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Carol Kinsey GomanThe Wall Street Journal says that the reunion season is about 25 percent busier this year due to the class get-togethers postponed during COVID. Here’s the story

With this larger-than-usual attendance, a pent-up desire for in-person connection, and an increase in social anxiety, comes a wonderful opportunity to expand your network and build your personal brand. Here are 10 body language tips to help you be seen as your best self at the reunion:

1) Develop an inclusive, welcoming attitude. Pretend that your job is to make others feel welcome and at ease. Approaching people with this attitude will immediately resonate in a positive way.

2) Smile. Some nonverbal behaviours can bring out the best in people. Smiling is one of them, as it directly influences how other people respond. When you smile at someone, they almost always smile in return. And, because facial expressions trigger corresponding feelings, the smile you get back actually changes that person’s emotional state in a positive way.

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You probably knew that. But did you also know that slow onset smiles lead to even more positive reactions? So, instead of approaching people with a grin, begin with a slight smile and let it grow organically.

3) Stand tall. Slumping by rounding your shoulders and collapsing into your chest makes you look vulnerable and submissive. When you pull your shoulders back and hold your head high, you look (and feel) more confident and self-assured.

4) Reach out and touch someone – but don’t go overboard. The way you greet your classmates can have a huge impact on their perception of you. A warm but firm handshake is a social skill worth developing, and a light touch on the arm or shoulder can create an instant bond. But if you hang on people or touch them too frequently, you send unintended signals of neediness or flirtation.

5) Let your body show that you are at ease. If you want people to see you as comfortable and approachable, assume an open position with your legs about shoulder-width apart and your arms loosely at your side or held waist-high. Don’t cross your arms and legs or use objects (your drink or plate of food) as a barrier. It looks as if you are closed off or resistant.

6) Mirror the other person’s gestures and expressions. When we interact with others, we subconsciously scan the other person’s body to see if they move or gesture in a similar way to us. When you subtly mirror someone, it is a way of silently saying, “We have something in common.”

7) Make positive eye contact. Looking at someone’s eyes transmits energy and indicates interest and openness. (This is a great time to improve your eye contact by making it a practice of noticing the eye colour of everyone you speak with at the reunion.)

8) Lean in slightly. Leaning forward shows you’re engaged and interested, but also be respectful of other people’s space. Although this varies by culture, in most North American situations, even in a festive setting, that means staying about 18 inches away.

9) Leave your smartphone home or at least keep it out of sight. Don’t text or check email while socializing.

10) Limit your alcohol. It will make following these tips so much easier!

Carol Kinsey Goman, PhD, is an executive coach, consultant, and international keynote speaker at corporate, government, and association events. She is also the author of STAND OUT: How to Build Your Leadership Presence. For interview requests, click here.

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