How to Read A Room to Improve Your Communications


Salespeople can learn so much simply by “reading” a room. This skill can be especially helpful when presenting or part of a meeting. Picking up on subtle cues can help you determine how to proceed with your communications (and how others may receive your message). But, this skill isn’t easy for everyone. Harvard Business Review contributor Rebecca Knight discusses how to look for others’ unspoken signals and use those subtle cues to more effectively influence those in the room.

First, when you enter a room, simply observe the occupants and their body language. Smiles, the space between people, and who is standing can tell a lot about the mood of each individual. Someone sitting silently with crossed arms may take in your message differently than someone laughing and mingling. “Vigilant observation will give you the information you need to interpret group dynamics,” Knight explains. Also, be conscious of how much you are talking; don’t let your own need to talk overshadow hearing and watching others. This is especially important during a sales pitch or initial meeting, when you need to be attentive to the prospect and what he or she may be feeling.

Next, it’s time to analyze your observations. “Consider the people in the group more broadly and reflect on the possible reasons for their individual and collective emotional states,” Knight writes. How are all of the perceived moods and actions contributing to the overall feel of the room? What are attendees’ motivations for being here? Do they even seem to want to be here? These observations can guide you in how you communicate the group and what kind of message will resonate most. Also, don’t allow yourself to get sucked into a room’s negative energy, if there is any. It can be easy to let a tense mood hijack your own emotions.

Now, when you do interact with the others in the room, you can do so with a clearer understanding of what they may be feeling. By initially "reading" those around you, the acquired social awareness can only benefit you. You can better prepare for others' reactions, which in turn can boost your own confidence. You will have gained the insight needed to connect with others in a more personal, and effective, manner.

Jessica Helinski

Jessica Helinski

Jessica reports on sales tips and credibility for SalesFuel. She is a graduate of Ohio University.