When you’ve succeeded in arranging a new opportunity meeting or OG Mixer with a prospect, don’t let yourself down with negative body language. No matter how hard you’ve worked to create the perfect presentation, your body language can put up an invisible and unspoken barrier that could blight your chances of success – body language is important because it can affect your sales and networking performance, making the difference between success and failure.

According to research, first impressions count for everything: you have only seven seconds to establish credibility, warmth, empathy, trust and status – your gestures and the tone in your voice have a profound effect on how successful your negotiations will be. It’s crucial that you send good and positive signals from the moment you walk through the door.

There are simple ways of doing this, relying on your body language to convey the correct message:

Lean forward and don’t cross your arms

Lean forward towards the person you’re speaking as this shows you’re paying attention; engaged and committed to the conversation.

Similarly, never cross your arms as this signals a defensive approach; giving the impression you’re ignoring what the other person is saying. Sitting with your arms open and relaxed signals that you’re fully involved.

Research also shows you retain 38% more information by refraining from crossing your arms and legs; having open arms means you have an open mind.

Smile and make eye contact

Smile genuinely, so that the smile reaches your eyes, as this promotes a friendly approach – it can also help to calm nerves. Make positive eye contact, as this builds trust and shows you’re engaged. Studies show people feel more positive when they look into your eyes, as you appear more interested in what they are saying.

Don’t fidget

Make sure your hands rest naturally in your lap if you’re sitting or by your sides if you’re standing – avoid fidgeting or making a lot of gestures as this can detract from what you’re saying. In particular, avoid rubbing your hands, as this can be an unconscious signal that you think you’ve closed the deal.

Never point, as this can appear rude; instead, soften your gestures and if you must point something out, use your full hand rather than one finger.

Lower your vocal range

A vocal exercise that is particularly useful for females, saying “um hum, um hum” several times before a presentation will bring your voice down to a lower range. Make sure you speak slowly and avoid intonating in a way that makes every sentence sound like a tentative question.

High power pose

Research has shown that adopting a “high power pose” in a room can actually increase testosterone levels and lower your cortisol; another tip that is particularly useful for females.  Imagine you’re Wonder Woman! These physical changes will then boost your confidence and you will perform better.

Power of touch

A gentle touch on the arm can create a bond instantly – on condition it’s backed up by other honest communication. Research shows that people are more likely to say “yes” if you reach out and touch them.

Finally, don’t forget your feet: if you position them rigidly together you can appear timid, while positioning your feet wider apart will display more confidence. Did you know that your feet subconsciously point towards the person you prefer in a meeting…?

Remember that your body language can reinforce your goals, with non-verbal communication being as important as your command of technology.