social or networking anxiety, this is the only icebreaker you'll ever need (so you can now stop Googling "best icebreaker questions" before any big networking event).
If you're rolling your eyes and muttering, "That's such a generic and broad icebreaker," you're absolutely right. But generic and broad is actually a good thing.
Asking someone where they grew up, for example, forces them to talk about their childhood. Asking what they're most looking forward to this weekend forces them to talk about their plans — and what if they don't have any plans and are embarrassed to admit it? Or they might have personal things going on that they don't feel comfortable discussing.
Even NPR's Terry Gross, host of the popular podcast "Fresh Air," agrees that this seemingly simple icebreaker has a powerful impact. The beauty of these four words is that "it allows you to start a conversation without the fear that you're going to inadvertently make someone uncomfortable or self-conscious," she said in a New York Times interview. "Posing a broad question lets people lead you to who they are."