8 Body Language Tips to Make a Lasting First Impression

First impressions are everything. In most business situations, you only get one chance to sell your product or yourself. Whether you’re at a networking event, or you’re doing a sales pitch to a potential client, you must focus on presenting yourself in the best way possible. You can do this by utilizing the proper body language.

Humans are incredibly smart at detecting emotions and feelings through body language. Did you know that in just 30 minutes, two people talking to one another can send more than 800 nonverbal signals?

Even if you’re speaking eloquently, if your body language isn’t on par, you’re not going to make a good impression. This is because nonverbal signals are 12 to 13 times more influential than accompanying words.

The right body language can show whomever you’re interacting with that you’re calm, confident, and powerful. In a business situation, it can help you make a sale, get people interested in who you are and what you create, and encourage others to work with you.

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Do you want to make an impression that people won’t be soon to forget? Here are eight quick body language tips you can employ in everyday networking and business circumstances.

Perfect your handshake

A handshake, which occurs at the beginning of every business transaction or meeting, tells you more than you realize. By getting the handshake right, you can show that you’re emotionally stable, agreeable, and respect the person you’re meeting.

Some people will put their palm out when meeting others, which shows that they are submissive. If you want to demonstrate that you’re equal to the person you’re meeting, do a vertical hand shaking motion. If you want to communicate that you’re confident, make sure your hands are dry. Sweaty palms are an indicator of nervousness.

The level of firmness in your handshake is crucial; if you have a “dead fish” shake, it’s going to show that you’re weak, while a “death grip” will turn people off. Practice your handshake on a friend or family member to ensure that you’re hitting that firmness sweet spot.

Use touch (when appropriate) 

A firm handshake is always the best way to touch someone in a business setting. It creates oxytocin, and forms an immediate bond between you and the person you’re meeting. For this reason, you should avoid the fist bump. It’s showing the person you’re meeting that you don’t really care to bond with them.

Sometimes, you may want to use the “politician’s handshake,” also known as the double handshake. This creates double the oxytocin and more of a connection. If you’re not comfortable with that, simply stick with the trusted single handshake.

Utilize purposeful gazing

Power gazing is the pattern that your eyes make when you’re looking at a person. In business situations, you want to make sure you’re looking into someone’s eyes and at his or her forehead. Make sure you’re not gazing at his or her mouth or below, because that’s more appropriate for social or intimate circumstances.

Even if you’re at a busy networking event, try your best to focus on the person you’re meeting. If you’re looking above his or her head or around the room, if shows your disinterest in the conversation.

Stand in a launch position

If your shoulders are hunched over and your head is down at a business event, you’re not going to come off as very confident. To make a bold first impression, take the launch stance. It’ll demonstrate that you’re in command of your space and that you believe in yourself.

To stand in the perfect launch position, put your arms to your side and hang them loose, and open up your torso so that it’s not blocked. Keep your shoulders down, and your head up.

Be aware of your facial expressions

A brief microexpression can tell the person you’re meeting exactly how you’re feeling. This is why it’s crucial that you practice your facial expressions before networking or making a pitch. For example, if you’re nervous at all, you’ll show fear by raising your eyebrows, showing the upper whites of your eyes, and leaving your mouth open. If you’re angry, your lips will be tensed and your chin will jut forward.

At networking and business events, you should aim to portray happiness and joy on your face. To do this, practice smiling with a pencil in your mouth. This is what a real smile looks like. It should reach your eyes. If it doesn’t reach that high, people will be able to detect that you’re faking your smile. The right kind of smile will create crow’s feet at your eyes, raise your cheeks, and draw your lips up and back.

Point your toes toward the person you’re meeting

If your toes are pointed towards someone, it means that you’re interested in hearing what he or she has to say. During a networking or business situation, whether you’re sitting or standing, you should make sure your toes are pointed in the direction of the person or people you’re speaking to.

Tilt your head

Another way to show that you’re interested in a conversation is to tilt your head. It is the nonverbal sign to demonstrate that you’re listening. If a prospective client is asking you a question about your product or service, tilt your head to show your concern.

If you’re networking with someone and he or she is telling you about a new product his or her company is working on, by tilting your head, you’re communicating that you want to learn about it. Humans just want to be heard, and the head tilt shows that you’re there to hear what other people have to say.

Watch your movement levels

If you’re cracking your knuckles, tapping your foot, or playing with your hair, you’re saying, with your body language, that you’re not confident. Instead, try to stand as still as possible, and only use expressive, purposeful gestures when needed. These gestures can be utilized to explain ideas and get your point across.

Fidgeting is a big no-no, but using your hands to talk about your product or service in a productive manner is going to make your ideas easier to understand.

Now that you know about the power of your body language, you can go out there and make an amazing first impression.

Want to succeed in any business situation? It starts with perfecting your body language. To learn more about this topic and other advice for building your business in Back To Biz, CreativeLive’s FREE business program


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Vanessa Van Edwards FOLLOW >

Vanessa Van Edwards is a published author and behavioral investigator at scienceofpeople.com. She's also a keynote speaker, corporate consultant, and renowned online educator.