Networking events. Association meetings. Conferences. Regional meetings. Trade shows. Each of these events represents an opportunity for you and your company, whether you want to make the sale, make the right connection, or exchange business cards with the right person.
But how do you know who Mr. or Ms. Right is? Who is the person who can green-light your product or service within their company?
You can do some pre-meeting recognizance. Find the bigwig's name, do a Google Image search, find a picture, and you have your target. At the meeting, all you have to do is scan the room until you see the person of power.
But what if that's not possible? What if Google Image search pulls up nothing? What if you're not sure who your ideal target is? What if your ideal target doesn't show up? Who is your No. 2 guy or gal?
Thankfully, when this happens, you don't have to randomly approach people and hope they can buy what you have to sell—which is what most people do at such events. Instead, you can be a detective at all your future business meetings by using the skills of interpreting body language to discover the most important people in the room. Without knowing how to read some key body language techniques, your initial assumptions about who Mr. or Ms. Important is might be wrong.
For example, after speaking at an event, I went to the hotel's lounge to relax and unwind. Wanting to enjoy some alone time, I sat in the far corner booth and began one of my favorite activities: people watching.
There was another conference at the hotel, and some of their attendees came to the lounge for a social hour. At first, everyone was shaking hands, welcoming one another, and being very friendly. After a while, the large group started splitting up into smaller groups. Five women chatting at one table. Three men laughing at another. Two women standing and gossiping. But, there was one small group that caught my attention.
I noticed three gentlemen. One was tall, with good posture, and well-dressed. The second was of average height, well-dressed, with good posture. The third was short, had poor posture, and was—quite frankly—poorly dressed. Apparently he didn't feel the need to run an iron over his clothes that day.
Who is the most important person of the group?
Most people would say one of the first two gentlemen. They had strong posture, knew how to carry themselves, and their clothing reeked of success. Most people would be wrong.
Once you know a few body language basics, you would know to look more closely—and look down. While posture and clothing are good variables to observe, they are superficial indicators that can easily and consciously be altered for any situation. As a body language observer, you would want to look at the unconscious indicators to discover the alpha person of the group.
In this case—as in most—the feet gave it away. Even though the men were standing in a circle, politely facing each other and looking at one another, all the feet pointed toward Mr. Important himself, gentleman No. 3. That's right. Mr. slumped-over-I-don’t-need-to-put-together-a-snazzy-outfit-like-the-rest-of-you.
The feet of the other two gentlemen were pointed directly at guy No. 3 like a pointing dog during the hunt. The feet give away critical information unconsciously. The feet almost will always point toward the direction of where you want to be or toward the person you perceive to be the most important in the group. (Where did Mr. Important's feet point? The door.)
While initial looks might lead you to one conclusion, body language will give you the power to detect the subtleties that lead you to the truth.
Use this body language detective skill for your next meeting. If you want to converse, network with, and sell to the "top dog," just follow the feet.
Shari' Alexander is a business presentation strategist and professional speaker who helps professionals get what they want when they speak. As the owner of Presenting Matters, her many clients have included an Emmy Award winning executive, an NFL player, and an ESPN announcer. She may be reached at 918.346.8506 or firstname.lastname@example.org.