Body language can be extremely powerful when it comes to networking and building relationships with others. Within the first seven seconds of meeting you, people check you out visually.
Could you be unknowingly undermining your networking efforts through your body language? If you are meeting with new prospects or planning to host an event, you'd better make sure you are not discouraging people from approaching you with your body language.
Here are four key factors to keep in mind:
1. Eye contact. Some of the most powerful and successful business leaders in the world are known for the impressions they make during face-to-face meetings. Their gaze never wavers from the eyes of the person they are speaking with, making them feel as if they are the most important person in the room. With a little practice, anyone can do this.
Are you making good eye contact throughout the conversation? Or are you looking behind the person to see who else is in the room?
2. Arm movement. If you are speaking to someone and your arms are in a position that gives even a subliminal hint that you're not interested, you’re not going to give off a positive impression.
What are your arms doing? Are they folded, signifying boredom, or tucked behind your back, indicating interest?
3. Your stance. Make an effort to stand in a manner that is open and welcoming, rather than blocking people out of your conversation. Are you leaning on something, as if bored or tired? Are you unable to shake hands because you're juggling a plateful of food?
4. Facial expressions. Maintaining an interested facial expression goes hand in hand with maintaining eye contact. Are you smiling, or holding back a yawn? Are you showing interest? What does your face say?
It should go without saying that yawning while someone is talking to you is a surefire way to shut them down immediately, yet I have seen this happen more times than I can count while observing conversations at networking events.
Remember that much of your future networking success rides on how you come across in that first encounter. You want people to perceive you as alert, interested, knowledgeable and trustworthy.
Try these two actions in the next few weeks to help ensure that you are making positive and powerful first impressions:
- Look in the mirror before leaving the house and ask yourself: "What message am I sending to people meeting me for the first time? What opinions will they have of me before I even open my mouth?"
- Become more aware of your body language by getting feedback. What are you saying without speaking a word? Before you host your own event, take a trusted friend with you to a networking function and ask them to give you honest, direct feedback on your body language. Provide them with a small checklist of the four factors discussed above and be prepared for their honest insights.
A little feedback can go a long way to helping you present yourself in the best way possible.