At the beginning of this year I found myself living in a new town, running a network marketing business with Stella & Dot, and in the early stages of launching my own business, Lolo Lovett Style Consultancy. And I knew no one. Seriously, I’m not exaggerating here – I didn’t know a soul in a good 10-mile radius!
So I did what I’ve done so many times before – and forced myself to get out there. I goggled every meet-up I could find. I talked to strangers in Starbucks. I went to every event that I could. In six weeks, I had attended 18 different networking events and coffee mornings and also decided to start my own networking group for women. I was getting somewhere, but it wasn’t easy.
I’m going to be honest… I hate small talk. Like, loathe it. I got to the point that if I heard or said, “so what do you do?” one more time I was bound to go mad. Plus I really don’t think this kind of chatter is best for building relationships. Yes it’s great to know people but to really get to KNOW them; you need to connect on a deeper level. You need to get personal and open the conversation up so you really get to know them. But how do you do that you ask? One word – jewellery!
Ok stay with me here. Compliments are an amazingly easy way to create conversation. Now I don’t go giving them out a dime a dozen, but as a grew up with a strong background in jewellery, its one of the first things I notice about other women (or snazzy men!), so its easy for me to talk about. It’s out there, it’s obvious, and it’s a safe topic – but it’s also personal. Most pieces of jewellery will have some kind of story attached to them, which lay the ground for getting to know someone beyond what they do and where they live.
There are two ways to make jewellery work for you as conversation starter: 1) compliment someone else’s or 2) wear a piece that makes a statement. It’s as simple as that – and here’s how to make it work:
1) Compliment someone else
Everyone loves a compliment. If you start your introduction by saying, “wow, I love your…” its safe to say that the person that you are speaking with will take an instant liking to you. In fact, there’s a good chance she is just as nervous as you and might have spent a decent amount of time trying to decide what to wear. Those earrings aren’t just an afterthought. So thanks for noticing. People like people that make them feel good about themselves; it’s as simple as that.
Make it a conversation starter, not just a statement. Once you’ve said you loved it, don’t stop there, keep that dialogue going. Ask where it’s from or what it’s made of. Or comment if you have a similar piece and then [insert your own story here!]. Simples.
It’s personal. So it will help you build a relationship on a deeper level. Maybe it was a gift, or a special purchase for a special occasion, or just something cheap from Primark. Whatever the story is behind it, the point is most jewellery has a story an actual story behind it.
It makes a change from the small talk. Most people will welcome any break from having that ‘who are you / what do you do’ conversation over and over. So by breaking away from the standard chat, you’re likely to be more memorable and possibly even find common ground that could lead to a coffee, a friendship or a new client.
Just be genuine and don't over do it. Never compliment just to compliment - the person you're talking might not see through it but your feigned interest will not put you in the best light. And don't compliment EVERY thing she is wearing or compliment EVERY woman you speak to... keep it real!
2) Wear a statement piece that will get others talking
It will grab attention. It’s likely there will be several other people in attendance, so anything you can do to stand out and make yourself memorable is a good thing.
It can help you tell your story. Wear something that’s meaningful to you. Charm bracelets are always great for this – you can carry a wristful of stories around with you in a delicate way. Or perhaps wear the birthstones of your children. Or the bracelet your husband gave you as a wedding gift. Or that chunky necklace you bought for a wedding last summer – it will add instant interest to a simple classic T-shirt and jeans look.
Find a piece that means something to you. This can be as simple as wearing a charm that showcases what you do (like a hair dryer for a hairdresser, or get more clever like a key for an estate agent). Or buy something from your local boutique – then you can talk about how you love to support local businesses.
Again, don't over do it. Coco Chanel famously said, "before you leave the house, look in the mirror, take one thing off." I love this saying and frequently abide by it! Even if you're normal style borders on eclectic, for the purposes of networking try to streamline it so that one thing really stands out.
This list is just a guidelines - but try it out and see what works best for you. If jewellery really isn't your thing, you can still compliment others and perhaps choose another item of clothing or accessory for yourself - a dress with special details, quirky shoes or a bright scarf. Make it your own and your sure to shine and make a memorable first impression.
How to wear it
Now that you know how to make a statement piece work for you, here are five of my favourite options to spark that conversation...
1) Statement necklace
It’s simple, straightforward and almost guaranteed to grab a compliment every time. At the moment, I love the new Twilight necklace from Stella & Dot – it looks fab under a collared shirt.
2) A quirky watch
If you’re not a big jewellery person, a watch is a great way to keep it simple and practical but still get noticed.
3) Your own charm story
A charm necklace or bracelet is fab for sharing your own story – choose charms that relate to you interests, initials for your partner/children, birthstones – options are endless!
4) Earrings with a twist
Whether you want Primark or diamonds, ear cuffs and jackets are all the rage at the moment and you can find them in tons of different styles and prices. They are particularly great if you have short hair
5) Show off an arm party
Another excellent way to share your own story. Keep it practical with your trusty watch then stack away.
Will you give the jewellery compliment tactic a go at your next networking event? Which statement is your favourite?