You could be unknowingly undermining your networking efforts through your body language. 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. Therefore, it is important to know the four key body language factors to help you present yourself in the best way possible when networking.
Networking Body Language Factors
1. Eye contact.
Are you making good eye contact throughout the conversation? Some of the most successful business leaders in the world are known for the impressions they make with their eye contact. 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. They are not looking behind the person to whom they are speaking to see who else is in the room. With a little practice, anyone can do this.
2. Arm movement.
Everyone “talks” with their hands. A good networker uses gestures that match their message well. However, poor networkers tend to make distracting gestures. It is important to pay attention to your hand gestures while you are networking. If you are speaking to someone and your arms are folded together, this gives the impression that you are not interested and bored with their conversation. Therefore, to give off a positive impression when networking, your arms should be tucked behind your back, indicating interest in the conversation.
3. Your stance.
Are you leaning on something, as if bored or tired? Make an effort to stand in a manner that is open and welcoming, rather than blocking people out of your conversation. Standing with your legs shoulder-width apart signals determination. However, shifting your weight from one foot to the other or rocking forward indicates that you are anxious or upset. Finally, we all tend to lean toward people we like and pull away from those we do not.
4. Facial expressions.
Your networking success rides on how you come across in that first encounter. You want people to perceive you as alert, interested, knowledgeable, and trustworthy. Every facial expression you make tells a story. Are you smiling and showing interest in the conversation? Yawning while someone is talking to you is a surefire way to shut them down immediately. I have seen this happen more times than I can count while observing conversations at networking events.
Two steps to ensure that you are making a positive impression:
- 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.
If you are networking with new prospects, make sure that your body language is not discouraging people from approaching you.