After a successful GIRO conference, Fiona Morrison expounds on the benefits of face-to-face communication
Frank Sinatra, in his iconic 1969 song My Way, sang the immortal line: "Regrets, I've had a few." If I'm being honest, I'm more of an Édith Piaf fan. My philosophy is that regrets are backward looking, energy sapping and negative, and I always try to look at life from an angle of not having regrets. So, in the words of Piaf, "Je ne regrette rien".
If, like me, you are hooked on Strictly Come Dancing (compulsive Saturday evening viewing in the Morrison household), you will be familiar with judge Craig Revel Horwood's catchphrase, "fab-u-lous". Those 'three words', as he calls them, certainly summed up my three days in Liverpool at GIRO. I admit that the thought of meeting the two Strictly stars, Flavia Cacace and Vincent Simone, held a certain charm for me, but the real pull was meeting a new cohort of actuaries that I had, until now, very little contact with.
Yes, GIRO provided a platform to showcase new research, and the programme was littered with excellent speakers and fascinating presentations, as you would expect from an IFoA conference. But what really stood out for me was the buzz around the venue, generated by GI actuaries from around the world coming together to network - and those GI actuaries can certainly network!
Seeing this vibrant community bouncing off each other, not only on the dance floor at the GIRO-does-Strictly gala dinner but also in the margins of conference sessions, reminded me of the classic BT advertisement from the 1990s that coined the phrase, 'it's good to talk'.
I firmly believe that a simple conversation can lead to better outcomes, and avoid the needless misunderstandings we've all experienced when modern communication methods are used, such as email. I'm sure many of you have been on one of those communications training courses where you are told of Mehrabian's rule, which suggests successful communication is 55% body language, 38% tone and only 7% words.
It is often said that the art of conversation is dying. Well maybe it is. I've noticed rail companies removing 'quiet carriages' from trains because everyone is tapping away on their smart phones rather than chatting.
There has also certainly been a massive evolution in the communications methods used by humans, from prehistoric fires, smoke signals and the banging of drums, to the invention of the electrical telegraph in 1838. But while innovation is a good thing that should be championed, it has led to communication methods that have, in many instances, replaced good, old-fashioned talking.
Now, I am not advocating that everything new is bad, on the contrary. At our new qualifiers' events I encourage family and friends to take photos on their phones to post on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (and other social media apps that are available). But sometimes it is better to talk face to face or over the telephone, or even via conference call. Don't worry, I've not yet been convinced to sing my Christmas cards live-streamed over the internet!
I don't know about you, but chatter around my Christmas dinner table often descends into hysterical conversation about some irrelevant or obscure fact that falls out of the obligatory Christmas cracker. If the same is true for you and yours, then here are some interesting/obscure/weird facts to throw into the mix if you are bored of the cracker jokes.
Apparently, sitting down is the new smoking. Standing at your desk instead of sitting can add 10 years to your life, while smoking 20 a day will knock off five.
According to Dr Michael Roizen, in his book The Real Age Makeover, flossing can add 6.4 years to your life. And lastly, according to Wayne State University, Michigan, just smiling regularly can increase your life expectancy by seven years.
Needless to say, I can't take the credit for researching these life-changing facts: for that I have to thank a journalist who contacted the IFoA press office for a comment.
Season's greetings. Here's looking forward to 2016 and some great conversations.