In any type of face-to-face or video meeting, your body language can set the tone for the direction of the conversation. Depending on how you present yourself, the other person may be able to tell if you’re tense, worried or even closed off.
Poor body language can have detrimental effects, especially if you’re speaking to a “very important person” who can determine the fate of your business. That’s why it’s important to put your best foot forward with parties like potential investors and business partners by paying extra attention to your nonverbal communications.
To help you, eight Young Entrepreneur Council members shared some common body language mistakes you should avoid when speaking to a VIP.
1. Shrinking Up
Avoid shrinking or displaying a lack of confidence. Especially with a VIP, it can be easy to lower your head, take a small step back or hunch your shoulders. Instead, feel free to take up a bit more space, be more expansive with your body language by incorporating your hands a bit more and keep your chin and head up. The conversation will be more productive as a result. – Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance
2. Rubbing Your Hands Together
One of the worst body language mistakes is rubbing your hands together in an important meeting. In a business setting, this sign means you are not interested or you are not impressed. It might work well when you really don’t want the offer, but if the deal is important for you and you want to grab it, then avoid this body language mistake. To stop this, keep your arms at your sides and do not let them come together. You can keep both of your hands on the handles of your chair if you are sitting or leave them at your sides if you are standing. This presents signals of trust and warmth to the other person. – Baruch Labunski, Rank Secure
3. Mimicking (Even Subconsciously)
There’s a subconscious tendency to match the mannerisms and body language of the people you’re talking to, especially when trying to ingratiate yourself with them. This is a common sales tactic that can work, but it’s not a good idea to try it when talking to potential partners or investors in your business. In these cases, conscious or subconscious mimicry can seem obsequious at best and outright insulting at worst, so you’re better off just acting naturally. – Bryce Welker, CPA Exam Guy
4. Making Exaggerated Hand Gestures
Often when people get excited or nervous, their hands start to match their moods. Soon, we see people chopping the air, pointing at their audience and waving their hands wildly. While it’s OK and normal to move your hands, it’s important to know how you’re moving them. Next time you’re talking to a VIP, be aware of your hands. To create authority, try using your hands to drive home the point you’re making. When you show a number, show that with your hands. Highlight emotional moments by putting your hand over your heart. Help your audience keep track of your explanations of two different groups by representing each group with each hand. What your hands are saying is just as important as what your mouth is saying. Make it count! – Shu Saito, All Filters
5. Having Bad Posture
Focusing on good posture is a great place to start. It ensures you come across confident without being self-important. It also shows that you are relaxed and calm, while also being interested and involved. Having your chest puffed up and your arms crossed in front of you might come across as being insecure, uninterested, anxious or arrogant. You can keep your hands relaxed at your sides or if you’re someone who “talks” with their hands, and keep your movements calm and measured. Above all, make sure you make eye contact. If you do feel insecure, genuinely engaging with the other person and looking at them as you speak—and as they speak to you—can help you relax as the conversation progresses. Be mindful of your thoughts and your body language will follow. – Blair Thomas, eMerchantBroker
6. Avoiding Eye Contact
You want to stay engaged in conversation, no matter if you are talking with a VIP or an employee. If you are speaking with someone you want to establish a connection with, the last thing you should be doing is looking at your phone, around the room or at someone else. You don’t have to keep your eyes locked on whomever you’re speaking with, but it’s a good idea to make eye contact during discussions. You want to convey interest and listen to what the other person has to say, and if you aren’t paying attention or look distracted, you may be giving off a boring vibe. A VIP may assume you aren’t being genuine, while an employee may think you can’t be bothered. Stay present in conversations and don’t let body language be your downfall. – Matt Bertram, EWR Digital
7. Not Paying Attention To Your Head Movements
There’s nothing worse than holding a conversation with someone who seems to wander off, whether that’s by staring blankly at you or having their head turned to another direction of the room. Needless to say, this is simply a no-go when holding a crucial conversation with a VIP. Be aware of how your eyes and head signal engagement. Do you crook your head with interest when someone is talking? Are you focusing your gaze on them with intention? Maybe you nod or shake your head throughout the chat. Ultimately, practicing sincere engagement in conversations and paying attention to the body language that’s happening with your head will ensure you’re communicating well and connecting with VIPs. – Emily Stallings, Casely, Inc.
8. Stepping Into Their Personal Space
When speaking to a VIP, many people tend to prolong their contact with them to a degree that it gets uncomfortable. Just be mindful that you shake hands quickly and comfortably and that you have a reasonable distance from the other person. In a subconscious way, this shows strong awareness and that you’re capable of being professional—something that creates a positive impact. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner