Don’t Just Sit Up Straight. Engage!
With more and more of our time spent online, there are hundreds of articles that will help you develop the perfect online presence. You can learn how to create an optimized social media profile, a blog post with the perfect headline, and a website that will make you look like the pre-eminent expert in your field.
For most of us, though, our digital activity eventually funnels us back into the “real-world.” No matter how fancy your CRM or iPhone app, most deals get done face-to-face. It’s hard to shake someone’s hand to seal the deal when you aren’t sitting across from them!
So no matter how stunning your online presence, if you come across as an awkward, incompetent fool in a face-to face meeting, you aren’t going to get what you want in your professional life.
Most professionals, when they think of preparing for the big meeting, spend their time planning for what they are going to say. This is ironic considering studies show that only 7% of communication comes from the words we use and 38% is from verbal tone.
That means 55% of how we communicate comes across in our facial expression and body language. Over half!
So it might be a good idea to spend a little time preparing how you are going to present yourself in your next in-person meeting. Here are three easy changes you can make:
1. Stand up straight!
Most of us have poor posture from sitting in front of a computer all day and hunching our shoulders to type. (If you don’t believe me, pull your shoulder blades back and see what opens up.) It causes us to slouch and shrink downward, which is definitely not a way to show confidence.
Before you walk into the meeting, stand with your feet hip-width apart and pretend that there is a string attached to the very top of your head. Now imagine that someone is pulling that string upward. You may feel a difference, you might not. But you will stand straighter. You can even do this when you are walking and you’ll get the same effect.
Studies show that we like people who are friendly, and one of the easiest ways to tell if someone is friendly is if they are smiling. Sometimes, though, it can be hard to remember to smile when you are focused on remembering the important points you want to make in a meeting.
The trick here is to make your smiling unconscious instead of a deliberate activity that will need your attention. An easy way to do this is to create a good mood that influences you for the rest of the conversation.
The next time you are meeting with someone, take a few moments before hand to think “happy thoughts:” kittens, babies, and puppies tend to work well (even for you big tough guys out there). You don’t have to tell anyone what you are doing, but it will shift your internal perspective.
3. Lean in
There’s lot of talk about the metaphor of “leaning in” these days, but what we’re talking about here is a much simpler. The physical orientation of people in a conversation tells a lot about their levels of engagement. It’s why you can tell if a couple in a restaurant is on a date (and how it’s going) by how they are siting.
Many people go into a meeting and sit back in the chair, or they sit ramrod straight. These are both standoffish postures and don’t encourage your conversational partners to engage with you. An easy way to move past this is to lean forward; this isn’t a formal dinner so go ahead and put your forearms on the table. If there isn’t a table, lean on one of the chair arms. You’ll often find that after you do this the other people in the meeting have leaned forward as well.