I am not a big fan of small talk. I understand that when people don't really know others very well, they tend to ask simple questions like "Hey, how's it going?" or "How are you?" But what do we really get to know about people by asking those questions?
Most people respond with "Good, how about you?" Or the grammatically correct people respond with "Fine, how about you?"
Not many people speak what is really on their minds. They don't want to burden other people with their feelings. I say, burden other people! Chances are, if you're willing to let down your guard and really tell someone how you're feeling, they'll do the same thing and you create a bond.
Another example of small talk: handshakes. I know shaking hands isn't talking, but the way a person gives a handshake says a lot about him or her.
I have a teacher who stresses this to our class often because he wants us to know that in the real world outside of high school, people value first impressions. We should be confident in our handshakes and prove we know who we are and what we want.
I think everyone should come up with a weird, quirky question to ask someone when they first meet them. Instead of the traditional "How are you?" to make conversation with someone, why not say something like, "What's a song that you catch yourself singing a lot?" or "When's the last time you made awkward eye contact with someone across the room?" Those questions are sure to start conversation.
Think of funny questions that break the ice of talking to someone new. I personally love talking to new people and the weirder the question is that I ask them, the weirder an answer is that I get. It's a great way to find out something about someone that you didn't know before.
I'm going on a mission trip over my spring break, and I am going to use these questions to get to know the people I will be helping.
I challenge anyone reading this (thanks for that by the way!) to come up with a question that will catch someone off guard and change the meaning of small talk.