Are Logistics Executives Communicating Far too Technically?

How to deliver an exciting speech in an entertaining, gripping, attractive, and yet very human style? Professional coach and rhetoric expert Thomas Huchler seems to have the formula as the outcome of his many communication workshops with cargo and logistics executives proof.  We met and spoke to the consultant after conducting a seminar in Hamburg.

Thomas Huchler is often amazed that leading logistics managers entrench themselves within their own technical walls  /  source: tmh
Thomas Huchler is often amazed that leading logistics managers entrench themselves within their own technical walls / source: tmh

Q: Thomas, it is always amazing to note that leading managers in air freight and logistics are often having problems presenting their firm’s visions and strategies in a captivating way at conferences or at press events, thus giving away important chances. Is this ability disregarded by enterprises in favor of expertise and technical knowledge? Can you confirm this assessment from your professional experience as certified trainer and coach?
TH: Yes absolutely. You see early on we get trained to see the facts and technical aspects of things. This starts already in school and continues through university and later on into the job. Especially in our industry, data seems to be everything. I am not proclaiming a disregard for that and by the same token it is clearly more important how you deliver your message. This is shocking to many executives and leaders in our industry, but hundreds of studies have been conducted about this topic and they clearly validate the statement that only about 7% of effective communication is derived from facts. The rest is articulation, gesture and body language. Just think back to when you experienced a great speaker or presenter: It is most likely true that you recall him or her based on the way they presented the message, whereby the facts (if you remember them at all) clearly ranked second.
Q: What exactly does it need to deliver a good, exciting, entertaining, and also intriguing speech? Have you got any guidelines? Or let‘s put it this way: does it suffice to deliver neatly lined up facts, data, and figures to the audience or in internal meetings to convince the participants?

TH: As I stated above, facts are important and if you don't have a message at all it will not matter how well you present it. And it is important not to put too much emphasis on the data and figures. Speakers generally like to hide behind the data and forget that they are addressing human beings who – in general – want to be entertained, enlightened or informed. You cannot achieve this by reading off a chart. You need to learn to   literally pick up your audience and take them along on a journey. Fortunately, there are techniques available to achieve exactly that. In our seminars we practice these over and over again until the participants are so at ease in delivering a compassionate, thriving and well prepared presentation or speech.
Q: Which role does body language play in this respect?
TH: Body language has to do with expression of your emotion. And you know very well, that emotions and our industry didn't go along very well. Emotions are still tied to a perception of weakness, certainly nothing freight forwarding logistics and or the airline business want to be associated with. Toughness, hard facts, trucks, airplanes seem to be the name of the game. It‘s only in the past years that our industry has learned to understand the importance of things like body language or emotional intelligence.
Body language in the presentation context is crucial if you want your speech to be a success. Studies have shown that the ratio of information as to how you use your voice to body language is 7 : 38 : 55
Q: Apart from Germany you occasionally coach air freight managers in the U.S. It would be interesting to learn which groups are easier to work with and offer you – generally speaking – the better prospects of success.

TH: Both groups are equally successful after our seminars but the approach to reaching the success is certainly different as they require different teaching styles. Our customers in Europe first need to understand and appreciate the importance of the soft factors, whereas the US based clientele have embraced this much earlier on in their professional lives.  

Q: How many seminars or workshops are you conducting on average each year and what exactly qualified you to become a trainer and coach?
TH: Well, the rhetoric seminars for freight forwarders and logistics professionals are conducted approximately 20 times per year. In addition to that we also offer seminars and trainings in the area of Leadership, Sales Training, Time Management, Emotional Intelligence, and yes body language among others.
I got into training very early on in my freight forwarding and airline career. I received my first certification in 2000 and since then I have continuously expanded my skills. I might add that this also runs in my family. My uncle was a top 20 Sales trainer in Germany and he retired last year leaving me with a wealth of knowledge and information. We have collaborated for many years before I decided to finally make my passion my profession.

Thank you for delivering these interesting and valuable insights.

Heiner Siegmund