1. Prepare a bit. What could you talk and ask about: family, work, current events, a hobby? Starting with small talk is just fine: It’s what helps people settle down.
2. Start with an environmental comment. I’m not talking about climate change but about the immediate environment: the room, the weather, the common reason the two of you are there.
3. Listen carefully. Especially if you’re insecure in conversation, it’s tempting to think ahead to what you’re going to say next. But it’s important to listen well, curiously, and then ask a follow-up question or add something to what the person said, again perhaps finding common ground.
4. Accept discomfort. At some point, you won’t know what to say or feel you said something mundane if not downright stupid. Your conversation needn’t score 100%. If you can muster the grace to laugh at yourself or at least be quiet and allow the other person to fill in, all will be good or at least good enough.