A good conversation starter is like a car engine. If you don't have one, you aren't going anywhere. When can you say, "Haven't we met before?" without sounding like a cliché? There is a way to turn this ancient ice breaker into a good conversation starter without sounding common as dirt, dry as dust, and strictly for the birds. Or worse, like a failed pickup artist. There is a way to turn an old pickup line into a good impression.

Can you start a good conversation with a cliché?

My English teacher liked to say, "Avoid clichés like the plague." And that's good advice. (Now that I've had my fun with clichés, I'll spare you any more.) Advice for budding writers goes double for anyone who is meeting or re-meeting someone, especially when you're single.

You have a dilemma. You want to make a good first impression. You want to sound fresh, original and interesting so he or she will want to continue talking to you. But the question in your mind--"Haven't we met before?" or "Haven't I seen you somewhere?"--sounds stale, boring, and out of touch.

When you know the right strategy, either one could be a good conversation starter. Otherwise, they sound like clichés at best and feeble pickup lines at worst.

Speaking of pickup lines, excuse me while I think out loud: I'm assuming that you really did see this person somewhere. But could you use this cliché as an opening gambit, an effective way to start a conversation with anyone? Yes, you certainly could.

Your next step: Create a menu of conversation starters

Haven't we met before?" This cliché can be like a waiter getting someone's attention so he can tempt them with the chef's specialties. Instead of food, today's feature is a buffet of conversation starters. How do you display them so you catch someone's interest?

Simply expand on the question, like so: "Haven't we met before? Did I see you at ...?"

Listen up. What follows "Did I see you at ..." is crucial. Name a bunch of places or events you've been in the last year. Choose ones that showcase who you are and what you like to do. Be authentic. If you're looking for someone who likes the same things you do, it's pointless to try to impress someone. So don't mention opera if it bores you.

An ice breaker example

Here's what a good conversation starter might sound like with the dots filled in: "Haven't we met before? Did I see you at the Unitarian Church or the Batman movie or the sculpture exhibit or the bluegrass festival?" (Pause for a response.) "No? How about the Humane Society fundraiser?"

Now you sound like a real person, someone with a life, someone worth talking to. If your new acquaintances haven't been to any of the same places, that's not your fault. At least you've left a breadcrumb trail of good conversation topics to follow up on. And I hope they do.

And now I'd like to invite you to download more good conversation questions. Get "15 Fun, Free, and Original Ice Breakers & Conversation Questions for Parties, Dates, and Hanging Out With Friends." Go to http://www.QueenOfConversation.com/15-Sure-Fire-Conversation-Starters.html

Author's Bio: 

Have you ever wanted to get to know someone, and you didn't know what to say? I supply the questions that start the conversation and keep it going.

My Mission: to help people connect through questions. It’s my passion! I love putting people together. As you know, some of the people you spend a lot of time with are virtually strangers. An enduring friendship is just a question away.

Here’s my idea of a great evening: Invite a dozen friends, who might or might not know each other, to dinner. Toss a salad and toss out a question such as this one: “Tell us your close encounters of the celebrity kind. Do you live near Michael Jordan’s cousin? Did you talk with Teri Hatcher in an airport? Did Tom Selleck smile at you?” [Yes, he did. And what a dazzling smile it was.]

A good conversation question can take everyone from soup to dessert. Try it and see. Get 15 sure-fire conversation starters plus my free ezine with handy conversation tips and ice breakers, too. Go to http://www.QueenOfConversation.com