Vanessa Van Edwards is the founder of Science of People, where she teaches entrepreneurs, businesses, and trillion-dollar companies how to grow their businesses using science-based people skills. She is also the author of the bestselling book, Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People.
In this episode, Vanessa explains how to assume familiarity when meeting new people—whether in person or online—to make an immediate connection with them. Listen in to learn how to start a conversation without making the other person feel awkward and how to make a positive, long-lasting first impression.
Learn the key elements to focus on when meeting someone for the first time with @vvanedwards, author of CAPTIVATE. #smalltalk #conferences #communication Click To Tweet
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On Today’s Episode We’ll Learn:
- How to connect with people, even through non-visual means.
- The key elements to focus on when meeting someone for the first time.
- How Vanessa conducted her own research on human behavior.
- A great conversation starter that doesn’t put people on edge.
- Where to stand in a social setting to optimize networking possibilities.
Key Resources for Vanessa Van Edwards:
- Connect with Vanessa Van Edwards: Website | Twitter | LinkedIn | Instagram | YouTube | Facebook
- Amazon: Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People
- Kindle: Captivate
- Audible: Captivate
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Full Episode Transcript:
Welcome to Brainfluence, where author and international keynote speaker Roger Dooley has weekly conversations with thought leaders and world class experts. Every episode shows you how to improve your business with advice based on science or data.
Roger’s new book, Friction, is published by McGraw Hill and is now available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and bookstores everywhere. Dr Robert Cialdini described the book as, “Blinding insight,” and Nobel winner Dr. Richard Claimer said, “Reading Friction will arm any manager with a mental can of WD40.”
To learn more, go to RogerDooley.com/Friction, or just visit the book seller of your choice.
Now, here’s Roger.
Roger Dooley: Welcome to Brainfluence. I’m Roger Dooley. I’ve been trying to get today’s guest on the show for over a year now and somehow our schedules didn’t quite mesh, but thankfully she is now here. Joining us today is Vanessa Van Edwards. She is the bestselling author of the book Captivate, the book which I highly recommend.
She has such great insights about human behavior in part because her company although it’s a commercial business involved in training, I’ll let her explain that a little bit more about that, actually does its own research, which is kind of unique. Her YouTube videos have been viewed by tens of millions of people. It’s really such a pleasure to have Vanessa on the show today. Vanessa, welcome.
Vanessa Van Edwards: Oh my goodness. Thanks so much for having me. I’m so happy we can work it out and be here together.
Roger Dooley: Great. Well, me too. So explain a little bit more about your business and what it does, but also how you came to do your own research as part of that business. That seems pretty uncommon outside of the academic sphere.
Vanessa Van Edwards: Yes. Yeah. You know what’s funny as I started off, I was always writing about communication and psychology and relationships early on. This was maybe about 15 years ago now. And I noticed very quickly that certain articles got picked up and spread really easily. And other articles, it was hard to sell them. People didn’t really read them. They didn’t get shared. And the articles that did better were when I added some kind of a personal anecdote on top of the tip or the research.
So one of the very first studies that I looked at was a study about smell and they look to see which gender prefers different smells. I think they looked at all different kinds of things from lavender to eucalyptus. And part of the study looked at food smells, specifically like caramel or vanilla or peppermint. And they found that men greatly preferred food smells. Women typically preferred floral smells and scents.
And this worked on people as well as candles. I thought this was fascinating. And so kind of just to add a little bit of humor to the article, I decided to switch my perfume to vanilla and go to parties and dates to see if it changed anything. And then just to do something crazy, I asked some of my friends, “What’s your favorite food smell?” And a couple them mentioned popcorn, the smell of popcorn. So I took a popcorn bag and I rubbed the butter on my pulse points on my neck and on my wrists.
And I went to a party to see if anyone would notice that I was a walking popcorn bag. And sure enough, multiple people, mostly men said, “Man, you smell great.” And so I added that little anecdote to the article and the article went crazy and that was the very start of, “Maybe I should start doing my own research. Maybe I should be a little human Guinea pig.”
Roger Dooley: Well, that’s such a great story. Good thing you weren’t in Texas. People might have suggested that you rub barbecue on yourself, but.
Vanessa Van Edwards: I would do it. I would have done it.
Roger Dooley: Right. Well, who knows? It might’ve worked very well, at least in here, typically across the south, maybe. So one of the things that you talk a lot about Vanessa are first impressions and research shows that first impressions are really sticky, butt even if we get more information about the person later on it doesn’t really outweigh the first impression, at least not for quite a while. So how can people make a good first impression? What are the sort of key elements that you would suggest that our listeners do when they’re meeting somebody for the first time?
And I’m assuming that we will still be meeting people in person. Right now, we’re not doing as much of that as we have been or if we are, we’re wearing a mask, which sort of hides our facial expressions, but we will get back to the real thing eventually. I’m pretty sure.
Vanessa Van Edwards: Yeah. So actually I’ll give some tips that would apply to virtual meetings, phone meetings or in person meetings to kind of help us in all realms. I want to give some practical tips like verbal and non-verbal tips, but I also want to do a little reframe here, which is if you’re a recovering awkward person. So I joke that I’m a recovering awkward person and I really have to psych myself up to be with people. I’m an ambivert. So I’m somewhere in between introvert and extrovert and conversations don’t come naturally to me, which is why I got into this work.
So I used to go into meeting new people as sort of a challenge like I have to win them over. I have to get them to like me. I have to be impressive. Those are extremely nerve-racking standards. And they’re also I think very one sided. And so when I shifted to, I want to kind of in my mind pretend that I’m meeting an old friend. This took away all the pressure. It was like, “Oh, let’s pretend that there’s already some familiarity. Let’s pretend they already kind of know me.” I don’t have to prove myself. I just want to catch up.
You know when you see an old friend from school or from your hometown and your entire goal is just, “How are you? How have you been?” And you immediately skip, “So how was your day? How’s the weather?” You immediately go into, “How’s your mom? Did you ever end up being a veterinarian? I know that was always your big goal.” We immediately go deep. Ever since I realized that connection when I’m meeting new people, whether that’s on a phone call, a video call or in person, my frame is pretend that I’m catching up with an old friend. Maybe they look a little bit different, but assume familiarity. That’s the first thing. That helps take down the pressure for anyone who’s listening.
Roger Dooley: Do you have any mental hacks for doing that? I mean, just saying that, well, I’m going assume I’m familiar with this total stranger. Are there any ways that you get yourself in that mindset?
Vanessa Van Edwards: Yeah, like sometimes I think to myself, “It’s an old friend that I don’t recognize.” Right? Like it’s an old friend. It’s been too long that we don’t recognize each other. And I’ve actually had people tell me now that I do this, when I meet new people, “Gosh, I met you and it felt like I’ve just known you forever.” I’ve actually had people say that back to me. So that reframe really does work. And I always just tell myself, “I just don’t recognize them because it’s been so long.”
But then once you have that mindset, the next thing you want to do is immediately show trust signals. So the research shows that one of the very first things we try to decide about someone is their warmth intention or their trust. Are they friend or foe? Are they going to attack me? No. Even though these days, usually you’re not attacked by a stranger. Our bodies and our minds have adapted in a couple of ways to look for friend signals.
For example, a smile with the whites of our teeth is the only facial expression that can be seen from 300 feet away. And they think one of the reasons for this is because if you were being approached by a stranger back in caveman days and you flashed your teeth and a smile, it showed, “I’m a friend. I’m a friend. I mean well.” You could see the whites of someone’s teeth from far away. So of course that means if you can, giving someone a smile right off the bat. Almost I’m careful. I don’t want you to fake smile, right? I don’t want you to walk in with this plastic smile on your face. But I think that trick of assuming familiarity makes you want to smile.
So you’re thinking to yourself, “Oh, I’m greeting an old friend. This could be someone who I have a lot of familiarity with. Ah, that makes me happy.” And so this gives you a little bit more real reason to smile. And the second thing is that we tend to look at people’s hands for their intention. We want to see, are they going to shake our hands? Are they going to high five? Are they going to wave to us? Or in our caveman days, are they carrying a rock? Are they carrying a spear? Are they going to push us? Are they going to punch us?
And so I always say hands first. Most people think eye contact first. I actually think hands first. Whenever I enter a stage, when I hop on a video call, when I walk into a room, the very first thing is I wave at someone. I say, “Hey, nice to see you.” And then I either reach for the handshake in non-COVID times, or I just stick with the wave in COVID times.
