Preparing for a tough conversation

While we go through our career, we have lots of days that are more or less similar: meetings, discussions, and emails. But sometimes there are spotlight moments. You can be in a meeting with various senior people or work with new clients that is really critical. You have a meeting that will make it or break it. Very often these kind of meetings come with some kind of warning. You e.g. know you need to defend your case in front of a committee and it will be a tough discussion.

One of the toughest discussion you can be in as a statistician is a GBA hearing in Germany. During this meeting you can make or break the launch of a new product or indication in Germany with consequences for Europe and beyond. As a statistician you’re here in a high stake discussion.

In this episode, I’ll be giving you some tips on what can you do to be prepared for it:

  1. Know your data inside-out
  2. Know the set-up
  3. Know the stakeholders
  4. Know the written and unwritten rules
  5. Have a very clear goal
  6. Display confidence

Listen to this episode and be prepared for a tough discussion. Share this with your friends and colleagues who might learn from it!


Alexander Schacht: You’re listening to the effective statistician podcast, the weekly podcast with Alexander Schacht,  Benjamin Piske  and Sam Gardner, designed to help you reach your potential to lead great  science and serve patients without becoming overwhelmed by work.

Today. We are talking about preparing for a tough conversation like GPA hearing. And if you don’t know what that is, stay tuned. Quite some time ago. We had an interview with Andrea Shrinker and he’s an expert in German submission work. And if you want to learn more about his, the how to do HA submission in Germany Central, scroll back to this episode really insightful. And if you’re working in Phase 2, 3 and especially in launch and commercialization, then that is really important for you.

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While we go through a lot of Korea, we have lots of days that are more or less similar, you know, say, another meeting has another kind of discussion about something but sometimes there’s these occasions where there’s a lot of Spotlight. Where you are in a meeting with senior people or you work with new clients and that is now really critical. It’s a meeting that will Make It or Break It. Very often, these kinds of meetings come with some kind of warning. You know that those days will come when you know that you will need to defend your case in front of a committee that you will meet with these clients. You will meet these external stakeholders and you know, it will be a tough discussion. I think one of the most or the toughest discussions you can be in as a statistician is you. If you sit in this so-called GBA, Hearing in Germany as a statistician. I’ve been there twice and everybody that goes there as a statistician if it’s a lot about statistical topics. This is a really really tough situation. It’s a situation where you work in a company. Only four people from the company are allowed and you need to defend your case for your new product, why it should be reimbursed and come with a premium price on to the German Market. Very high stake discussion.

Obviously, there’s a couple of different parties involved here that work and argue against you. You go into this face-to-face hearing and then you sit in this big room. You actually enter this big room when everybody is already sitting there and you are coming in as the guests and it’s a hearing that they hear you, they ask you? And to be honest, it really feels like you are a criminal, you’re a suspect and there’s all these police officers that now will interrogate you. Maybe it’s a little bit overstated but it really feels like that. And so this is all these different parties in the room. It’s a really big room. Surely more than 30 people are sitting around these big rectangular tables, and you’re at one side of the room. And on the opposite side sits the chair of this meeting. And then you have right and left, you have other people sitting there and all are kind of speaking about your case. Sometimes with each other, sometimes they ask you and they will really kind of grill you, it is sometimes even a little bit aggressive,  and it’s a really tense situation. It’s a really tough discussion. Maybe in your company there is a culture, there are also these that you get challenged quite a lot and maybe there’s some politics going behind your meetings that can lead to quite tense discussions. Maybe they just, you know, you go into this meeting and you’re proposing something and there’s a couple of people in this committee that want to argue against it because that project is not supporting them or their agendas. You might also come into pretty tough discussions.

