The significance of delivering a successful presentation

The significance of delivering a successful presentation

Mike Abbadessa

Sr. Director US Medical Affairs – Takeda Pharmaceuticals


The MSL Society interviewed Mike Abbadessa, Sr. Director US Medical Affairs at Takeda Pharmaceuticals, to get his views on the significance of delivering a successful presentation in the MSL field. Take a look at his interview below!

In your opinion, what defines a successful presentation for an MSL candidate?

The presentation should be on scientific or clinical material to include some technical information and display skills such as:

 Concise delivery; ability to condense information into an understandable communication across a spectrum of audience types;

 Clear, direct, and confident – poised (not looking at the screen)

 Delivery should be factual and fair-balanced; provoke interest

 Ability to answer questions in a confident, informative manner; honesty is key.

▪ Enable trust through establishing credibility 

How much does the presentation weigh in on the hiring decision?

The presentation can be a deal breaker. If the presenter is bad, it will probably determine their fate with all things considered and assuming moderate competitiveness.

 Who would the MSL candidate most likely present to? If anyone outside of management, why?

The MSL candidate will most likely present to key management team members, including Senior managers, Medical directors, Managed Market Access partners – if HCEI is part of the role, and other staff to test candidate comfort with a moderate crowd (10 or so).

Copyright 2018 The Medical Science Liaison Society. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without prior written authorization. The MSL Society is a 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Organization dedicated to advancing the global MSL career.

What one MSL leader looks for in an MSL candidate?

What one MSL leader looks for in an MSL candidate?

Month: January 2018

The MSL Society recently interviewed Dr. Arthur Chan, who is the Executive Director, Head of MSL Capabilities, Development and Training with Novartis. In this interview, Arthur discusses what he looks for in an MSL candidate, his inspiration to hire someone for a role in MSL management and Linkedin requests that he has declined and why. Take a look at his interview below!

What are do you look for when someone comes from a different therapeutic area or has little therapeutic area knowledge?

I look for genuine passion for the TA. You’re more likely to succeed as an MSL if you are absolutely passionate about your therapeutic area. I’ve coached team members to always remember it’s not just what kind of data you share with KOLs, but how you share it, how you say it, and a genuine interest to learn from your KOLs and collect insights. In order to do all that, you have to love your therapeutic area. For example: let’s say you’re interested in a position, but it relates to a completely different part of the body than you’re an expert in. First, your due diligence should involve determining who the KOLs are in that therapeutic area, look at conferences to see who the keynote speakers and chairs are. Second, look up literature and clinical trials by these KOLs using PubMed and, which are free and full of useful information. This is a good way to have an overview of who the main players are and what is currently of importance in this therapeutic area. Also, you should ask yourself, did the previous two steps fascinate you and could you wake up every morning living and breathing this stuff? If yes, then simply being able to verbalize this excitement and share it, despite having no experience in the therapeutic area, is paramount.

What would inspire me to hire someone as an MSL manager?

Not all the super MSLs out there make great managers. I think it’s important to recognize that the criteria for hiring someone who manages MSLs should be very different from MSLs themselves. First, a good manager needs to exhibit humility. I truly believe that if I’m not asking for help and learning something new from my team members every day, then I’m not maximizing my potential as a leader. What I learn from my team members can help me strengthen others, remove obstacles, and help develop people. A good MSL manager should also be willing to be out in the trenches with the MSLs. They should have good pull through on training, lead with integrity, be familiar with compliance and legal guidelines, and be willing to have the courage to provide constructive feedback. Effective MSL managers are also able to and willing to advocate for their teams. They need to exhibit confident presentation skills and be able to manage “up” as well. Most importantly, the best MSL managers have a lot of emotional intelligence. They’re able to adjust their management style to different personalities, be willing to hire people with diverse backgrounds from diverse cultures, and know how to maximize the output of each individual by truly connecting with team members.

What LinkedIn requests have you declined? Why?

This is a good one. I generally don’t accept invitations from people I haven’t met in person unless I’ve been formally introduced. There’s always those who think that just because I work for a company, I can recommend them for a job. As an ambassador for my company and looking out for the best interests of the organization, who I bring into the company affects my reputation as well. A job is like a long-term relationship. For example, would I say yes to a complete stranger wanting to date someone in my family? Probably not. There’s a lot of people who want to break into the MSL role and they will ask for advice or ask me to review their resume or qualifications. I always recommend that they use the resources within the society to seek such information. Then we have all the vendors that would love to work with us. Most large companies have a preferred vendor list that we use for various functions and features and if there is something that we don’t have a vendor for yet, we will search for them.


