This week, we’re diving into body language at networking events. Here are five non-verbal cues to keep an eye out for when you meet people. Speaking of eyes…
1. Eye contact
Don’t be that person who doesn’t maintain eye contact. When you’re speaking to someone at a networking event, they should be the most important person in the room to you. Make it a habit to remember the eye color of everyone you meet (but not make that the only thing you remember). Think of the last person you’ve talked with: can you remember the color of their eyes?
BUT. According to this article, eye contact should vary between the speaker and listener. When you’re listening, you should maintain eye contact about 80 percent of the time. But when you’re speaking, you should look over at the listener 50 percent of the time. Also, if you’re thinking about how to respond, it’s better to look up instead of down. Looking down is perceived as lost interest.
2. Arm position
We’ve all heard that keeping your arms crossed is uninviting. It signifies a lack of interest and should be avoided. Instead, keep your hands by your side or behind your back to show that you’re engaged.
3. Talking speed
This one, in my humble opinion, is much harder than the others to consistently do well. Generally, it’s better to talk at a slower, more conversational pace. Take pauses. That way, you have time to think before you speak and your words carry more weight. Keep it at 140 words/minute. Precisely.
4. Posture & stance
Don’t lean on anything, including that high table or your friend’s shoulder (literally…figuratively it’s still okay). Assume a “power stance” with your legs at shoulder width, shoulders back, and chest up. Not only does this convey confidence, it allows you to speak with more volume and clarity.
To ensure proper posture, put down any objects you’re holding. This means that plate of cheese and crackers, wine glass, phone, notebook, etc. You’re more approachable that way, and you’ve actually got a hand with which to shake.
When your feet are directly facing the person you’re talking to, it could come off as dominating. Instead, turn them slightly away and position yourself toward the side of the other person. This allows other people to join the conversation as well.
It’s fun to gesticulate when you’re talking without overdoing it. But pay close attention to what your palms say about you. If they’re up while you’re speaking, you’re more looking for questions and suggestions rather than offering a confident opinion. You’re looking for collaboration. Palms down means you’re making a determined, unchanging statement.
Neither palms up nor palms down is better than the other; it depends on the context.
Holistically, if there’s intent behind everything you do at a networking event, you’re going to get something good out of it. Positive body language is a natural symptom of intent.
But it’s important to pay attention to — especially since according to Ivan Misner, founder of BNI, “within the first seven seconds of meeting you, people check you out visually.” Before you even utter a word you make an impression.