We all think we know how we are supposed to act for an important meeting. You might have practised your pitch and have researched everything possible, leaving no stone unturned; but within the meeting itself, you could be letting yourself down without knowing it through your body language.
Even before you speak, your body language is giving away clues to how you are feeling. You may have been told the basics, such as don’t fidget, cross your arms or bite your nails, but there are some that are less obvious that can help or hinder your communication and improve the likelihood of you securing the deal or being offered the job:
1. Before entering a meeting don’t check your phone – Look around the room at others waiting, what are they doing? It now seems the norm that if people have a spare second or two they check their phones, which can be interpreted as an unwillingness to communicate with people in the same room. Instead read a magazine or newspaper, or strike up a conversation with someone who is not immersed in the digital world – you may end up talking to a potential client or read an interesting article that could act as an ice breaker.
2. When meeting someone for the first time make sure not to lean in too much – Leaning forward can make someone think that you want something from them or you may be invading their personal space. To make sure you don’t lean in and seem overly keen put your weight on your back foot: this will stop the leaning and give you a slightly more confident/relaxed posture. It is also important to bear in mind that different cultures have different comfort zones when it comes to personal space, some preferring greater distances than others.
3. Don’t maintain constant eye contact – Every article you read on good interview technique usually says something along the lines of ‘maintain good eye contact’, but this doesn’t mean staring continuously until you leave. In natural conversations you usually break eye contact within 7-10 seconds, but in a pressured situation you may forget this and end up looking at them wide-eyed for the whole duration of the conversation. Make sure you look away briefly and blink or you may be misinterpreted as being intimidating, aggressive or too ‘full on’. Also, by keeping constant eye contact you may miss signals from their body language that could help you to interpret the thoughts and feelings underlying their words.
4. Head tilting – In many ways head tilting can be positive- a reassurance at times, as it can convey empathy, thought and understanding- but be aware when you are using it. In certain situations it can be appropriate, but tilting your head sideways when making a statement can undermine the point you are trying to make. When asking questions, different head tilts can indicate the undertones of a question: someone asking the question ‘What did you do today?’ when tilting their head down communicates a different meaning to someone tilting their head to the side and asking (disapproving vs interest).
5. Over-gesturing – Gesturing can be helpful when trying to convey an important point but over-gesturing can indicate nervousness. Waving your arms around too much may distract from what you’re saying. Likewise, nodding – which can show that you are paying attention or agree with what someone is saying- can easily turn into you looking like a nodding dog and may be misread as gutless or not having ideas of your own.