When you analyse communication between people, non verbal communication is the single biggest piece of that pie, which means it is one of the most important skills to master when networking.
One of the benefits of networking with people face-to-face vs. online is that you can see their reactions and get a "read" on them.
At the same time, they can do the same with you. On the plus side, you can convey your interest and genuineness more easily.
On the downside, you have to be more aware than ever about your body language and expressions.
Here are four of the most important components of body language that you need to pay attention to:
1. Your posture
The way you stand can communicate how open you are to being approached, your energy level, your professionalism, and even the way you were brought up.
Didn’t your mother ever tell you stand up straight? Mine did!
Make sure you do stand up straight, but not as if you’re in the military. You want to appear open and friendly, not rigid and formal. Before you go to meetings was you are dressed and ready to go check your posture in the mirror.
If you slouch, you may look tired, disinterested or unenthusiastic. Find a happy medium where you stand up straight with your shoulders back, far enough away from the other person to allow personal space, and with a sense of energy.
When you are seated at a meeting make sure you are not slouching while sitting. You want to be engaging while sitting with others. Slouching will send that disinterested message.
2. Arm movement
Gestures and where you put your hands when you’re not using them are both elements of body language that communicate different things. This is another one things to practice in front of the mirror or video camera.
Waving your arms around while you talk may seem to portray excitement, but it can also be distracting. You want to make sure people are focused on you not your arms!
Putting your hands in your back pockets may be more casual and comfortable, but it can also look unprofessional.
Crossing your arms is also a big no-no in many circles since it communicates a resistance to new ideas or putting up a barrier between you and the people you are talking to.
You may be completely unaware of your common gestures, so ask a friend to pay attention to them during a practice conversation.
3. Facial expressions
People will be looking at your face more than anywhere else, so be careful of your facial expressions.
If you frown at what someone is saying, they will immediately assume you disagree or disapprove. Try not to frown and keep a positive mental attitude so you can come across positive with the people you talk to.
Worse, someone may capture that on camera or see it from across the room. This sends the wrong message and you want to be seen as somebody who is positive and uplifting to talk with.
Keeping a slight smile on your face is a good habit to practice no matter what situation you’re in. It makes you look warm and friendly – like someone that others would like to meet.
4. Eye contact
If there is no other body language you focus on, it should be eye contact.
The best networkers use their eyes to communicate the feeling that you are the person they are most interested in at that moment.
And never let your eyes drift to other people in the room, as if you’re looking for someone better to talk to. Don't look around at other people or objects while you are talking with somebody.
Practice having a conversation with a friend, preferably in a room full of people, and ask them for feedback afterwards on what your eye contact felt like.
Did they feel as if you were not fully engaged? Did they feel like you were “staring them down”?
Now go stand in front of a mirror and practice having a conversation with an imaginary person. Alternatively, video yourself and check what you are doing when you are talking.
Answer and ask questions you might normally talk about in a networking event.
As you talk, pay attention to your body language and what you need to work on.
Over to You
This is the face to face piece that follwos on from my previous article on your social media profiles. So do you go to live networking events? If you do, what do you find the most important things you need to do to build relationships? Leave a comment!