Copyright 2018 The Medical Science Liaison Society. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without prior written authorization. The MSL Society is a 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Organization dedicated to advancing the global MSL career.

MSLs and Emotional Intelligence

MSLs and Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence is topic that is constantly discussed in the MSL profession. Brian Bischel, Senior Director, US Field Medical Affairs with Notal Vision, shared his views on Emotional Intelligence with the MSL Society. Take a look at his interview below!

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional Intelligence is a term that first gained popularity in 2012 when Daniel Goleman published his book “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ”. The phrase has many interpretations but is generally defined as the ability to be aware of how to handle interpersonal relationships with self-awareness and empathy. It measures how well an individual is able to regulate their own emotions and the consequent emotions of others.

 Why is it necessary for successful MSLs to have Emotional Intelligence?

It is not challenging to find very intelligent individuals for an MSL role. If someone has the discipline and intellect required to obtain a doctoral degree, they usually can master product information quickly, even if it is a new therapeutic area for them. The bigger challenge is finding MSLs who also have the proper levels of self-awareness so that they can read the personalities of those they are communicating with and adjust their levels of questioning or presenting appropriately.  

 What are some examples of questions you would ask an MSL candidate to assess their level of Emotional Intelligence?

A common question is “What is your proudest professional moment?” Someone with a heightened level of Emotional Intelligence will likely answer with a story about a team they were a part of that achieved a challenging goal by working together, as opposed to an example of individual accomplishment.

Another question to explore Emotional Intelligence levels is to ask the candidate to “Teach me something as if I’ve never heard of it before”. I like this question because often this is what MSLs are asked to do, and it gives me an impression of how they concisely explain potentially complex material. This question also gives me insight into their level of poise, as it is appropriate to pause and consider a response instead of just blurting out the first thing that comes to mind. And finally, I can see if they use check-in questions (“Does this make sense”?) in the course of their explanation, which I consider important for MSL presentations.

My last comment is not really a question, but a situation in which I like to interview. I prefer to do my interviews over lunch, brought into a conference room at my company. There are many reasons for this. First of all, many of our interactions with KOLs are over the meal setting, and I like to see how they handle the balance of talking and listening while also eating. Secondly, it sends the message that they can relax a little with me and that in turn really allows me to get to quality answers I need to hear in order to decide if they have the Emotional Intelligence I desire.

As an MSL Manager, what would inspire you to hire a certain MSL?

I certainly prefer therapeutic area fluency whenever possible. However, some of the most successful MSLs I’ve hired are young, hungry individuals without this experience, but have demonstrated that they put the work into preparing for the interview to improve their therapeutic area knowledge. These are people I know I can further mentor to consistently get better. 

In addition, I need someone who can work as a team. I realize this is a little cliché, but it is vitally important. I require my teams to work together on a multitude of projects, so no individual is overwhelmed. MSLs who seek only to elevate their personal brand, and not the group as a whole, do not have a place in my organization.

What skills should be improved often throughout the MSL career?

It really is a never-ending process of learning. I tell my teams that the physicians we call on may know more about the body than we do, but we must be seen as peers in terms of disease state knowledge, and have more knowledge than them when it comes to product knowledge. To that end, we have to stay current on publications and presentations.

Other skills depend upon what the MSL wants out of their career, which is something I ask all of my MSLs soon after they start in their role. Do they want to remain an MSL? Do they want to manage an MSL team? Do they want another role within Medical Affairs or some other department within the organization? Their answers tell me what I need to offer them to help them succeed, whether it’s leadership skills training or experience on internal teams such as Regulatory Affairs, Health Economics, Medical Information, Medical Communication, or others. I’m very proud of MSLs I’ve hired who have gone on to tremendous success in these different areas, perhaps due in some part to the experiences and training I provided.


Copyright 2018 The Medical Science Liaison Society. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without prior written authorization. The MSL Society is a 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Organization dedicated to advancing the global MSL career.

What to expect throughout your MSL career?

What to expect throughout your MSL career?

Have you ever wondered what one should expect throughout their MSL career or what steps to take to ensure you are prepared for this field? Well below is a brief interview with Cherie Hyder – Head of Medical Affairs at Alimera Sciences. She gives us a glimpse of the MSL career through her eyes.

How does MSL role change with the product lifecycle needs?