Roger Dooley: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Right. Well, the wave at least would show you, I don’t have a spear there so.
Vanessa Van Edwards: Yes. Exactly.
Roger Dooley: Okay. Well, that’s cool. So what do we do these days though when so many of our connections are by Zoom or some other kind of web conferencing tool or even by non-visual means perhaps like a telephone call?
Vanessa Van Edwards: Yeah. So video calls are actually, they’re a little bit more manageable in some ways than in person interactions because you have less inputs, right? It’s a 2D kind of interaction. So the very first thing is I always, always liked to say my hellos purposely. What I mean by this is a lot of the time when we hop on a phone call or we click a Zoom button, we’re sort of taken off guard. Right? You’re kind of like, “Oh, hello. Oh, hello. Oh, hi.” And then your first impression is lost.
Roger Dooley: You’re on mute.
Vanessa Van Edwards: It’s like this confused, can you see me? Can you hear me? So the first thing is whether this is a phone call or a video call or in person, be ready to deliver a hello as if you’re being recorded forever. In other words, a lot of the times people will hold their breath and they answer their hello on the highest part of their breath.
They say, hello? Hello, hello. Hi. All the way up here. And that makes us sound very anxious. That’s because we’re often holding our breath to see are they going to be on the phone? Okay. Are we on a video call? And so we end up at the highest end of a range. What I would rather have you do is speak on the outbreath. So whenever we speak on the outbreath, when we take a deep breath in actually relaxes our vocal chords, it relaxes our shoulders, it brings in oxygen.
So here’s me at the top of my breath. Hello? Here’s me at the bottom of my breath. Hello? Those are both my natural range, but they sound incredibly different. So what I would love for you to do and maybe Roger, you’re willing to do this with me. So answer on the top of your breath. So if you take your gut in.
Roger Dooley: Okay, so I should breathe in first?
Vanessa Van Edwards: Yeah. Breathe in and then say hello at the very top of your breath.
Roger Dooley: Okay. I’ll do that. Hello?
Vanessa Van Edwards: Okay. Now what I want you to do is take a deep breath and I want you to speak on the outbreath. That’s hello?
Roger Dooley: Hello.
Vanessa Van Edwards: So if you were to compare those two back and forth side by side, the first one would be a little bit higher and the second would be a little bit lower.
Roger Dooley: Yeah. I felt that and it felt a little more just force in the second one too. Perhaps because it was breathing out, it seemed just a little more powerful statement.
Vanessa Van Edwards: Exactly right. I got more power and that’s because also if you have someone who has a lot of vocal fry, so a lot of vocal fry where they lose that. The way that you can actually fix that is by speaking on the outbreath forcing more oxygen out. And so when I’m speaking or I’m getting anxious or nervous or I’m in a video call and I’ve been silent for 30 minutes and all of a sudden I have to talk. A lot of the time what will happen is you answer on the intake and without any kind of vocal power.
So you go, “Yeah …” because you’ve just started talking again. So what I always say is if you’re about to say hello or even begin to start speaking in a meeting or on a team call, take a deep breath in and speak on the outbreath. It gives you much more resonance, much more power. It’s actually called your maximum resonance point. So when they look at our voice, it’s great to speak in that resonance area. Our ears love it.
Roger Dooley: Mm-hmm (affirmative). I just had Nick Morgan communications expert on the show two or three weeks ago. And he also has talked about it in a little bit different way. He talks about belly breathing as one thing. It’s something they teach actors and singers to do to project and deepen their voice. And it’s sort of what you’re talking about. A little bit different style, but he too talks about the resonance and undertones that you can get when you do that. So this is very consistent advice that we’re giving our listeners. You should really practice that.
Vanessa Van Edwards: And also what’s great and I love his work as well is what I think that we have to think about is that we are trying to communicate over non-natural modes of communication, right? Video, phone, it’s not the most natural way for communicating. Through a mask, through face mask it’s just not the way that we’re used to communicating. And so assuming familiarity and trying to bring back in normal breathing, but also like gesturing. There’s some great research by Susan Goldin-Meadow who found that our hand gestures are so important, not just for people understanding us, but actually for us explaining things.
