From the Assoc for Accounting Administration conference the other day, I posted about consultant Gale Crosley's suggestion to conduct "research calls" instead of the ordinary lunch-with-the-referral-source approach.
For those unfamiliar with the research call approach, here's an article on Crosley's website recapping the method and offering a few sample questions.
I suggest taking it a couple steps deeper if you try this.
There is tremendous power in the art of the question if you desire a memorable conversation. Asking a thought-provoking question and being engaged in the answer such that you're able to construct equally thought-provoking follow-on questions is a skill just about anyone can learn.
I recommend the books or tapes of an excellent speaker (from the 1997 Assoc. for Accounting Marketing conference in New Orleans...a GREAT event for many reasons...) by the name of Charlie Brennan who teaches advanced listening skills and authored "Sales Questions That Close the Sale."
The fact that Brennan's methods heard in a 1-1/2 hour keynote have stuck with me (an admitted brain content purger) for nearly 10 years should say a lot. His instruction inspired active listening training I've presented several times so it's good "train the trainer" stuff. The best examples that he used were interview snips of top journalists asking deep comparative questions.
It was Brennan who first convinced me that a memorable conversation is created when a person is challenged (caringly) to a) think in a new way about something they perceived they already knew most everything about or b) see something more complex in that which they considered ordinary.
These are the sort of results to provoke with your questions. Those that even CEOs and intellectual types can appreciate and won't find insulting to their intelligence.
Also on questioning/listening, someone else (can't remember the source) taught me that if you let the other person do most of the talking (by asking questions and listening attentively) they will be more likely to remember you as a great conversationalist.
And then there is the genius (who coined the saying?) that came up with something to the effect of "We're given two ears and one mouth--we should use them proportionately."