Fill a void in a conversation with information about today's events. Think about a recent news story you've read, and bring it up. This will focus the discussion on the news, and encourage your partner to weigh in with his opinion and share related stories he's read as well. Before you know it, the awkward moment will be forgotten and you'll have talked about every related news story you've read in the past month.
Move away from an awkward moment by bringing up something about which you are enthusiastic. It doesn't even matter what it is, because the focus of this tactic is the emotion, not the particular subject matter. If you say, "You know, I really love model airplanes. I just can't get enough of them," then the conversation will move onto hobbies and passions and your partner will likely feel inclined to tell you about some of her own. Now that you've moved onto something new and exciting, the awkwardness will subside.
Train of Thought
Ask a question that starts with "who," "what," "why" or another open-ended question to end an awkward pause in a conversation. If your partner enjoys talking about himself and you give him the opportunity to do so, you will be shifting the attention onto him while shifting it away from silence. For example, "I've been meaning to ask you, what made you develop an interest in model planes?" might have your partner relating memories from childhood, adolescent pursuits and other meaningful contributors to the hobby. Avoid questions that can be answered with a simple "yes" or "no."
Fill an awkward silence with an opinion and see how your partner reacts. Keep it light, though. Don't weigh in on the hot political topics, and don't talk about your disdain for radical protesters, as these are both one-way tickets to more awkwardness. Rather, talk about a song you heard, the beer you're drinking or a movie you recently saw and enjoyed -- or hated. Opinions are effective conversation changers because they encourage others to weigh in, which encourages more discussion.