So for example, you can’t see me, but I’m using my hands a lot. And that adds not only a vocal charisma to my voice, it adds dimension and movement and emphasis, but it also allows me to process my own words. When they ask people to do math problems while sitting on their hands, they have a much harder time doing it. When they ask people to tell stories when they’re sitting on their hands, they have a much harder time doing it. So not only would I say hands greeting first, right? Like waving hello or saying nice to meet you with your hands visible. But then the next phase is also using your hands to add more emphasis as well to your voice and to your charisma.
Roger Dooley: Mm-hmm (affirmative). It makes total sense. As we’re continuing the conversation after those first few words, you talk about sparks in conversation and some small talk gambits and whatnot. That if you’re meeting somebody again for the first time, perhaps in person, or perhaps virtually explain what sparks are.
Vanessa Van Edwards: Yeah. I’ve always been plagued by small talk a little bit. I have found that the older I get, the more allergic I become to shallow discussions. And so I found that I was stuck in these traps of small talk. And the small talk is interesting because it’s actually triggered. And we signal this to other people with the kinds of words and questions we use.
So we did an experiment in our lab where we had 500 speed networkers and this was across three different events, different populations of people where we set up cameras in all four corners of the room and we assigned them conversation starters. So each person rotated. And we assign them the most common conversation charters. So how are you? What do you do? Where are you from? Those are the three most common ones.
Roger Dooley: Right. And we’ve all been to networking events and those are by far the most common things that if you end up standing next to somebody in the line for the food or for the bar, or just end up in the same odd corner together. Probably 90% of the time, those are the exact things that one says to the other.
Vanessa Van Edwards: Yes, exactly. So I wanted to test those like do they actually work? And then we did three different hypothesis questions, ones that we thought maybe these could do better, or they could do way worse. The first one was, tell me your story, which we can talk about what happened with that one. The second one is working on anything exciting these days? And the third one was, do you have any vacations coming up?
So those are the ones we thought, “Maybe this could do a little better.” So what was interesting was we not only ask for people’s ratings so after each time they did it, we asked them, “How much did you like that conversation?” So perception of how the conversation went. We also looked for difference in non-verbal. We looked for non-verbal enthusiasm when someone really is having a great conversation, there’s more gestures. They lean in. There’s more nods. The whole volume of the room goes up. There’s more eye contact. There’s more laughter. So very, very quickly I will tell you, I could probably guess what question was being asked simply by the look of the room.
How are you? Was like people were brain dead. Like nothing happened. It was super awkward. You could see the silences, you could see the kind of dead look on people’s face. Same with where are you from and what do you do? They got a little bit higher ratings, a little bit more engagement, but very kind of like, “We were talking like this and then yeah. Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, you do that. Ah, that’s nice. That’s interesting. That’s wonderful. Thank you. Great.”
Very typical, I would call it hotelese it’s like what you talk about in a hotel elevator with someone. The last three questions, something very interesting happened. So can you guess, Roger, I don’t know if you remember this from the book, which one did the best?
Roger Dooley: I’m trying to recall. I’m thinking what’s your story. But I think that anytime you can give somebody a chance to talk about something that they want to talk about. One of the other questions in the book was what’s your passion project? Are you working on any passion projects? To me, that’s really setting it up for an enthusiastic answer because, well, what do you do? Maybe you don’t really care for your job that much or maybe you’re looking for a new one. Maybe you just had a bad conversation with your boss or something.
It’s not going to be very animated. But if you ask somebody, what are you excited about or what’s your passion project or vacation too. I mean, that’s something that generally people look forward to those things they don’t say, “Oh man, another vacation.” Those all seem like surefire winners. Which one came out on top? I forget which one.
Vanessa Van Edwards: You are absolutely right. So the working on anything exciting recently? We also did a variation where we had what’s your personal passion project? And do you have any upcoming vacations? Those did great. The best one was by far working on anything exciting these days or are you doing anything exciting? Now the tell me your story question is where it’s a little interesting. We either had people who loved that question or people who absolutely hated that question.
