Body language is a significant part of conversation. Whether you like it or not, when you are interacting with people face-to-face, how you move and look greatly influences how you are perceived. When you are networking and building a base of new customers or potential business partners, body language is crucial to how you make a good first impression and show your audience you are attentive and interested in them. Here are six tips to keep in mind next time you are meeting someone important.
- Maintain eye contact
Maintaining proper eye contact means that you are looking your counterpart in the face and holding a soft gaze when they are speaking. This shows that you are interested in what the other person is saying and are paying close attention. Letting your eyes wander off will make it look like you are not engaged and are scanning the room for someone better to speak to. While holding eye contact during a conversation is good, don’t stare. Check in every so often to be sure you are engaging them without making them feel uncomfortable.
- Facial expressions
Apart from maintaining eye contact, keeping your facial expressions in check is another big part of mastering your body language. When meeting somebody and speaking to them, show open interest in them. Things like yawning, rolling of the eyes, heavy sighing , smirks and other expressions suggesting boredom, condescension or similar negative feelings towards your conversation partners should be avoided.
Of course, not everybody you meet will be interesting to you at first, but showing disdain or disapproval openly could adversely impact the rest of your networking efforts if others see your reactions and form a negative opinion of you.
- Keep your arms free
The arms are a great tool to influence how people perceive you. If you use your arms correctly, you can take an open, welcoming stance, encouraging others to come and speak to you. While talking, you can gesture to emphasize what you are saying and make the conversation livelier and fun to follow. Keeping your arms tucked loosely behind your back will help you convey interest all while keeping your arms in place.
On the other hand, you can unknowingly create a barrier with your arms or things you are holding. Crossing your arms in front of your chest, or having them in your pockets suggests disinterest or boredom.
As great as events are that offer drinks and food, when you are juggling a glass, plate and briefcase, you are sending signals that you don’t want anyone to approach you. So, put down your food, stow away your bag and get ready to network.
- Stance and posture
Standing up straight is a sign that you are confident in yourself, have healthy self-esteem and are open to meeting people. Good posture can also make you feel better about yourself and allow you to radiate this feeling to the people around you. On the contrary, standing in a slouch will make you look small, tentative, unapproachable and less assured.
Next time you head to a networking event, try power-posing before you head into the room. This means you adopt a pose where you place your feet wide apart, put your hands on your hips and raise your head proudly. This kind of stance will boost your energy level, confidence and self-esteem and is a great way to get ready for entering a room full of strangers.
Touch is one of our most important senses and plays a great role in how we perceive and recall people. Research has shown that you remember people twice as well if you have touched them. Of course, this goes for others too.
This touch can be simple and quick, like a handshake when you first meet. A light touch on the arm is also a great way to build rapport and make people instantly feel closer to you. Try it next time you meet someone new and see how much friendlier and open they become.
When applying this tip, please remember to be aware of cultural norms. Not everybody likes to be touched and in some countries, it’s considered a faux-pas.
Apart from making you more attractive, a smile is a great way to win people over from the beginning. To use smiles even more effectively, try a slow-onset smile. This means that you smile lightly when you approach someone and grow it organically as you are introduced and shake hands. This creates a more lasting impression of friendliness and openness and is also perceived as sincerer than approaching people with a huge grin.