Networking can be an incredibly valuable tool to a business owner. It can open up all kinds of opportunities — from new partnerships to long-lasting customers or clients. Imagine how many of those potential relationships didn't happen because your body language at a networking event was giving off the wrong signals.

The reality is that we're not always aware of our own body language, and even if our intentions are good, a variety of factors may keep us from presenting ourselves in the best light. The kind of day you've experienced may weigh on your mind and unknowingly impact your body language. You may have had an unpleasant encounter that irritated you and led to an angry look on your face. Whatever the circumstances you find yourself in, try to be conscious of the signs your body language is putting out, because they can result in business consequences.

Your face says a lot

Your face can tell a lot about you by conveying the emotions you're feeling. It can also show boredom, disinterest, skepticism, arrogance, and a variety of other unattractive qualities. Your face can show the people with whom you are speaking that you really do care what they have to say and that you are interested in what they have to offer in the conversation. You may have to politely tell them afterwards that you're not actually interested in what they’re offering in a business sense, but at least they’ll have a positive impression of you as a person, which may come in handy later on.

Part of your facial expression comes in the form of eye contact, and it is one of the most crucial aspects of body language in showing respect to those with whom you're networking. "Some of the most powerful and successful business leaders in the world are known for the impressions they make during face-to-face meetings," says BNI founder Ivan Misner.1 "Their gaze never wavers from the eyes of the person they are speaking with, making them feel as if they are the most important person in the room. With a little practice, anyone can do this. Are you making good eye contact throughout the conversation? Or are you looking behind the person to see who else is in the room?"

Your posture is your image

Many networking opportunities come in the form of events filled with people, whether they're from within your industry, members of your community, or otherwise. As people mingle with one another, they see the other people in the room before making decisions about whom they'd like to interact with. Remember that you're one of those people in the room, whether you're initiating conversations or being approached by others. You must be aware of your posture so that you're presenting an image of confidence and respect. Stand straight and proud to project an image of someone others would be interested in forming a relationship with.

Remove barriers of contact

People usually don't want to approach others whom they perceive as busy, so if you're holding something, it's going to look like you have something else going on. This may impede numerous conversations before they ever happen.

Forbes contributor Carol Kinsey Goman offers a suggestion:2 "My default networking behavior was to go directly to the wine and food stations – so that I would have something to do immediately upon arrival. I’ve learned that if I wanted people to see me as comfortable and friendly, I needed to stop using objects (my drink and plate of food) as physical barriers. It made me look closed off and resistant. And the minute I stopped blocking my body (which can also be done with a purse, briefcase, cell phone or crossed arms), I looked and felt more open and approachable."

There is more to body language than you might think. Other considerations may include your arm and hand movements, your handshake, and how much smiling you're doing. Pay attention to others in the room who are giving you a good impression and take mental note of how they're carrying themselves. If you think you need help with body language or feel awkward in a crowd, ask a trusted friend for feedback, or even practice role-playing. Learning how to make the most of your body language is a skill worth developing.




The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice. Any views expressed in this article may not necessarily be those of Nevada State Bank, a division of ZB, N.A. Member FDIC