It's rare for SuChin Pak to not know what to say to someone, but when it happens, she has a "secret" for making small talk that anyone can use.
The veteran TV journalist has held court with some of the biggest pop culture icons of our time, from Beyonce to Britney Spears to Oprah. She launched her career as an MTV News correspondent in 2001 and over the last two decades has covered everything from celebrity red carpets to multicultural teens to presidential elections and international relief efforts.
Her biggest tip for keeping a conversation going no matter the setting? "Always have a few questions in your back pocket that work for everyone," Pak tells CNBC Make It.
Her top two favorite questions to ask new acquaintances are: "What do you want people to get out of what you're doing?" and "How did you start doing X?"
The beauty of these questions is they're universal enough that they can apply to anyone, but they can also become personal when people want to discuss their biggest passions and goals.
Going from surface-level small talk to deep conversations can help you build trust, compatibility and rapport with someone new.
Pak says she relies on these questions in case she has a "brain freeze" or there's a lull in the conversation. Having them also helps her relax into the conversation, "because I don't feel like I have to constantly think of the most intelligent thing to say."
It's also helpful to remember that "people love to talk," Pak adds. "All you have to do is listen."