A cheat sheet to ace non-verbal communication in the boardroom
A boardroom is not a pleasant place to be, especially if you are not very comfortable in groups or formal gatherings. In such situations, most of us automatically start displaying unobtrusive non-verbal gestures like finding the corner seat or avoiding an eye contact with others. Most of my socially awkward clients tell me that they don’t even ask questions in a meeting thinking someone else would. Basically, they want to be mere spectators, while the dynamic ones run away with verbal laurels eventuating into steep success and growth.
One of the arguments in the favour of not being verbose could be that ultimately the work speaks, so what’s the need? However, it’s not about what you know, it is about exhibiting your competence when required. Your body language is directly related to your mind. Dale Carnegie, a renowned professor at Harvard University, stated that our body language not only impacts others but has a tremendous impact on our own behaviour.
So here are some practical and applicable tips on your ideal boardroom body language:
- Power pose
A power pose is an expansive body move which must be practiced in its full custom right before you head for a meeting. It essentially involves you to expand your arms and legs in a ‘victory pose’ to feel powerful. A popular research by Prof. Amy Cuddy of Harvard University states that power posing right before an important meeting or event can actually help reduce cortisol – a stress hormone. Simultaneously, it helps increase testosterone (pleasure and excitement) hormones in the body to get you mentally stimulated. There are multiple variations of power posing. You could find the one that’s most comfortable for you to practice.
- Observe other’s body language
For this, you must reach early for the meeting. This gives you enough time to prepare yourself to deal with many people. Entering into a room full of people can be quite challenging, especially if you are low on natural dynamism. Once you make yourself comfortable with the surroundings, it is no more an unknown territory. Slowly start observing people around you as they walk in and start noticing their body language. Your brain is smart enough to identify positive and negative body language. You must aim at mirroring some positive non-verbal signals like having your hands visible and not hidden under the table or crossed. You can also mirror somebody’s tall body stance by sitting straight with no hunched back or turtle head. When you mirror positive body moves, you feel equal in the group of smart professionals.
- Meet and greet
While initiating a conversation can cause some inertia, you should make-up for it gracefully by reaching out for a firm and a confident handshake. One which lasts for two to three seconds and two to three subtle shakes. While you shake hands with someone, lean slightly forward with an eye contact while the handshake lasts, coupled with a pleasant exchange of greetings. It is believed that a good handshake can equal up to three hours of a good conversation. A good handshake indicates your approachability and emotional stability. If this is true, then it’s insanely crucial for you to begin with a confident handshake at least with the important people in the meeting room.
- Eye contact
Remember, a boardroom meeting is power packed where important decisions are made by the most efficient and trusted human resources. If you are one amongst this elite group, then you need to exhibit that trust, seriousness, and efficiency. Ideally, maintaining eye contact 60–70 per cent of the time during a conversation is considered to be natural and effective. Less than this makes you look disinterested and more than this makes you look dazed and inauthentic.
- Avoid fidgety movements
A tensed environment permeates our mind and behavior with clumsy moves like playing with a pen, notepad, phone; or tapping fingers on the table, swirling the chair one is sitting on. Even though subtle, these movements can be quite distracting to others and can make you appear unprepared and anxious. It is important to note that leaders preserve their energy and make very purposeful moves. The lesser you move, the more composed you look. An effective way to avoid fidgety movements is to take deep breaths. It instantly relaxes you and brings you in the moment by collecting all your wandering thoughts.