Nail your nonverbals at your next networking event.
Looking for a new role? When you're on the hunt, it pays to cover all bases. While sitting behind your laptop and searching the web is one way to go, you shouldn't neglect IRL interactions. Getting out there and meeting like-minded professionals could help you land your dream role. In fact, one survey revealed that a massive 85% of jobs are filled through networking.
If that's got you in the mood for some free bubbly and tasty canapes, you may be looking for some advice to get it right. It's not just about what you say. Your body language speaks volumes when you're networking. Here are six things to keep in mind.
1. Stand up straight
First things first, straighten up your back. If—like many of us—you work at a computer desk all day, you may be in the habit of slouching forward. Not only is this bad for your general posture (and your back!), but it also looks meek and unassuming. You're here to make connections. That means that you're looking to attract people over to you. If you're leaning forward and looking uncomfortable, chances are that people won't be drawn to you. You're hardly putting out the right vibe there.
Instead, stand up straight and look around the room. This approach will give you an air of confidence and show people that you are interested in meeting them. Start by rolling your shoulders backward and straightening your spine. You might want to practice this ahead of your next networking session.
2. Avoid touching your hair and face
Are you in the habit of touching your hair and face? You may not even realise that you're doing this. However, research suggests that people could touch their face as much as 23 times per hour. If you're in a two-hour networking session, that's a whopping 46 times. While you may think that this tick is no big deal, it could be sending out the wrong message to other professionals. When you see someone continuously playing with their hair or face, it looks as though they are uncomfortable in their own skin.
To switch things around, try noticing when you touch your face and curbing the habit. It will be hard at first. However, when you start to see how often this happens, you can do it less and less often. You might find that it's easier to hold something—such as a glass of Prosecco or a bottle of water— to avoid this pesky one.
3. Make (a little) eye contact
Looking at everything except the person in front of you? Failing to make eye contact can make you come off as untrustworthy or awkward. You don't want to be either of those things. With that in mind, it's important to make eye contact with people the moment that you meet them. But how much is too much?
People are most comfortable with eye contact that lasts for around three seconds, according to a study published by the Royal Society. While you don't want to monitor exactly how much eye contact you're making, keep it short and sweet.
4. Don't invade people's space
Now that in-person networking sessions are back up and running, there's one golden rule that you have to remember: Don't get in people's personal space. Social distancing rules are likely to apply in most environments but, aside from that, getting too close to people can come across as rude. The truth of the matter is that people don't appreciate others getting too close to them. That is especially true when they are in a room full of strangers, i.e. other professionals trying to make new connections.
Making sure that you're not getting too close to people doesn't have to be hard. Stand roughly an arm's length away from them. That way, you're not getting too close to the person in front of you but you can hear what they are saying. When in doubt, follow the other person's lead. If they take a step back when you come close to them, respect that move and give them the space they need to be comfortable.
5. Uncross your arms
Crossing your arms can appear defensive. When you're meeting new people, the aim is to appear as open and welcoming as possible. If you're closing off half of your body with your arms, you're sending out the wrong message to the people around you. Often enough, people fold their arms as a habit and don't even realise that they are doing it. This may be something that you picked up in your childhood, for example. Alternatively if you are a naturally cold or chilly person, you may cross your arms for warmth.
Whatever the reason, getting out of this habit could make you appear more approachable to new people. That is a surefire way to make extra connections when you're out there networking. You can drop your arms down by your sides or use them to hold things. Allowing your torso and stomach area to be open shows that you are welcoming people to speak to you, rather than hiding behind your arms. Simple.
6. Remember to smile!
This last body language tip should be obvious. However, so many people forget to smile when meeting and greeting others. You may find that you are nervous and so forget the basics. That can be a real catastrophe when it comes to your networking. Should you look nervous and uncomfortable, you may make those around you feel the same way.
Instead, show some confidence and turn that frown upside down. While you don't want to walk around with a fake grin plastered on your face, make an effort to smile at people when they make eye contact with you. It's small and simple, but it really works.
Networking is an art form and it takes practice. By boosting your body language, you could improve your networking skills ten-fold. Use these tips to change the way that you hold yourself and how you interact with other professionals. You never know — it might make all the difference in the next session.
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