Use open-ended questions to start a conversation

There's a link on Lifehack to The Happiness Project on " Tips for making conversations".
I found those open questions that Gretchen Rubin offered were practical.
Definitely I will be using some of those open questions to generate a conversation with my co-workers, my boss and my clients when I start working.

Here are a few that I like:
"What's keeping you busy these days?"
"What are you working on these days?'
"What brings you to this event?"

Here's a new one :
"Other than passing actuarial exams, what are you passions?"

During my internship, our team always had phone conference with other offices. Sometimes, some people were late and we were waiting on the phone with dead silence. Somehow, I knew that other people who were also waiting on the other side wanted to talk with us to avoid the awkwardness. Perhaps, by initiating to ask some open questions may make everyone to feel more comfortable at the moment.