NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ–Inside the conference space at the Heldrich Hotel, young professionals from companies such as TD Bank, Johnson & Johnson, and Wells Fargo peered intently at one another.
The speaker, Jennifer Smith, had just asked the group, seated around a conference table, to observe their peer's sitting position.
“The question is, 'What message are you sending'?” said Smith, the founder of Growth Potential Counseling, during her session which focused on body language, gestures, and words.
Smith's roundtable was one of five held during a Young Professionals Leadership Summit at the downtown hotel Friday, in an event sponsored by the Middlesex County Regional Chamber of Commerce and Johnson & Johnson.
Smith kept the session lively by having the attendees simulate different types of non-verbal communication, such as crossing their arms or tapping their fingers on the table, and asking what messages each behavior implied.
She said that while most people focus on the words they speak, more than half of all communication is non-verbal, including one's posture, facial expressions, eye contact, personal space, and head positioning.
“You do it without even thinking, it's unconscious,” Robert Klumpp, an attendee from T.D. Bank, said, adding that the session made him more conscious of his own non-verbal communication.
“There are probably a lot of people that either I meet briefly that I could have had a better personal or business relationship with, but I may have come off a certain way and then that made us never cross paths again,” said Klumpp.
Sarah Benton of New Providence Financial said Smith's roundtable made her more aware of the importance of non-verbal communication.
“You're definitely projecting a message that you're not aware of, so it's important to make sure that you know you are projecting a message, and you have to know how to address that,” Benton said.
“It's good to know how to be professional while being engaging and using your body,” she said.
Smith gave the young professionals tips on how to become more aware and in control of their non-verbal communication, including: practicing speaking in front of a mirror, video-recording oneself, or asking for feedback from others.
Smith, who said she started her career in accounting before eventually shifting over to human resources work, said non-verbal communication can be important in making a good first impression.
“The first seven seconds, [people] are already forming an opinion of you,” she told the roundtable.
Justin Staley, a personal banker for Wells Fargo, said he found Smith's roundtable to be helpful.
“The non-verbal communication skills [session] was great, because you really don't know how you are seen by other people,” Staley said.
Other topics at the Summit included Career Development Planning, Time Management Tips, Knowing Your Critical Success Factors, and Be Your Own Trail Guide to Success.
“What is your own vision statement? Where do you want to go in the future,” Christopher Smith of TD Bank asked attendees at his roundtable on Career Development Planning.
Smith, who has a Human Relations background, said it is important to carefully reflect on and write down one's career goals for both the short term and the long term.
“Everyone has a different [goal] in mind,” Smith said. “Your career development plan, just like a great painting, is something you need to work on.”
He said that in developing a plan for one's career it is important to consider one's accomplishments, strengths, skills, and aspirations. Another key, Smith said, is utilizing the acronym "SMART" when developing career goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.
Carmen Alvarado-Correa, a Quality Operations Manager for Johnson & Johnson, who attended the Career Development Planning roundtable, said the session was helpful for her.
“It gives you kind of a methodology to do it, to sit down and go step-by-step,” Alvarado said. “Especially for the people who don't have a career plan written down.”
Connie Whitman, of Whitman & Associates, led the Time Management roundtable; Kathleen Cashman, of Cashman Consulting headed Know Your Critical Success Factors; and A.J. Borowsky, author of “What's Next, a Proactive Approach to Success”, facilitated the session called Be Your Own Trail Guide to Success.
Other speakers at the event included Veronica Smith, Quality Operations Performance Leader at Johnson & Johnson; Thomas P. Weatherall, President & CEO Make-A-Wish Foundation of New Jersey; and Sarah Cirelli, Marketing Manager of Interactive Marketing at Withum Smith + Brown.