This is a brief talk I gave to my networking group about Body Language. It is from the book Networking Like A Pro, by Dr. Ivan Misner, David Alexander and Brian Hilliard.
You go to networking events. One main goal of these is to network. To do that, you have to meet new people and talk to them. Who to talk to? Just about everybody is apprehensive, shy, so therefore you must make the first move!
Who do you approach? When you show up, scan the room. People who are standing, alone and looking around are easy to approach.
Two people: If Closed/intimate, engaged in face-to-face conversation, they are hard to interrupt, so leave them alone. If Open: side by side, they are ideal, open and easy to join.
Keep in mind that body space is cultural. Some have much larger personal body spaces than other cultures, and you can sometimes see a form of dance as each one goes back and forth, in and out of each other’s personal body space. With any culture it is best to approach from the side, because head on can be too stressful.
Three or more people: If Closed, forget it. If Open: yes. Slide in and listen for a while until you can unobtrusively join the conversation. With three people, or an odd number of people, there are rarely true 3-way conversations. Either one is broadcasting and the others are listening, or two are conversing and the third is not really taking part. Determine who the third person is and tentatively start a conversation.
When you are conversing, watch that you have the other person’s attention:
Positive signs: Eye contact, leaning forward, hair preening, mirroring.
Negative signs: Arms crossed, texting, scanning room for someone else to talk to, eyes glazing over: sure signs that you are boring, and it is time to move on.