So the ratings were all over the place and it very much had to do with people’s personality. A lot of high extroverts, people who are big sharers, they freaking love that question. And that’s their go-to. If you ask them, “What do you normally ask people at events or parties?” They say, “Oh, I love getting people’s stories.” Introverts, people who are a little more private, they find that question invasive.
And so I share this because all of my extroverts listening, I know you love a good story, but sometimes you might be accidentally putting an introvert on edge by asking that question.
And for all my introverts listening, it would be very good to have that answer in your back pocket, a prepared rehearsed answer just in case you have a well-meaning extrovert who just really wants to get to know you.
Roger Dooley: I think it might catch some people off guard because it’s so open-ended. So if you specify something like a passion project, or what are you working on that you’re excited about? You’re kind of narrowing the domain there. That what’s your story is so open-ended that I can see it’s almost doing improv. Suddenly somebody throws you a line and it’s like, “Ah, what do I do?” So I can understand that.
Vanessa Van Edwards: Exactly. So stick with what’s your passion project or working on anything exciting. The next question, my next favorite would be have any vacations coming up now? Recently, I wouldn’t have been asking that question because no one’s been traveling. So recently my trick and you’re welcome to use this is on Mondays and Tuesdays I ask, “Did you do anything exciting this past weekend? On Thursdays and Fridays I ask, “Do you have anything exciting coming up this weekend? And on Wednesdays, I don’t talk to anyone. No, I’m just joking.
I actually do talk to people on Wednesdays, but then I always say-
Roger Dooley: Good policy.
Vanessa Van Edwards: It’s like sort of a joke, but sometimes I do try to avoid Wednesdays. Wednesdays is my writing day. But if I am talking to someone on Wednesday, I’ll say, “Are you working on anything exciting these days?” So you can actually use days of the week as great conversation starters.
Roger Dooley: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. Something, a little variation that I’ve done at large conferences is ask people typically at the end of the first day or second day when you’re in the reception or hotel lobby or something like that, ask them what they saw or heard that most excited them or using some kind of language like that. And those two things, first of all, it tends to engage people. But also I found that I can learn stuff that way, because particularly the larger the conference, you can’t see everything, you can’t see all the exhibitor booths, you can’t visit every single talk or workshop that’s going on.
And so those kinds of questions sometimes really don’t get much of an answer. They didn’t say much, but often you’ll find something that gets somebody really animated. They saw something that was absolutely new to them. And if it’s new to them, it may well be new to you and pretty exciting,
Vanessa Van Edwards: Love it. It’s also in a sort of way using the Franklin effect, which I love. And I talk about a little bit in the book, which is when you ask someone for advice or a favor, they end up actually being more excited about working with you and asking for, “Did you learn anything? Did you see anything? What did I miss is actually a subtle way of asking for advice, which I love.
Roger Dooley: Mm-hmm (affirmative), mm-hmm (affirmative) Yeah so we’ve now sort of we’re back in person say in this networking event, after a full day of the conference, you’ve got some advice in your book, Vanessa, about how to work the room like where to stand, where not to stand. And some of it, not all of it is intuitive, but why don’t you explain? I mean, all of us have been there and sometimes if you’re with a group or you’ve got a specific meeting or you’ve got somebody that you want to meet up with, it’s not too awkward.
But you walk in one of these things alone and I think just about all of us tend to feel a little bit awkward, especially we don’t know anybody. We walk in and none of my friends are here. How you approach that? Because you’ve got a pretty good methodology for positioning and so on.
Vanessa Van Edwards: Yeah. So it’s weird because positioning is extremely important because you’re actually making decisions strategically when you walk into a room or you’re “working a room.” But our intuition doesn’t always serve us in this way. So I found that over and over again, people were making the same mistake, especially people who wanted to connect a lot. And what they would do is they would stand in what I call the start zone. So the start zone is usually within five to 10 feet of the door. It’s typically, maybe right around if there’s a name card table or the coat rack, or kind of right as people are coming in and it’s our instinct to want to greet and see new people or wait for your friends there. Right?
The problem is is that when people are in the start zone, they’re mentally half in the event, they have just arrived. They also want to scope the room. They usually need to go to the bathroom. They want to drop their coat. They want to drop the present. They want to get a drink. They want to get some food. They also want to say hi to the host. They want to see who’s there. And so what happens is and this happens with people you know and people you don’t know is you’re in the event, you’ve been there. You had your drink, you’ve gone to the bathroom. You are settled, you’ve walked the whole room and now you’re ready to mingle.
