While there are fewer features to manage during an in-person meeting, there are also fewer places to hide. The mute button is gone, but you still have to use your personal filter. You also cannot turn off your camera if you’re worried about spinach in your teeth. But after months of being forced to Zoom your way through life, an in person meeting can feel like a breath of fresh air. With companies beginning to re-open and in person meetings more possible, it’s time for a crash course in how to interact with your coworkers and clients in person.

Making an Authentic Connection at an In Person Meeting

So, whether you meet in person at a job fair, coffee shop, or office, there are ways to make a positive connection.

1. Don’t Focus on Yourself

In a self focused world, it’s easy to see every interaction with others as a means for them to support your personal goals. Sometimes self focus shows up when we stop for coffee before a meeting we’re already late for, making it clear to your coworker that their time is less valuable. Other times, it pops up when we fish for what a person does for a living to determine if they’re a good addition to our personal network or not. Self focus takes many forms and stands in the way of real, authentic connections with close and distant contacts. Before you meet with someone, take the other person’s needs into consideration and seek to communicate that care to them.

2. Show Interest In Others

Sometimes, that means keeping your phone put away or notifications off. Or in the office, be committed to what your coworker is saying. Ask questions, and pay attention to the answers. When you are interested in others, it shows in your responses. Making a connection with the people you meet with in person elevates the outcomes for everyone.

3. Offer Help

Whether your coworker seems overwhelmed or an interviewer wonders about a recent trend, offering help to others goes a long way in making the other person feel heard and supported. Even if you just look for practical ways to help out during a meeting – from adjusting the lighting or temperature to distributing copies, you showcase the value of service regardless of rank. Whether your support is on a small or large scale, reaching out to help others forms connections and bonds in the process.

4. Listen

It’s hard to think on your feet in a meeting. Tiredness and normal life sometimes slow down our brainpower. But, it’s important to make sure that we’re listening to what the other person in the room is actually saying. So, focus less on looking good and thinking of what you’re going to say, and put more emphasis on what is currently being said. No one likes to be ignored, and you may be smiling in agreement while not listening to what’s being said. The fastest way to kill a connection is to ignore what the other person is saying. You might make it through one meeting, but the people you meet with will see the truth eventually. Real communication involves listening.

5. Don’t forget your nonverbals

The key benefit of an in person versus virtual meeting is the use of nonverbal communication. But sometimes, our nonverbals work against us. Crossed arms or a focused facial expression can make others think that we’re upset or frustrated when we’re really just deep in thought. We all bring past experiences – good and bad – to the table, so remember that what you think is just concentrating on what’s being said, others may interpret as irritation. Eye contact, facial expressions, hand gestures, posture, and tone of voice all say something to the other person. Everything is up for interpretation, so make sure your verbal and nonverbal communication lines up with the same messaging.

Practice Makes Progress

Whether you’re an extrovert or an introvert, in person meetings play a key role in making lasting connections. Quantity and quality of meetings are not interchangeable, but the more practice you make in meeting in person with others, the improvement you make in connecting with others. Phone calls, messaging, and video conferences are all important in accomplishing tasks at work, but in person meetings can further connections and accomplish goals faster.

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Jillian Hamilton has worked in a variety of Program Management roles for multiple Federal Government contractors. She has helped manage projects in training and IT. She received her Bachelors degree in Business with an emphasis in Marketing from Penn State University and her MBA from the University of Phoenix.