We've mentioned before that nonverbal communication is one of five ways to improve your communication skills. Now we'll go further in-depth on what nonverbal communication is and why it's important in professional networking.
You may be surprised how much you communicate without speaking a single word. Some researchers have estimated that your words account for as little as 7% of your communication. The rest is either nonverbal or tone of voice. How you dress, how you stand, where you look, and how you sound are all forms of nonverbal communication. They add a lot of context to the words you speak when building relationships. We’ll cover the elements of your nonverbal communication and how to make them work for you at your next business networking event. Here in part 1, this is what we’ll cover:
One of the first impressions people will have of you is how you look. People make subtle judgments about people based on their appearance. Your choice of clothes, hairstyle and other aspects of your appearance all say a lot about you.
You’ve heard before that you should dress for the job you want. That’s especially true when it comes to building relationships at business networking groups. You don’t want to show up looking like you take Casual Friday too casually. Semi-formal business attire is usually a good bet. Wear shoes you can comfortably stand in and clothing that isn’t too tight. You want to be comfortable so you can show confidence. Here’s a guide to different types of business attire. Remember: When in doubt, add a blazer.
When it comes to business networking introductions, the handshake is your bread and butter. It may even be more important than your elevator pitch. Have you ever gone in for a handshake and met a limp wrist or a crushing grip? Have you ever been the recipient of a handshake that went on for way too long? You understand exactly how important it is to have a good handshake.
Make sure you meet the other person's position before offering a handshake. If they're standing, you should stand up before extending your hand. If they're sitting, sit down as well. Make sure your handshake is firm and lasts no longer than 2-3 seconds.
Your posture says a lot about who you are. The way you're sitting or standing can communicate how comfortable you are, your degree of professionalism, and your general disposition toward a conversation or particular person. Slouching makes you look tired and unsure of yourself. Keep your back straight and turn your whole body to face the person you’re speaking with. It shows confidence and openness.
What you do with your hands can affect your communication in a lot of ways. It can emphasize an idea, dilute your message, or completely contradict what you're saying. So be aware of the hand gestures you use. Avoid crossing your arms. Keep your hands open and out where your partner can see them instead of hanging at your sides or in your pockets. This shows that you're engaged in the conversation. You can avoid fidgeting by holding a pen or a business card.
Look forward to part 2 of this series, where we’ll discuss these elements of nonverbal communication:
In the meantime, you can find a business networking group near you to brush up on your nonverbal communication skills and get more business referrals.