So you stand by the door looking for newcomers. But as soon as they come in and you go, “Hey, I’m Vanessa. So have you been doing anything exciting these days? And people go, “Oh yeah, yeah, lots of great things. I’ll I just want to go grab my drink and I’ll be right back.” And so you end up having shorter, lower quality conversations anywhere in that start zone, even if you’ve been there for a while. So I would avoid the start zone at all costs. I breeze right through the start zone. I go through it as quickly as possible.
And it’s also because if someone strikes up a conversation with me, if you linger in the start zone, you’ll get someone else who will start a conversation with you when maybe you’re not ready yet. I always want a snack before I begin to converse or network. So the best area is actually in the social zone. And the social zone is you have a couple options, one with an eye line of someone and the host wants to introduce you, or you want to ask the host something. It can be a great way to always be kind of in the know of who’s cycling through the party because the host is usually the person people want to go visit.
But my absolute favorite place to stand and this is also by patterns that we observe in networking events is you want to stand in the spot right as people exit where they get their drink. So wherever the bar setup or the drink setup is they go to the drink setup, they get their drink, they turn to face the room. They should see you. And that way you become a social savior. You’re like you got your drink. Welcome to the party. You’re ready to network and connect. I’m here for you.
Roger Dooley: Well, that’s really great advice and not necessarily counterintuitive, but I can see where that person at that point, the person is relaxed, they’ve got their drink, they’re comfortable and ready to engage. Where if you compared to ambush shake them as they come in or they’re just not at that point yet.
Have you seen any of the virtual conference software out there, Vanessa? There’s various types of software that sort of try and simulate the networking experience either with small tables of people, sometimes even larger gathering like networking room. I’ve just had two brief exposures and so far it hasn’t really overwhelmed me, but I think this is going to get a lot better. Have you had any good or bad experience with those?
Vanessa Van Edwards: Not yet. I have only seen them. I haven’t had the pleasure of doing one yet, although I’m very curious to see how it translates. I think that the biggest thing is to actually use that context as a cue. So when you’re in those kinds of events and you’re trying to act normal, it’s not normal, right? You’re in a virtual conference room. And so the best thing I think would be to say when you meet someone, “Gosh, this is amazing that technology can do this. Have you ever done something like this before?”
And that way you’re actually immediately acknowledging that this is a crazy, interesting experience. And you’re also not saying, “What do you do? Where are you from? Let’s network.” I think when that happens that will be my approach the first time we do it.
Roger Dooley: Mm-hmm (affirmative). One event I just attended, I try to sort of simulate what I might do a before an in person event, which is to sort of walk around and drop in on people and just introduce myself, find out where they’re from. And you just get to know the attendees a little bit. And it’s just sort of a little bit more awkward when you parachute into there’s a table for four, and there’s two people at it and just sort of parachute in and appear at their table, but it seemed to work pretty well.
I mean, it was not the worst experience and they seem to not object to me hoarding in on whatever conversation they’re having if they were having a conversation or maybe they were just idly sitting there, checking their email.
Vanessa Van Edwards: I got to do it. You know what? You encouraged me. I got to go and do it. Because it’s such an interesting, cool experience.
Roger Dooley: Well, I’ve seen some pretty impressive implementations of the panel discussions and whatnot that simulate that environment pretty well and make it seem interesting by changing camera angles and doing some other stuff. So that part’s pretty cool. But the real value I get from conferences, I think most people get from conferences. Isn’t the formal eNotes and presentations, info presentations. It’s the contact you have in the hallways, in the hotel lobby, in the hotel bar where you actually get to spend some one-on-one time or small group of four people chatting and you really get some in depth learning.
And plus you can engage. If you’re listening to a speaker, there may be a Q&A after, but you can’t really sort of engage and push them on something or question or dig deeper if there was something that particularly interested you or if you’re sitting in the hallway, then you can do that. So I think that part still needs some work, at least from what I’ve seen. But I do think that is going to improve because there are a lot of people working on it right now.
Vanessa Van Edwards: I do hope Roger that one day we’ll be able to hang out in the hallway because I miss that. I do miss it.
