By Linda Van Valkenburgh, MS, CCMC, CJSS, CSMCS, CELDC
You are an executive. You want to present yourself with confidence and poise.
With effective language, you can send the right message and communicate with authority every time. But communication is not just what you say verbally – it is also what you say with your body.
Practicing effective body language can help you achieve better results with interviews, meetings, and even with casual conversations.
Here are five tips that can help you improve your body language.
- Practice Active Listening
Actively conversing and paying attention to small details during conversations can instantly separate you from others. People are more apt to converse freely when they know their audience is paying attention. You can show your appreciation through your body language.
To demonstrate your active listening, hold eye contact for a comfortable length of time. Nod occasionally. Lean forward. Face the speaker. Repeat a few facts back to make sure you heard them correctly. As these behaviors become habitual, they will also become more natural. Actively listening will demonstrate that you are engaged, and you will find you remember more about the conversation.
Your overall communication will improve when you are able to remember these small details and bring them up again in future conversations.
- Work on Your Feet
When it comes to body language, people often focus on practicing their facial expressions, posture, and gestures, but forget to rehearse their feet. A person’s feet can reveal very much about how they are feeling.
When your own feet are still and comfortable they communicate confidence. This posture shows you are collected, grounded, and engaged in the moment.
You can observe other people’s feet to read the room. Increased movement, shuffling, and fidgeting can be a sign of anxiety or discomfort. Reading this body language is a good indicator to change the direction of the conversation.
- Uncross Arms & Legs
Crossed arms and legs can indicate introversion or lack of receptiveness. Keep a more open posture by unfolding your arms and legs. This posture can help you absorb and retain more information in conversation. This body language will communicate approachability and openness.
Whether you are in an interview, at an important meeting, or at a conference, it is always best to remain attentive and appear receptive to conversation. Keeping open posture will help you stay engaged and on-point with your communication, both verbal and non-verbal.
Closed posture, or crossed arms or legs is something you can watch for in others. This may indicate defensiveness or a good time to take a break and shake things up.
- Master the Handshake
Your handshake seals your interactions with a confident, poised, friendly gesture that others can remember you by.
A good handshake should not be too limp, squeeze too hard, shake for too long, or grab the wrong part of the hand entirely. Practice your handshake with willing friends or family members to perfect your technique. Ask for feedback as you try different things.
Mastering the handshake can take time. A little practice can go a long way when trying to create a lasting impression.
- Use Hand Gestures (but not too much!)
Hand gestures can help emphasize, clarify and improve points that are being verbally communicated. The key is to keep them clear and controlled. Your words should be more emphatic and memorable than your hand gestures.
You can use your fingers to emphasize numerical values or enumerate conclusions in your presentation. Bringing both of your hands together can mean “coming together.” An open hand with palm facing up can be used to demonstrate trends.
And one I think is especially important: during interviews, use one arm / hand gestures vs. both arms / hands. One arm / hand gestures demonstrate an executive stance and presence.
These and other techniques are often used by the world’s most effective presenters and speakers. Use your hand gestures to enhance your words, but not distract from them.
To create a great impression with everyone you meet, make sure your body language is as confident and poised as your words are. Pay attention to the body language of those around you. Their body language will tell you how you can approach them to be most effective.
Let’s get to work!
If you have questions about your executive career search, please contact me at 203-323-9977 or [email protected]