Listen Up

Communication in any workplace is essential. In helicopter maintenance it’s critical. We rely on written and verbal communication to accomplish our day-to-day tasks and ensure we are on the same page when it comes to production schedules, company goals and strategic planning. We also rely on communication when dealing with customers and vendors.

When it comes to verbal communication, many of us are not good listeners. We feel the need to share what we want to say without concentrating enough on what the other person is saying. A friend of mine always liked to say, “We have two ears and only one mouth for a reason.”

Verbal communication is challenging because unlike written communication, we are not always sure the message we are trying to convey is being understood correctly by the other party. Here’s an example – a helicopter shop manager is having a fuel truck painted for shipment to its new maintenance base in the Middle East. He goes to his paint foreman  and says, “We will be using this truck in the Middle East, so I need you to do me a favor. Could you please paint, ‘Diesel Fuel’ in Arabic as well as ‘No Smoking’ in Arabic on both sides of the truck? I need this done by tomorrow afternoon.”

In order to verify the paint foreman understood what he wanted, the shop manager asked, “Do you understand what I need you to do?”

The paint foreman says, “I sure do boss. You would like me to paint ‘Diesel Fuel in Arabic’ as well as ‘No Smoking in Arabic’ on both sides of the truck, and you need it done by tomorrow afternoon.” 

Needless to say, the shop manager was surprised when he walked out and saw the freshly-painted fuel truck. Although the shop manager made an effort to confirm the paint foreman understood his instructions, the verbal feedback from the paint foreman didn’t give the shop manager any indication that the paint foreman didn’t truly understand the instructions. The paint foreman wasn’t distracted by trying to think of something to reply. He was focused on what the shop manager was saying. Even so, there was a failure of communication.

Speaking of communication, the Helicopter Association International (HAI) HELI-EXPO 2013 is around the corner. It will be held March 5-8 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Trade shows offer many different opportunities for communication. Vendors want to communicate the value of their products and services. Attendees want to communicate their issues and concerns to the vendors to see if the vendors’ products or services are a good fit. OEMs are communicating by having their technical experts sharing their expertise at M&O seminars. Here are a few tips I have learned to get the most out of HELI-EXPO:

Vendors. If you are a vendor, take the time to listen to attendees as they stop by your booth. If you take the time to do that before you give them your elevator pitch, you will be able to better understand their needs and communicate on how your product can help meet those needs. Take some time before the show to contact individuals in the Press who are attending the show and try to set up meetings if you have important news or product announcements you need to share with them.

Attendees. Are you trying to cover the entire show floor? Considering there are more than 650 exhibitors and only 19 ½ hours the show floor is open, that gives you an average of 1.8 minutes per exhibitor. That isn’t a lot of time. That doesn’t take into account any M&Os you might attend, breaks, lunch or other time-consuming events.

Take advantage of the information available at to get a list of exhibitors, professional development seminars, M&Os and other events so you can plan your schedule ahead of time. You will be more efficient and get more out of the show if you plan ahead. 

Speaking about planning, in order to help you start planning your trip to HELI-EXPO2013, the staff of HeliMx magazine has put together a HELI-EXPO Pre-show supplement (that accompanies this issue) that highlights many of the helicopter maintenance-related goings on at the show.

If you will be at the show, we invite you to take at least 1.8 minutes of your valuable time to stop by booth N3326 and visit with the staff of HeliMx. We welcome the opportunity to listen to you as you share your feedback and article ideas with us!