Roger Dooley: Yeah. One last question for you Vanessa or topic. What did you learn from analyzing a whole bunch of Shark Tank episodes? That to me is one of the more interesting pieces of research that I’ve seen. Don’t know that Harvard Business School do that, but I mean, it’s a very creative piece of research. What did you find from that?
Vanessa Van Edwards: Yeah, so that was a really fun experiment. I did that with my co-researcher Jose Pena and we analyzed 495 pitches. So it was no joke of an experiment. And we looked at all different kinds of things that we tried to code as much as best as we could. And I remember that the Shark Tank pitch, it’s edited. So you’re only seeing what they want to show you, but it was still very, very interesting because one thing that is pretty consistent with all Shark Tank pitches that they don’t edit is that grand entrance.
Almost in every pitch, I think it was except for like two of them, which had some weird props. You watch their entire entrance from door open all the way to carpet. And so that was where I really felt like you could compare all these side by side. And it was funny because intuitively it was almost as if you knew who was going to nail it and who was going to have a hard time. You kind of could tell from their walk.
And that doesn’t mean necessarily who would get a deal it’s that you could tell who was confident from their walk. So there’s a really great research lab, it’s called the Biomotion Lab. I highly recommend you go check it out. Have you seen their work?
Roger Dooley: I don’t think I have, but we will put a link that in the show notes.
Vanessa Van Edwards: Okay. So it’s open-source so you can go check it out. What they’ve done is they’ve created a simulator of different walking, women walking, men walking, confident women walking, not confident women walking. And you can actually see how just by a series of dots, you’re able to gauge someone’s confidence, enthusiasm, sadness, gender simply from their walk. And so that was kind of the most exciting thing. And this is what I tell introverts all the time. Many of our students are ambitious professionals who are introverts or ambiverts. They have a lot of potential.
They have very big goals, but just a couple of those social things have been sticky for them. And one thing that really was a hard truth for me to wrap my head around was your first impression happens the moment someone first sees you, not the moment you first open your mouth. And Shark Tank is the perfect example of that.
That as they’re making that walk down the hallway, when you walk into a party, when you walk into a waiting room, when you walk into a conference room, the way that you’re walking signals everything to someone about your confidence, your enthusiasm, your strength. And so those mental reframes of making sure you’re in a good place, making sure you really know your stuff, making sure that you feel worthy is just as important sometimes as the content of your pitch.
Roger Dooley: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Right. And I’m not sure how well-accepted that work is right now, but Amy Cuddy had her power posing as a way of getting yourself psyched up for in the moment, both through your physical posture and your mental activity. And I had Michael Port, another speaking expert on the show a couple years ago and he too talked about how if you’re doing a speech on a big stage before you even turn the microphone on and get to the microphone, then the audience has already decided whether they like you or not.
And whether they’re really going to pay attention so. That’s great advice. And I could keep going here for hours, but-
Vanessa Van Edwards: Yeah, me too. Right?
Roger Dooley: All good things have to come to an end, Vanessa. So let me remind our listeners and viewers that you are Vanessa Edwards, author of the really excellent book Captivate. And where can people find you and your company online, Vanessa?
Vanessa Van Edwards: Oh, you are so kind. Yes, everything we do is at scienceofpeople.com. And you can also follow me on YouTube if you want to see some of my body language tutorials and leadership tutorials. And that’s where we post once a week and send out a weekly newsletter on the latest research.
Roger Dooley: Great. Well, we will link to those places on the show notes page at rogerdooley.com/podcast. And we’ll have a transcript of our conversation there too. Vanessa, thanks so much for being on the show. It’s been a lot of fun.
Vanessa Van Edwards: Oh, thanks for having me. Thanks everyone for listening.
Thank you for tuning into this episode of Brainfluence. To find more episodes like this one, and to access all of Roger’s online writing and resources, the best starting point is RogerDooley.com.
And remember, Roger’s new book, Friction, is now available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and book sellers everywhere. Bestselling author Dan Pink calls it, “An important read,” and Wharton Professor Dr. Joana Berger said, “You’ll understand Friction’s power and how to harness it.”
For more information or for links to Amazon and other sellers, go to RogerDooley.com/Friction.
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