Things In Common
One thing I've found that works very well is starting with what else, a personal conversation. But again you can't just start with topics like religion and politics. "Hi, I'm Matt. What do you think the moral implications of the war on Iraq will be on our future generation?" is probably not a good opening line either.
Instead you have to find the right topic. My favorite thing is to look for things that I have in common with the person. Perhaps a similar sports team we both like, or a recent trip we both may have taken, or I am planning to take.
Bottom line to all of this, you have to search for something that will get them talking so you can morph the conversation into something you want to talk about. Something in common is rarely a bad place to start.
If I ever had the chance to meet Fuzzy Zoeller, I'd bring up the fact that we share the same birthday and then ask him how come when my tee shot goes in the rough, it never comes back like his did.
Watch this video
Thanks Brian for the video