5 Body Language Cues to Consider in Meetings

TSP • @myTSPnet


We all know that body language is an important communication tool in our social as well as our professional lives. In fact, studies show that 70 percent of communication is in your body language. Smiles are positive, nods signal approval, and eye contact conveys interest. We can know if someone believes us, agrees with us, or is interested in what we're saying (or not saying).

Get proactive about how others perceive your body language by practicing good habits that support your leadership qualities and convey authenticity. To really leverage the power in these non-verbal cues, let’s move beyond the basics and explore five cues that will not only elevate your influence in meetings, but also help you to better analyze your audience.

Eye contact could be the most effective tool to engage your audience in professional settings. However, before you visually connect, consider cultural context. In some cultures, eye contact can be considered abrasive and inappropriate. If you're unsure how to proceed, put in some research to ensure you're being considerate of colleagues’ cultures and backgrounds. Luckily, in the U.S., eye contact is widely considered not only appropriate, but necessary to establish yourself as personable, engaged, and legitimate.

A smile is vital to convey that you're an effective, yet approachable, leader and can be used in even the most intense meetings to breed camaraderie — it’s a scientific fact that the world’s most powerful gesture. Being genuine is key to effectively using your pearly whites as a tactical tool. People can tell the difference between a genuine versus fake smile. Look for real smiles that crinkle and make the eyes squint!

It is an especially good sign when your audience mimics your body language. People have the tendency to think you're more alike than dissimilar when you act the same way in your body language. This principle is especially helpful when you're initially trying to get an audience to warm up to you or you're trying to build camaraderie.

Leaders who are particularly stationary tend to come off as stiff and unengaging. Moving around the room not only invites your audience to visually move with you, but it also gets your own blood flowing to better stimulate your thoughts. However, this shouldn't be taken to an extreme! Don’t make yourself or your audience dizzy by frantically pacing the room. Instead, take a few casual steps and pause for 10-20 seconds before shifting again. Make sure your arms are not stuck by your side either. Using your hands’ motion can be effectively used to emphasize certain points in your dialogue. Studies show that audiences pay more attention to those who are active with their hands.

A study analyzing popular TED Talks found that the most successful and most viewed speakers used an average of about 465 hand gestures, which nearly doubled the amount that the less popular speakers used. This principle applies to your facial movement as well. Make sure to shift your gaze from person to person often so you're not considered to be staring.  

Projecting a positive attitude in your words can be further reinforced through your body. Open stances reflect comfortability. Refrain from crossing your arms or legs in meetings since this can project close-mindedness. What about when someone’s words say one thing and their body language tells a different story? In this scenario, your gut is probably right. When you get mixed signals, do some digging and pose open-ended questions to really investigate their true positions.

There are so many things you can do to encourage an engaged audience in your upcoming meetings. The things we don’t say are just as powerful — if not more — than our spoken words. Body language can convey a multitude of emotions and opinions, so be mindful of the ones you're projecting. Being an effective non-verbal communicator takes practice. So, invite your trusted colleagues to give you feedback after you lead your next meeting — often what we think we look like does not match reality.