Have you ever come out of a meeting with no clue how it went?  You feel like your presentation was clear and effective.  You know you were prepared and your materials were informative.

Maybe you were paying more attention to what you were doing than how your audience was reacting, but if you play it back in your head, you might have more of an idea of how your presentation was received.

You also might be able to make it work better!

If you can put some of your attention on watching your listeners, you can learn a lot about how your pitch is going and maybe even change it up midstream and close the deal.

Is your listener…

  • Leaning his head on his hand?  He is bored.  Change the pace of your presentation or ask a question to re-engage his attention.
  • Leaning forward in her chair?  She is interested.  Keep up what you’re doing.
  • Touching his ears?  You are connecting.  Give him more information.
  • Making a suggestion with her palms down?  This is no suggestion, this is what she wants.  Tell her how you can give her what she has suggested in a definitive way.
  • Making a suggestion with his palms up?  He is looking for a discussion of the issue and is open to your input as well as his own.
  • Putting her hand over her mouth?  She doesn’t believe what you’re saying.  This is a good time to offer some quantitative evidence or examples.

How about you?  What are you revealing with your body language and how can you make sure your messaging is what you want it to be?

Are you…

  • Slouching? Sit with your back touching the chair, but leaning forward a bit.  This projects confidence and engagement without seeming stiff or nervous.
  • Crossing your arms?  This makes you seem defensive or closed off.  Stop as soon as you realize it.
  • Restless? If you know you are a “wiggler,” it is a good idea to practice your interview or meeting with a trusted friend who can help you become more aware of your habits.  Restless behavior like twirling your hair or bouncing your knee can be distracting to your listener when you want them to hear what you have to say.
  • Making eye contact?  Great! Active listening is an important skill and keeps your mind on the question at hand.

Both you and your interviewer are getting more information from each other nonverbally than verbally.  If you are paying attention, you can control the information they are getting from you and understand the information they are giving you back.

Wendy Stackhouse, for Artisan Creative