5 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Rock Their Body Language

07/22/2013 06:08 pm ET | Updated Sep 21, 2013

Entrepreneurs face many body language challenges while starting their business. Unlike most people in business, entrepreneurs are doing the job of 10 people. They need to understand the body language for human resources professionals, for managers, for secretaries, for receptionists, for marketing, for sales... the list goes on and on.

As an entrepreneur myself, I have learned the hard way how important all aspects of the business world are to a start up. I often feel I have to be a Jack of all Trades (or, I guess a Jane of All Trades). I also believe that more people are entrepreneurs than they realize. Anyone who is pushing their business is an entrepreneur -- hairdressers, freelancers, consultants, real estate brokers, financial advisors, salesmen, programmers are all entrepreneurs and need to learn body language.

Body language tips are essential for getting higher returns, increasing your bottom line and making connections to sustain your business.

Here are five very different business areas that an entrepreneur needs to master if he or she wants a successful business. These areas are usually split into different jobs, but the entrepreneur needs all of them.

Body Language and Networking

Networking is all about making powerful first impressions. These are the foundations for strong connections and getting more work. Research from the University of Ontario found that first impressions are extremely hard to change. Once you make a first impression on someone, it lasts for the duration of the relationship. Even new interactions that give a different impression are usually just seen as exceptions to the rule, not a change in the rule. So how do you make a killer first impression while networking? Here are some body language tips entrepreneurs can use to make a good first impression while networking:

*Do point your feet towards them. One easy way to show someone you are really engaged is to point your feet towards them. This might not seem like much, but our brain actually registers the feet subconsciously. It also has the added benefit of forcing us to point our torso and head towards someone. This is a nonverbal way of telling someone you are interested and connected.

*Do NOT overhead gaze. One of the worst things you can do while talking to someone for the first time is looking past them, over their head or to the other side of the room to see who else is in the room. This eye darting is seen as extremely suspicious and they will unconsciously pick up on the fact that you aren't present and don't really want to talk to them.

*Do triple nod. Dale Carnegie, the master of winning friends and influencing people advised his students to be interested in the people you are speaking with. This means getting them to open up and tell you more. One way you can do this nonverbally is to use the triple head nod. Three quick small nods in a row is the nonverbal sign for "tell me more," or "I hear you, explain." It is a great way to show that you are interested and engaged.

Body Language and Pitching

Whether you are giving an elevator pitch to new friends or pitching to a panel of investors, the idea of selling your idea and your business can strike terror in the hearts of many entrepreneurs. I will go in depth into pitching for my course, but here is the most important part of pitching: nonverbal in addition to verbal.Researcher Mehrabian found that up to 55% of our communication is nonverbal. But, what do most entrepreneurs focus on when they are pitching?

Their verbal content. What you say is important, but just as important is how you say it. When practicing your pitch think about some nonverbal ways to explain your point. For example, if you are talking about growth, move your hands in the hockey stick formation every investor wants to see. If you talk about breaking something down into steps, use your hands to segment your steps. This actually helps the people listening to you remember and comprehend your pitch.

Body Language and hiring

Finding the right employee is one of the most important parts of an entrepreneur's job. As you build your team you need to make sure you have the right person who can help bring your company success. The best thing you can do while hiring is to get your interviewee to speak as much and as honestly as possible. Here is how you can get to know someone in an interview:

*Use angled seating. How you sit actually affects behavior more than anyone realizes. Studies show that when people are seated directly across from one another at a table subjects recall less of what is said. The other person is also always perceived to be more antagonistic. When our bodies are positioned directly opposing someone else, our brains follow suit. Therefore, in an interview it is best to sit or stand at a slight angle. This is much less threatening and lowers the heart rate of both participants. So be sure to set your office up so that your chairs are angled.

*Make sure you can see all of them. Sit with your interview in an open space or with a glass table. This way you can see jiggling feet, odd shifts or noticeable differences in body language when you ask the tough questions. You want to make sure you make note of any nervous tics when you bring up important issues life previous experience, trust, salary and expectations.

Body Language and Negotiating

Researcher, Amy Cuddy has argued that your nonverbal behavior not only affects others perception of how powerful you are, but it also changes your own feelings of confidence and power. Before going into a negotiation you need to prep your argument and your body language to feel in control and powerful.

Stand tall and straight. The more space you take up the more powerful you feel. Put your hands on your hips and firmly plant your feet when walking into the negotiation room.

*Try steepling. Steepling is when someone brings their hands up towards their chest or face and presses the tips of their fingers together. This is a gesture of confidence, self-assuredness and even superiority. This can easily be done to inspire confidence in yourself and others during a negotiation. This is an easy one for females in particular since it is seen as assertive, not aggressive.

*Sit high: In addition to choosing seats at an angle instead of directly opposing your partner, you should also avoid sitting on low sofas or chairs -- they make you look small and weak. If you have to sit on a sofa sit on the edge so you are not forced to slouch. Also be sure to make use of chair arms instead of resting arms against your body. Keeping arms close to your body also makes you look weak and childlike.

Body Language and Managing

Managing a team is one of the most important parts of an entrepreneurs job. To manage effectively there are a few body language tips you can use. However, the most important one is being approachable. You want team members to feel comfortable with you to report what is going on accurately. Here are some body language ideas for being open:

  • Uncrossed arms
  • Smiling often
  • Loose shoulders and arms
  • Unclenched fists
  • Leaning towards someone as they are speaking to you
  • Uncrossed legs
  • Try some of these moves and notice how much more people open up to you

Being an entrepreneur is five full time jobs. I hope these nonverbal tips help you be a Jack (or Jane) of all trades in your business.


Bertram Gawronski, Robert J. Rydell, Bram Vervliet, Jan De Houwer. Generalization versus contextualization in automatic evaluation.. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 2010; 139 (4): 683 DOI: 10.1037/a0020315

Carnegie, Dale. How to Win Friends and Influence People Featuring Dale Carnegie. New York: NBC, 1938.

Mehrabian, A. (1972). Nonverbal Communication. New Brunswick: Aldine Transaction.

Edwards, Vanessa Van. Human Lie Detection and Body Language 101: Your Guide to Reading People's Nonverbal Behavior. 2012.

Carney, Dana R., Amy J. Cuddy, and Andy J. Yap. "Power Posing: Brief Nonverbal Displays Affect Neuroendocrine Levels and Risk Tolerance." Psychological Science XX(X).1-6 (2010): n. pag. Sage Publishing. DOI: 10.1177/0956797610383437.