“Nonverbally we love attention. We just can’t help it.” – Vanessa Van Edwards
Often times we get so caught up in what we’re supposed to say that we forget that there’s way more to a conversation than just an exchange of words.
I’m sure you’ve been in a situation where you’ve told someone something they didn’t want to hear… No matter what they said back, you could read exactly how they were feeling. Their face quickly shifted. Their posture changed. They may have stopped making eye contact with you.
Your body language tells a lot. And at conferences it’s important to be cognizant of that. Your non-verbal communication can be the difference between the beginnings of a great relationship, or sending off the wrong vibe and having people steer clear of you.
While you’re not always in control of your non-verbal communication, it’s important to be aware of it and make changes when you are in control.
Use the Triple Nod
“Specifically the triple nod makes us feel real warm and gushy inside… so the triple nod is when a speaker says something that really resonates with you. It’s a nonverbal way of highlighting what they just said.” – Vanessa Van Edwards
When a speaker says something you agree with, give them affirmation through a triple nod. A triple nod gives off of a “yep, that totally makes sense” reaction. And the speaker will feed off of that energy.
But avoid doing the “20-Nod…” Don’t be like a bobble head.
As a speaker myself this is so true. You may not think that what you do as an audience member makes much of a difference, but it does. Us speakers feed off of your energy.
So along with that, it’s best to have your toes, torso, and head always facing towards the speaker. It shows through your body language that your focus is entirely on them. This includes making eye contact with the speaker.
Let’s say the speaker goes off-the-cuff and says something like “I wasn’t going to talk about this, but…” then leaning in and showing your excitement goes a long way.
Another one is note-taking. This is big for me. When the audience is writing during my presentation, I know I’m doing something right.
“I have been able to build a lot of relationships with speakers and mentors – not by being the most exciting person in the room – but by being the most attentive person in the room. And they give me longer answers when I ask questions. They give me more eye contact, they speak directly to me and I find that they say my name more often.” – Vanessa Van Edwards
Vanessa Van Edwards has been able to build many relationships by simply doing those things above. She’s always attentive and interested when a speaker is presenting. It makes more of an impact that you think…
On the other hand, slouching or looking off in the distance shows disinterest. Or if you look bored. Or if you check your watch… Yes, as a speaker we notice those things. When I’m up on stage and audience members are doing that, it’s not a good feeling…
As a speaker, we even notice your facial gestures and reactions.
There’s Nothing Worse Than a Still Face…
There’s nothing worse than a still face or someone who’s a wet blanket on your excitement” – Vanessa Van Edwards
This is true when you’re an audience member listening to a speaker and when you’re having a conversation with someone.
There’s an amazing experiment that shows why there’s nothing worse than a still face. You can watch the video of the experiment here.
Essentially, researchers bring a baby and its mother into the lab. The experiment begins with the mom and baby making a lot of positive facial gestures back and forth. Then the mom turns around for a moment. When she looks back at the baby she has completely still face. It’s not a negative face, but simply neutral. And the moment a baby sees its mother with a still face in the face of his or her excitement, the baby goes into a bit of panic… The baby will lose its posture, start yelling, or even begin crying. But the moment the mom lights her face back up again, the baby is fine.
This is telling not just of a baby and its mother, but of human beings in general.
There will always be that speaker that tries to make too many jokes… And when they don’t get any reaction from audience members, not even a smile, then that can be really tough. I’ve been there…
So if the joke is even a little funny, and you can laugh, then laugh. Or at least smile.
Or if someone at dinner says “Oh I just launched this new product” and you say “congratulations” with a still-face… That’s not very convincing. Their energy is going to shift and they’ll probably feel pretty shitty.
So try to allow yourself to feed off of someone else’s energy authentically show that you’re interested in what they have to say.
This doesn’t mean you should fake it…
If you’re often a still-facer, or a quiet laugher, then that doesn’t mean I’m telling you to change who you are. Don’t fake it. UJ and Vanessa are naturally loud laughers and animated people. But they’ve gotten to that point because they allow themselves to get there. If a speaker says something that is funny to them, even if others aren’t laughing, they’ll allow themselves to laugh. Or if someone shares something exciting, they’ll use their EQ and feed off of that energy to share in the excitement.
At the end of the day, non-verbal communication can act as an offer
When you’re at a conference and your non-verbal communication is positive, supportive, and empathetic, that can feel like an offer to another person. The speaker will be grateful for your attentiveness and interest. The conference-goer who shares a recent success that you light up at and share authentic congratulations will remember you for that.
But displaying negative non-verbal communication can act as a “lack of an offer.” If you’re talking with someone and clearly showing your disinterest, looking over their shoulder instead of making eye contact, or slouching, then they’ll remember you for those things if you ever connect with them in the future.