A product lifecycle may be defined by 3 main stages: 

Development through Pre-launch: 

MSLs are involved in many aspects including defining KOLs, disease state and therapeutic training, learning clinical data as it becomes available, potentially assisting with study design or additional assessments that will add value as the product prepares to launch, examining the competitive landscape and learning that data, patient perspectives, planning for launch, formulary presentations, and other things.  This is a hopeful and exciting time for a new product on the horizon and everyone waits with intense anticipation for the regulatory approval to allow the next stage to begin! 

Launch through Peri-launch:

The excitement mounts as a new product approval brings launch plans imminently!  MSLs will be laying out plans to support the launch meeting, educating the organization on disease and key data, how products should be used and approved label, plans for KOL engagement, and potentially hiring more MSLs to build out the team and assure adequate coverage. MSLs often assist with formulary presentations to increase access to a new product, educate KOLs / HCPs on the new product, label, and differentiation from competitors, answering many medical questions, attending medical conferences, and assisting with sales training, speaker training…..a flurry of activity!  Bring your running shoes! 

Post Launch / Mature Product through Patent expiry:

At this point, MSLs are a well-oiled machine with a ready answer to nearly any question about the product, label, and disease being treated; MSLs may be more active in further research with ISTs and sponsor trials, brand planning, competitor landscape monitoring and education internally, continued KOL development and partnership, looking for new ways to keep a mature product fresh and useful in clinicians’ armamentarium of treatments.  MSLs will need to be strategic and opportunistic to breathe new life into mature products and have something new to engage with their KOLs.  As patent expiry nears, MSLs may be transitioning to other products, teams or disease areas for the next chapter in a career. 

How does one prepare for a successful MSL interview?

Key Steps to Consider when Interviewing for an MSL position:

  • Read the job description carefully; MSL roles vary by company and product lifecycle stage
  • Consider tailoring your resume / CV to ideally match the job description with actual experience you have (don’t try to fake experience because you may or likely will be asked about it in interviews and lack of experience will show in the response; I have seen this happen when interviewing MSL candidates); get MSL / MSL leader in your network to review your resume / CV to offer advice
  • Listen carefully to the hiring manager/recruiter when they tell you how the interview process will happen, what you need to do to prepare and tips for success. 
  • Prepare fully for the interview in advance; read about the company, talk to colleagues at the company if you know them, try to do a field shadow day with MSL if you are new to the MSL profession and want to get a clear first-hand perspective of what MSLs do.  If you are asked to do a presentation during the interview, again listen carefully to what is asked of you; research your topic well, cite your references on each slide at bottom, bring a folder of key references with you in case someone asks about a particular reference you cite, understand the disease/condition, patient perspectives, treatment options and be prepared to answer questions.  If you don’t know an answer, have a professional way of responding and offer to look up the information with quick follow up to show you can handle this situation in a real MSL role. 
  • Before you go to the interview, look at MSL capabilities such as teamwork, leadership, decision making, strategic thinking, innovation, compliance (not a complete listing here) and develop a STAR format example or 2 for each of these capabilities where you explain a Situation or Task you faced as an MSL or in prior position, the Actions you took and Results you achieved. These are situational/behavioral based questions you are likely to encounter in an interview.  If you do this ahead of time, it’s easy to recall your examples and concisely reply to questions.   If asked a negative example, be sure to end on a positive note about what you learned or would do differently to achieve a positive result.  Also, know your personal strengths and weaknesses; have examples for both in case asked; for weakness, try to turn it into a strength such as being very detail oriented or wanting to be on time always. 
  • Make good eye contact, listen well, don’t talk over others, be well rested and professionally dressed, give a firm handshake and smile!  These are obvious things to do, but it’s surprising how often they are overlooked!
  • Enjoy your interview day and make the most of the time together as you are also interviewing the prospective company!  Come with a few questions you want to ask such as what MSL training and onboarding is offered, what development/mentorship is provided, ask about any special projects MSLs have been involved in, ask about current MSL goals and how many home office days vs field days per week are expected, how big is region, etc.  Don’t let the opportunity to ask a few questions pass by saying you have no questions.  Ask each interviewer for a business card. 
  • After the interview, send an email thanking the primary contacts you met with and stating your interest in joining the MSL team and citing something unique you learned in that particular discussion. 
  • Then wait….be patient….have faith that your strong skills will be needed and recognized by those who met with you and keep interviewing.  Don’t limit yourself to just 1 or 2 potential positions if you are sure the MSL role is where you want to be! 


Unique projects MSLs can get involved with to add value to their organization

The list can be quite long, but here are a few to consider:

If you love writing, ask to help write new SRLs (standard response letters), FAQs, abstracts, manuscripts, protocols, etc!

