Carducci has written a five-step guide for how to get a good conversation rolling with a perfect stranger:
1) Getting Started. Begin with comments about the weather or other facets of the environment (e.g., “Boy, this line is long”). Let others know that you are willing to make conversation, nothing more, nothing less.
2) The Personal Introduction: Who You Are, Something About You. In addition to clearly enunciating your name, you can anticipate the next question and provide information about what you do for a living or recreation. A common mistake made by bad conversationalists is to provide only a terse comment within the personal introduction, such as “I work at the mall.” A more constructive response might be, “I work at the mall selling cell phones, and you would not believe the reasons people give me for wanting a cell phone.”
3) Pre-Topical Selection: Fishing for Topics. Next, throw out topics for possible discussion. “I really like this movie.” The implicit rule is, when someone throws out a topic, support it either by asking a question or making a comment.
4)Post-Topical Elaboration: Expanding the Topic. For example, when talking about the vacations, you might say, “Speaking of vacations, we had some great Caribbean food on our last vacation.” Now you can talk about food or food-related topics (e.g., other ethnic foods, cooking shows, music heard in restaurants).
5) Conversation Termination: A Gracious Ending that Creates the Connection. Finally, when terminating a conversation, let the person know you’ll be leaving soon, express gratitude for the conversation, summarize some of the major points, and set the stage for future conversation.
More worthwhile details at the link.