The brain picks up visual cues from body language without even realizing it, and you want to make sure to send out the right signals. We’ve compiled 15 body language mistakes you need to avoid in order to succeed as an event professional.
As an event professional, you are a master communicator. Just look at all the emails and phone calls you’ve made in the past week. With all that writing and talking, it makes sense that you’re good with words. But how is your body language?
Your body language plays a crucial role in how clients, vendors, and co-workers view you. If you don’t watch yourself, you could actually be coming across as bored, disinterested, lazy, or dishonest. The following list likely contains some items you’ve heard before, but others are so subtle, you’ve probably never even thought of them.
This one almost goes without saying, but it’s important enough that it has to be mentioned. A weak handshake makes you look weak. Starting a meeting with a firm handshake signals that you are confident and capable. Worried that your hands are going to be sweaty? Discretely dry them against your pant leg while smiling and greeting the person. They will be paying attention to your face and won’t notice the gesture, and you will have the confidence to shake hands firmly.
It turns out there’s a reason your high school teacher hated when you leaned back in your chair after lunch, and it wasn’t just because you lost your balance once a week. This body language mistake signals that you are disinterested and daydreamy. This body language is offensive at all times, but particularly when you are supposed to be listening to someone speak as it can be interpreted as you being dismissive of what they have to say.
Slouching and allowing your body to fold in on itself makes you appear weak and unenergetic. Particularly in a high-energy profession like event planning, this is a terrible impression to make. Instead, stand or sit with your back straight and shoulders back. This straight posture will help you appear capable, confident, and energized.
Crossing Your Arms (Or Legs)
Crossing your arms in any way makes you appear closed off or unwilling to negotiate. In the right circumstances, it can even be interpreted as combative and rude. Instead of crossing your arms, let them relax gently at your sides or on the desk/table in front of you. This shows that you are relaxed and open to the other person’s suggestions. Crossing your legs can be interpreted similarly so be aware if your legs are visible not to sit with crossed legs.
Feet Point Away
Did you know that your feet point to where you want to go? When someone is listening intently to another person, his or her feet will point towards them. If, however, he or she is ready to go to lunch, his or her feet will shift to point towards the door. Make sure that you pay attention to the message your feet are sending when they are visible.
Similar to your feet, your body will point to where it is focused. If you want to make a strong impression, move your body slightly to angle toward whoever is speaking during a meeting. It doesn’t have to be a huge shift, especially if the meeting involves a lot of people taking turns speaking. Still, the subtle shift is worth it. It’s unlikely that people will notice consciously, but they’ll think you are a great listener.
Hiding Your Hands
Standing with your hands behind your back in your pockets is incredibly common, but it sends a bad message. Subconsciously, the people you are with may interpret this as you having something to hide. This is also the case when sitting at a desk or table and having your hands in your lap. Instead, keep your hands where they are visible and learn to be comfortable with them at your side or in front of you.
Whether you are playing with your hair, shuffling papers, or tapping your foot, fidgeting is a great way to come across as underprepared, anxious, and dishonest. If you have a hard time sitting still in meetings, become a great note-taker. Just be sure not to get lost doodling as that’s a sure sign of disinterest! During conversations, feel free to gesture when you talk to keep your hands busy; just don’t overdo it.
Wondering why you shouldn’t overdo the gestures? While small gestures make you look like a good leader who is passionate about what you do, exaggerated gestures can make you look arrogant. When gesturing, be particularly careful of the personal space of those around you. Never get so carried away with your hands that you accidentally bump someone. If you aren’t sure whether your gestures are obnoxious, ask a friend to videotape you while you are having a conversation. Then, play it back and see what you think. You can keep gesturing; just save the boisterous motions for your next scene onstage.
Touching Your Face
This is probably the most surprising body language mistake on this list! You probably think that putting your hand on your chin makes you look intelligent or like you are considering something carefully. Turns out that touching your face actually makes you look dishonest, particularly if your hand is touching your mouth or nose.
There are a lot of ways people self-soothe subconsciously. Some people wrap their ankles or legs around chair or table legs. Some people clasp their hands together. Others place their hands on their thighs, or fidget with the fabric of their clothing. While these actions and postures may make you feel more at ease in uncomfortable situations, they don’t make you look strong. Self-soothing makes you look weak and anxious. If you are really uncomfortable in situations, try to figure out what is causing that discomfort and address it so that you can be more confident without self-soothing.
Watching the Clock (Or Your Phone)
You know better. Don’t do it. Resist the urge to check the clock or your phone during individual or group meetings. If you must check your phone because you are awaiting an important call or message, let the person or group know ahead of time and apologize. If you need to leave at a specific time, let them know and then set an alarm to vibrate on your phone 5 or 10 minutes before you need to leave. People are understanding if they know what’s going on, but checking the clock or your phone throughout a meeting implies you have more important things to do.
People who are listening intently to someone unconsciously mirror their body language. If the person you are listening to has their hands folded, it’s likely that you will have your hands folded. If he tilts his head to the left, you will likely tilt your head to the right to mirror his behavior. This is something that happens without conscious thought, and the inverse is also true. If you aren’t listening, you aren’t mirroring body language. Learn to use this to your advantage by intentionally mirroring the body language of the person speaking to you.
Avoiding Eye Contact
Avoiding eye contact makes you look untrustworthy. When you are listening to someone, look them in the eye. When you are speaking to someone, look them in the eye. When you are addressing a crowd, move your gaze throughout the audience so everyone feels included. Taking the time to give proper eye contact makes you appear confident and trustworthy.
Too Much Eye Contact
There’s always a flip side, and this is no exception. Avoiding eye contact is a big no-no, but so is too much eye contact. Looking someone in the eyes too much makes you appear adversarial and intense. Aim for no more than 10 seconds at a time. Be sure to break eye contact every few seconds, but come back to show you are still engaged. When breaking eye contact, look to the sides rather than down as looking down shows weakness while looking sideways shows confidence.
Body language is a huge part of your communication as an event professional. Improving your body language should be on the same list as avoiding blatant typos in your emails and double checking that you are sending an email to the right person. If you take the time to learn how to avoid these 15 body language mistakes you will appear more confident, trustworthy, and open.