Face To Face

Face To Face

"It's hard to say exactly what it is about face to face contact that makes deals happen, but whatever it is, it hasn't yet been duplicated by technology." (Startup Hubs by Paul Graham, Founder of Y Combinator—Silicon Valley's most successful business incubator)

Radiologists sit in dark rooms studying x-rays, MRIs, and CT scans all day long. It's an important job, pointing out the irregularities, injuries, and helping hone in on a diagnosis. But recent behavioral studies show that after hours of working in a dark room, radiologists have a tendency to overlook things from time to time.

According to research, radiologists were shown CT scans with a photo of the patient's face attached. So three year old Timmy's cute, little face was on the scan. Seeing little Timmy's face subconsciously made the radiologists care more—the radiologists were connecting with the patients.

A few months later, the same radiologists were shown the same CT scans without the photos. In 80% of the scans reviewed without photos, the radiologists didn't report the incidental findings that they had seen when they originally viewed the images (CNN source).

(There's another short story where 83% of radiologists overlook this hidden gorilla in an x-ray.)

I try and avoid meetings sometimes, especially in Zimbabwe. Many people have needs (not just business deals), and although the fact is out there that "95% of people are unemployed in Zimbabwe" the real caring starts to happens when you meet Tafadzwa's face—that one man who is unemployed. The stat becomes a breathing living person. Clean black hair, eyes that see through your own trash, and a genuine smile that you can't turn down. It's over. Even if I don't have a job opening, I'll create one. Either that or I'm haunted continuously until I give him options.

Face to face brings a humanity to your business relationship. It also makes you care more.

In the startup world, Venture Capitalists (VCs) prefer pitches face to face. You can tell if someone is lying or if they have the courage and guts to perform like they say they can. You can register genuineness in a face to face business meeting. A little Skype profile picture that was taken on your best dress day, where the light shone just right so you're smile looked trustworthy, doesn't cut it.

In the medical world, when changing work shifts, nurses give patient status reports to one another face to face (or at least the best hospitals practice this). My wife is a nurse (one of the hot ones), she says it allows her to connect with her coworkers, creates community, and she can also gauge if her coworker is understanding the information she is communicating.

In business, hopping on a plane to make an important presentation in person is invaluable. The cost of airfare is not much when you consider the upside to the new relationship. How many people in your industry would be willing to drive 5 hours one way just to shake hands with your connection and deliver a presentation in person?

Technology makes things easy. Sure you can Skype, chat on WhatsApp, and even FaceTime, but nothing changes the humanness of having a face to face connection. Don't underestimate this. And if you play it right, you could be establishing some strong relationships because you're one of the few who is willing to travel the extra miles to deliver a face to face experience and connection.

A person in it to make a quick buck, or just land a gig, will try to toss the fishing line from the shore clear across the lake, while getting tangled in the weeds of "gray areas." When you fly out to meet someone, the relationship value rises to the top and you do what's called in Zimbabwe "dobba dobba"—you drop your fishing line straight down on the catch. Clearing away any vagueness or questions on whether or not this will work out when there are jokes to be told and problems to be sorted.

It's the difference between fishing from shore and hoping the fish swim to your line, and fishing where the fish are.

Who would you choose?

  • The company that sent a proposal over email.
  • Or the one who showed up smiling with piping hot coffee and treats, and rather than giving a boring presentation, initiated a great dialog about how to take your business to the next level.

I know who'd I'd want to work with.

(photo via misko)