Today is a little bit about what you can do to be prepared for it. The first thing of course is you need to know your data inside/out. And you need to be able to kind of give answers rather quickly. It’s not like, can I come back in 10 minutes and tell you the answer. No! You have very little time to respond. The window of opportunity closes in a minute. So you need to know your data very fast, or at least you need to be able to find the answer very fast. Second, you need to know the setup. What are the rules? It’s a GPA hearing.  You cannot just speak up. You are given the word when it’s your turn and the chair decides when it’s your turn. And so you need to play to these rules. You need to know the setup, also, how will it look? How will you sit? Where will you sit? How will people see you? Yeah, is it, will you sit somewhere in the back of the room where nobody can see you? Maybe, you will need the ability to stand up so you can communicate better. Or is that something that is not appreciated if people stand up there. In a virtual setting, What is a virtual setting? What are the tools that you are using? How will you come? You know, what’s your video setup? How will you come across there? Know the stakeholders, who are in the room. What are their present preferences, what are their agendas? What are their pain points? What are their hot buttons? So, for example, in the GBA setting? you have the patient representatives. You have other statisticians or at least one other statistician that will challenge you on lots of methodological things. You have a representative from the insurance company. You have a representative from the medical association’s.

All these come with different agendas and you need to understand this, similarly, into tough discussions that you are entering. Who’s there? Maybe you’re talking to five different VP’s? What’s their interest? What are their hot buttons? Make sure that you are aware about these. Everybody has some kind of ego. Be prepared for that. And don’t kind of offend people unconsciously by saying something that is against their belief system. These can be things like maybe you don’t play some kind of things that are important for someone else. Maybe you think like “Oh, it’s not a big deal to expand the recruitment period a little bit”, but one of these VP’s is measured on set and that will mess up his metrics. His KPI’s. That’s a hot button. But also understands the pain points, what can you do to help them achieve their goals? If you know that, then of course you can argue and position your case so that it helps them and you can win them over as allies? Know the Written and Unwritten rules. Are the people that sit in this meeting expecting that you have met them before? That you have  had one-on-one discussion before with them? Do they expect that you send everything before in some kind of pre-read. Are you expected to deliver your case within 3 minutes? Well, then do and don’t come up with 30 slides. Have a very clear goal when you go into these discussions. What kind of optimum that you want to achieve, What kind of Best case that you can achieve. What’s the average case? Maybe also have some kind of Best alternative to negotiate an agreement. Maybe you have something like, okay, if you don’t get to something maybe you say maybe we can reschedule it and discuss it later. That’s not possible at the GBA, but maybe it is for the tough discussions that you are entering. Be clear on the key points that you want to make. And this should be probably only just something like three key points that you want to bring across. Why three? Well, there’s  some kind of magic about 3. Everything is kind of three. And so it’s something that people can very easily remember, that’s why we have three letter Acronyms, like TLA’s . That’s easy to remember. So be clear about these kinds of three points that you want to make.

Next, display confidence. As in the end of the row and if you present as a team, as a team. We actually prepare for how we enter the room as a team to make sure that we start directly strong and with confidence and that we also exit the room with confidence so that also the last impression we make clearly sensors a signal, we stand behind what we just told you. So it’s really important to have a strong start and a strong end. These kinds of two things will largely determine how you will be perceived after the meeting after the discussion. There’s some kind of psychology included in that. Things that have met in the beginning and things that have met at the end are especially important. Of course, that doesn’t say you can mess up in the middle, but if you mess up in the middle, that’s not as bad as if you mess up at the beginning or the end. So make sure that you’re prepared, you know your data, you know the set up, you know the stakeholders, you know the written and Unwritten rules. You have a clear goal with clear points to make and you’re prepared to get into the discussion with confidence and you can bring your point home and you can achieve your goals. So, with that, Be prepared for your next tough discussion. And let me know if this was helpful, connect with me on LinkedIn and I’m happy to get any feedback. 

This show was created in association with PSI. Thanks to Reine, who helps us for the show in the background? And thank you for listening. Please tell your colleagues, your friend, your peers about the show because I want to make sure that as many people as possible benefit from it. So sharing is caring, reaching your potential, Lead Great science and serve patients, Just Be an Effective statistician. 

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