I visit a chiropractor who has great skills, a good heart, and tedious communication skills. He tried too hard. He makes conversation instead of inviting it.
For example, he asked, "how was your drive down?" This can be an acceptably good icebreaker question if you are actually interested in the response. I didn't detect genuine interest, but decided to respond in a way that gave him something to go with. I briefly mentioned the CD I enjoyed while driving and shared a quick observation I made on the trip.
He proceeded to ask about the weather, what I've been doing lately and other unrelated topics without any indication of having listened to any of my responses.
It would be okay if he was comfortable with silence, but he's not. As soon as it gets quiet, he throws out another canned icebreaker.
One thing that helps me in my world of chit-chat is to think about my task as inviting conversation instead of making it. Of course, when you offer an invitation, you need to be prepared to respond to your guest. So an important tip is, don't ask a question if you have no interest in the response.
Diane Windingland and I wrote a book of icebreaker phrases. It's not about making conversation. It's about inviting it. Check it out.