How to Make the Most of the IBA-VIAC CDRC Vienna – Hana Láníková
I myself had the great privilege of participating in the first edition of CDRC Vienna as a mediator. Because of the tremendous and unforgettable experience I had in Vienna, I decided to continue participating in the competition by coaching a team that will compete in this year´s edition. Since I have experience as both a participant and a coach, I would like to share a few tips that can enhance your experience of the competition.
- Knowledge of the case
Knowing the case upside down is crucial for successfully participating in the CDRC competition. The confidential information that you will receive just before the negotiations will certainly change the strategy you have worked so hard on. However, if you have prepared well, no argument will surprise you and you will be ready to react to almost anything.
Before starting the preparation of your negotiation strategy, you need to fully understand your positions, goals, and interests. If you don’t, you will not be able to negotiate the desired agreement. While reading the case, think not only about what your opponent’s flaws and problems are, but also think about yours and be aware of them. This will help you to prepare for the arguments the opposing party may rise during the negotiation.
Since the negotiation case is very complex, I find it very helpful to prepare a timeline of all the events that occurred between the parties. This will support your understanding of the situation while reviewing the case and thinking of a strategy.
- Communication skills
The minute your negotiation and mediation starts you become a professional. It means you should introduce yourself, shake hands and exchange pleasantries with the other party. This will not only help you to calm down and get into your role but it will also set a friendly atmosphere. Furthermore, while communicating with the mediator and the other party, do not only think about what you are saying but also focus on your non-verbal communication (gestures, facial expressions, the tone of your voice). Non-verbal signs can say a lot more about yourself, your strategy and your position than anything you will actually say.
During your preparation time, you will surely learn some golden phrases that are used in each and every negotiation and mediation competition. Those phrases are valuable, thus know them, but don´t overuse them. If it seems to the judges or to the opposing party that you are using a phrase just for the sake of using it; it will not advance your case at all.
It is crucial to develop multiple strategies before starting the negotiation in the competition. However, each and every strategy will have some identical steps.
While preparing for the competition, make a list of both parties’ positions, interests, strong and weak points and list them in order of importance. Ask yourself what you would be willing to compromise on first and what you will not concede at all.
In order to come to an agreement, you have to find something the other party will perceive as important for them but that will cost you barely anything. While presenting your offer highlight how your offer meets their needs and interest and whenever possible, present it under objective criteria to justify your offer. Providing solid reasoning for your offer and/ or requested concession makes it easier for the other side to agree to it.
In terms of the negotiation itself, I suggest opening the negotiation and mediation on a positive note. Despite the fact that you are at a competition, you are working towards a mutual agreement. From experience, it is usually best to try to establish an atmosphere of trust and collaboration. This can be achieved through a variety of steps – greeting the opposing party in a friendly manner, engaging in small talk or avoiding threatening speeches. After the initial opening statements set an agenda with the help of the mediator and tackle the presented issues one by one, as it’s easier to reach agreement on individual points than dealing with the problem as a whole. If the other party comes up with something unexpected during the negotiation do not lose your temper. Stay calm and most importantly ask questions (preferably open-ended ones) because, as you know, information is power.
If the negotiation isn’t getting anywhere on a particular issue, start on something else, which will show your readiness to react and will allow you to use your time efficiently.
The great thing about alternative dispute resolution is that you can be creative in coming up with a range of possible solutions. Keep in mind that an apology or an agreement to keep certain information confidential can be just as valuable to the other party as money.
Last but not least, once you reach an oral agreement, do not waste your time on congratulating yourselves, instead, you should immediately work on writing down what was agreed upon onto the flipchart so that you have something tangible to come back to in case of further negotiations.
Because of the international concept of the competition, CDRC offers a great networking opportunity for everyone involved. Use this opportunity wisely and even though you are tired or have already talked too much that day – push yourself and engage with other participants, coaches, and judges. This is a great opportunity to meet professionals from all over the world and see, compare and learn different negotiation styles, mediation techniques and overall approaches to alternative dispute resolution. This will tremendously widen your horizons.
- Other tips
The key element of a successful negotiation is team cooperation. Discuss the strategy thoroughly beforehand with your team partner and make sure you both know how to frame each issue, and what your priorities are so that you can be cohesive while negotiating.
Despite the fact that it is a competition, remember to be soft on the people but hard on the problem. This will help you to develop a collaborative environment and reach an agreement. You can find more about this technique in the book Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, written by William L. Ury , Roger Fisher, and Bruce M. Patton. I strongly suggest reading this book as it is the “Bible” for negotiators.
To conclude, like most things in life, what you give to the competition is what you get back. Hence prepare, practice and learn as much as you can, but throughout the whole journey do not forget to enjoy yourself. I believe that participating in such a great event will enhance and develop both your professional and personal skills. Every year, the CDRC competition brings together business and law students from all over the world, which can provide many opportunities to all participants. Thus, use your time in Vienna to its fullest.
I am looking forward to seeing all of you in Vienna very soon.
Hana Láníková has a bachelor´s degree in International Relations, Diplomacy (Czech Republic) and a master’s degree in International Administration (United States). She is also currently finishing her Law school degree and will be starting an LL.M. in Mediation and Arbitration soon. Hana hopes to combine this knowledge and become a skilled international mediator. She gained her passion for mediation and negotiation while participating in the ICC Competition (2015) and the 1st CDRC Vienna Competition, where she ended among the best 4 mediators. She is also currently working at a law firm mainly focused on international commercial law. In her free time, Hana loves to read books and travel.
published May 22, 2017