Once at a party, an older woman told me she didn't like me. I had just met the woman.
Elizabeth Bernstein, WSJ, Aug 13, 2013, says you need to keep this skill up to date. Your small talk can get rusty.
You need to walk up to someone, get started, yes, this could mean the weather. A compliment is also good--I love those shoes.
Give a little info about yourself--but don't launch into your favorite topic or you will blab too much.
Alcohol may seem like it's making you a better talker--it may not be.
The web also has made us worse small talkers--videogaming won't improve your skills (unless you hang with gamers).
I usually ask what the person "does"--but that was Washington. In Arizona, that isn't a winner. I also hate to sort of ask, "Before you retired what did you do?"
If it goes quiet, don't worry--the other person may be thinking up something to say.
For your part, ask questions--about the other person. That works.
Usually. I had asked that older woman what her book she was writing was about and she apparently didn't want to tell me. And--she hated me.