For some people, the prospect of networking is the equivalent of having to go to the doctor or the dentist. The key to small talk and networking is to reframe the concept of networking and to focus on building the relationships.
Start small talk by asking open-ended questions such as “How long have you been with your company?” or “What do you do at your company?” Find some common interests such as hobbies, boards you both might sit on, your kids, etc. This helps the conversation flow.
Finally, make sure your phone is put away and that you’re actively listening.