Body Language for Networking
In the past, we’ve written about appropriate body language for job interviews. Now let’s talk a little about body language for networking.
First a reminder: over half of what we communicate comes from our body language, so it pays to think about this.
Some of these tips will be similar to what we suggested for interviews, but there are subtle differences. And, if you are uncomfortable networking or are working on developing your networking skills, these will be helpful to remember and might even put you more at ease. The key to all of it is mindfulness – just being aware of your own posture, gestures, and expressions.
So, you walk into an event. If the first thing you usually do is to go straight to the bar and snack table, stop doing that. It is very difficult to shake someone’s hand or really talk to someone if you’re holding a drink or stuffing your face. Wait to go to the bar or the buffet line until you’re with a partner or a group, engaged in conversation.
Maintain eye contact. They say really successful people really look at you when they’re talking to you (whoever “they” are). But this one is true. The person you’re talking to should feel like they are the most important person in the room to you.
Keeping looking at the person’s eyes you’re conversing with, with occasional looks to the side when you’re searching your brain for the right word. You can’t very well concentrate on the conversation by looking over the rest of the room. Nothing says “I’m not really interested in what you’re saying, I’m trying to find someone else to talk to” more than looking around while talking to someone. It tells them very clearly that you’re not interested. Be fully present with your conversation partner.
Keep a pleasant expression on your face. A slight raising of the corners of your mouth will look like you’re engaged without scaring someone off with an over-size grin or a frown. And a genuine smile is still the most engaging connection there is.
Watch what you do with your arms. Too much waving around is very distracting. An occasional gesture is fine to emphasize a point, but be aware if you’re invading someone else’s personal space. And, obviously, don’t cross your arms in front of your chest. Nothing quite says “back-off” like crossed arms.
Remember your posture. Stand up straight and keep your body relaxed. Otherwise you can project tension or nervousness. Directly face the person you’re talking with. And open the direction of your stance if someone else joins your conversation group.
Above all, have fun! Remember that you’re not at this event to make a sale or get a contract signed. You’re there to meet new people and make new contacts! Enjoy the process!