How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
Check your list
Have a long list of things you can talk about. Keep it in your wallet and take a peek just before you get into a conversation.
You can keep a standard list that can be used in any situation.
You can have specialized lists, for example chatting up a member of the opposite sex or talking about technical topics with peers.
You can also have one-off lists, for example when you are going to meet somebody important to you, you can spend time beforehand listing things that you can discuss (or maybe that you want to discuss).
Keep building your list. Listen to other people in conversation (including people who talk to you) and add inspiring ideas to your list.
A boy is going out with a girl for the first time. He elicits help from friends and his list includes the concert next week, her family and how to dance the salsa (which he has found she is learning). Just before he sees her, he takes a peek at the list to remind himself.
A sales person keeps a list of things to ask customers, including informal chat subjects and formal things to remember. She reviews the list in the car before going into talk with the customer.
In the pressure that we often feel when starting a conversation it is easy to freeze or otherwise run out of things to say. A list provides an easy way of remembering things to say or discuss.
Just having the list close to you, in a purse or pocket, makes visualization and mental access of the list a little easier.
In a business situation it often looks efficient to have the list out in front of you, and tick off the subjects as you cover them. In a social situation, this would probably look at bit anal.