If you enjoy numbers, ask to participate in budget forecasting exercises, data analysis, managed markets/reimbursement projects to determine costs/value

MSLs also enjoy workgroups/task force committees internally where topics can range from competitor landscape to brand planning!

Updating slide decks and keeping slides fresh with new data is another great project! 

Actionable clinical insights from KOL meetings may evolve into new project opportunities


What would inspire you to hire someone as an MSL manager?

This person must have passion, high energy, and dedication to disease state, sense of purpose for why they want to be an MSL, skill sets that are transferable to MSL role such as clinical research, teaching, communication skills (written and verbal), and High EQ / Social skills. They also must be willing to go the extra mile to get a task completed, flexibility to adapt to changes, service-oriented, responsive to seek answers and info for follow up, detail oriented and organized,  and a self-driver! 


What have you done to achieve work-life balance in this profession?

Work will always be there. We have a duty to our organization to give all our effort each day.  Yet, it is critical to remember that the MSL role is a “marathon”, not a “race”.  Anyone can sprint for a while and then you need to settle into a pace for the long run.   Balance entails knowing you are human; you need reasonable rest, time to eat, be with family and friends and still fulfill your work duties.  Work takes up the majority of the time we are awake each day and we need to feel a sense of purpose with all we are doing, but, remember to disconnect outside of an emergency need to respond quickly.  Take time to enjoy the day.  Many MSLs are type A personalities, driven to succeed at all costs, but don’t let that trait cost you your health, family or friendships.  The MSL role offers unique flexibility with home office days where one can adjust family needs while getting work projects completed.  We are the ultimate multi-taskers!  For me, as an MSL with more than 15 years in the role, I learned to work smarter, not harder….meaning aim for the big wins….the high visibility, high impact activities that align with business needs rather than trying to run circles around yourself doing more and more, often repetitively doing little things that will never add up like the big ones!   Help your family understand the demands of a travel job; set up routine skype meetings with kids/spouse/friends and stay connected.  Find ways to make your travel time efficient by bundling KOL visits in a city or near each other.  Set goals for your next week in advance and allow extra time for the unexpected requests that always come!   Set up meetings with yourself to block calendar time to do reports and follow up work after KOL meetings.  Balance is ultimately about organizing yourself, aligning goals to maximize impact, orchestrating your field work and getting into a healthy rhythm.  Each person faces unique needs and situations regarding work-life balance.  Talk to fellow MSLs to get their advice and stop working too many long days, sacrificing valuable rest and relaxation time.  It’s okay to say NO or not now; if you delay fulfilling a non-urgent request, the may need to go away on its own!  


Copyright 2018 The Medical Science Liaison Society. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without prior written authorization. The MSL Society is a 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Organization dedicated to advancing the global MSL career.

MSL Hiring Manager discusses MSL networking, competitiveness, and KOL engagement

MSL Hiring Manager discusses MSL networking, competitiveness, and KOL engagement

The MSL Society recently interviewed Elizabeth Kupferer, Director of Medical Science at Valeant Pharmaceuticals. Elizabeth gives us a brief overview of competitiveness, helpful tips when engaging with a KOL, and the benefits of networking in the MSL profession. Take a look at her responses below!

A sense of competitiveness is integral to success overall, but what are some ways in which competitiveness can negatively impact a collaborative team effort?

 Competitiveness is common among a highly educated and ambitious team.  It is important to provide a sense of teamwork and have that competition be about the group, not the individual. The team should focus on being a productive and a well-appreciated MSL group.   Ways in which competitiveness within an MSL team is a negative is where the group actively competes against each other and avoiding sharing of best practices that essentially hinder the team as a whole.   

 How does networking benefit an MSL?

 Networking is essential to advancing your career as an MSL.  Networking opens you up to other’s best practices and additional insights that may go beyond your current company culture.  

What are 3 helpful tips when engaging with a KOL? 

 1) It is essential to preplan for KOL visits.  You should know and understand your KOL background, interests and current projects, publications, trial involvement, etc. MSLs should be prepared and respectful of the KOLs time and expertise. 

2) An MSL should ensure that the relationship is reciprocal and that you are also bringing value to the relationship. Knowing your KOL well will help you to do this. 

3) Don’t go into a meeting just to meet. Prepare a plan for engagement and always have an agenda to start with, then adapt as the meeting flows.


Copyright 2018 The Medical Science Liaison Society. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without prior written authorization. The MSL Society is a 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Organization dedicated to advancing the global MSL career.