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How to read body language at a networking event

Body language is incredibly important when it comes to networking, in fact according to studies up to 95% of most messages are communicated non verbally. Whether you’re aware of it or not, you’ll be assessing another person based on their body language, and they will be sizing you up too. Could it be that without even knowing it, your body language is turning people away and harming all your networking efforts?

Here are some body language pointers to keep in mind so you’re not inadvertently discouraging people from approaching you.

It’s all in the eyes

Eye contact is the most powerful of all the body language communications we have. Maintaining eye contact with someone while you’re speaking to them makes them feel like they are the most important person in the room, and that you’re interested in what they have to say. As I say in our training courses, aim for 60% direct eye contact during a conversation – more when you are listening, less when you are speaking – should make for a comfortable productive exchange. Flicking your line of sight elsewhere while talking says you’re a bit nervous, intimidated, unsure of yourself or looking for someone better to talk to.

Your arms

It’s amazing what impact your arms have on the other person’s opinion of you! If you’re not particularly interested in what a person is saying, you might find your arms are folded or tucked behind your back. It’s OK to be holding a glass (and in fact this relaxes people) or keep them in a relaxed position by your side to show them you’re open to having a conversation.

Your posture

Standing up tall and facing the person you’re speaking to tells them you’re open and welcoming, and they will be more inclined to start a conversation with you. This only works when two people are talking. If the group is larger be mindful not to dis-clude anyone with your posture. If you have your back turned to them or are slouching, it could signal that you’re not interested and they won’t bother approaching you.

Look happy

Human faces are capable of more than 10,000 different expressions!!! Your facial expressions say a lot about how you’re feeling. Are you smiling, frowning, yawning or looking bored? A disinterested facial expression will without a doubt shut down the conversation you’re having, so make sure you smile, maintain eye contact and at least look interested even if you aren’t!

When you meet someone for the first time, they will visually assess you based on your body language within the first 7 seconds. First impression do matter a lot, so make sure you give off the right impression for successful networking.

Need a networking refresher or confidence boost? Why not try our short and sweet Business Networking Skills Workshop.

Julia Palmer, a respected Networking Strategist and Chief Executive of the Business Networking Academy, presenting and training on how to create and manage networks that work. To learn more visit &

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