Thursday, November 15, 2012

ToasMaster's Project 3 Speech - What's in a Face?

Here is my P3 ToastMaster's speech. It didn't really go as planned. For once I forgot my speech mid way and was forced to look at my notes. From there it was a road downhill. I made a lot of mistakes which I would have otherwise avoided and my voice modulation was not at all as I had practiced  Might be because of my lack of confidence due to my initial blunder.

Many thanks to my fellow ToastMasters especially my evaluator Suman, for their encouraging feedback and also for telling me my shortcomings. I am planning to give this speech again after incorporating their comments.

What's in a Face?

“Nice to put a face to a name.” It’s a phrase that we hear very frequently and which probably makes sense socially but think about it – professionally? I reckon in the work environment, this phrase is at least a decade past its expiry date. Good Afternoon fellow ToastMasters and guests.

All right so it might be mildly satisfying to find out how your colleague in the US looks like when all you know about him/her is through emails or phones. Nice, yes in the same way you get a clue right in a crossword. But essential? I would beg to differ. Let me tell you a few reasons why.

For a start, not meeting removes all manner of possible discrimination on the basis of age, gender, weight, looks or even the clothes. Operate mainly by phone or email rather than in person and you are more likely to be judged on the value of your work and not on the firmness of your handshake, the stiffness of your shirt and a 100 other visual nuances that help people form the much valued – “first impression”. Tell me who are you more likely to do business with – a shabbily dressed man with bright orange hair, green side burns and a perpetual drool on his face or an immaculately dressed fashionista? It would require a considerable effort on part of the former to convince you of his skills even if you somehow manage to get past that appearance.

Perhaps the most valuable contribution of remote working to the corporate world and to human kind in general is in reducing those awful meetings. Of course, we now have to endure more conference calls, but the sunny side is that everyone wants to get them over with as quickly as possible rather than the face to face meetings which drone on and on. You are no longer forced to take your clients or bosses for lunch and pretend to be friendly. It is way easier on the company’s resources and your mental faculties to just talk to them on phone. You can still be effective and create a personal link in a lot less time. And if they are a bit rude, opinionated you can choose to rise above – quite literally, well that is if they are not sitting in front of you. You can always choose to stand up and take the call. It gives you an extra bit of confidence over the other person.      

The benefits of working over emails cannot be overestimated. When you are involved in negotiations over fees, one side will often feel cornered. But not so over the email, where each party has considerable time to think over their replies and come up with all the supporting data to corroborate their arguments. There are far less chances of things getting ugly, trust me. And what about when your manager sends you an umpteenth email asking you to go over a 100 page report that you have already gone through and found no error. In person, it would take an extremely strong minded person to not snap back or at least show his frustration. But over the emails you can always say – “Sure, will have a look and get back to you.” You can still curse all you want but he doesn’t have to know.

This is not to say that face - to - face communication is not useful anymore. Of course when you are brainstorming perhaps or when you are just more comfortable expressing yourself in person. But if working remote means  improved cash flow for the organization, less time spent in travel and meetings and fewer interpersonal conflicts, then maybe the secret of success today is keeping as low a profile as possible or not putting a face to a name.

P.S. - Inspired by a post from Reader's Digest Oct'2012.

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