Here Some Tips and Preparation Ideas : How To Prepare For Group Discussion (GD)
1. Understand It to Master It:
What is a Group Discussion? Why is it conducted?
Many students believe a group discussion to be a loyal friend; many others think it’s a formidable foe. Let me assure you, it is neither. In fact, it is rather a simple process in which participants sit together and discuss a topic, and try to reach a consensus (or solution to a given problem). Group discussion is conducted because before an organization recruits a candidate, it wants to make sure that the candidate is suitable for that particular job. For instance, if it’s a sales job, the candidate must have a right mix of assertiveness and willingness to serve the customer, so that he or she can sell the product and retain the customers. If it’s an administration related position, the candidate must be able to display confidence. A B-School conducts a group discussion to select the candidates with managerial traits. These traits can be easily spotted during a professional group discussion, as there is time pressure in addition to the pressure to perform. Nevertheless, a candidate, who has practiced enough, can perform under any amount of pressure.
Why should you love it?:
To a large extent, your success depends on your attitude. It is a universal fact that the more you love something, the better you get at it (and vice-versa). Therefore, if you want to perform well in a group discussion, learn to like it (yes, it can be learned!). Those who hate group discussions are less likely to perform well in them. (Moreover, why should you hate something neutral? Why not love it instead?) Change this tendency as soon as possible. How? I’ll tell you. The more you understand something, the more you love it. Therefore, keep practicing until you learn to love it. Trust me, it will pay off well in the end.
Group Discussion Myths :
Myth 1: You should always initiate the discussion: Though it is true that you may earn some points if you take initiative, but you should only do it if you know the subject well. A weak opening (because of poor knowledge of the subject) may work against you and may give a wrong impression of your leadership qualities. I won’t say that first impression is the last impression, but first impression does matter a good deal. So, if you are not confident enough, let someone else take the initiative and then you can make your points. However, I’ll advise you to be among the first few speakers.
Myth 2: Only aggressive speakers win: Nothing can be further from the truth. Aggression is one thing, assertiveness is another. And you can be assertive without being aggressive. While aggression may diminish your chances of getting selected, assertiveness may enhance your chances. Just back your statements with relevant examples and arguments.
Myth 3: You should speak very loudly so that others can hear you: You should speak loud enough, but not too loudly. Shouting is not considered appropriate. In fact, the most successful speakers hardly ever shout. Speak as naturally as you always do when you talk to the people. (‘How to make yourself heard in a fish-market’ will be discussed later.)
Myth 4: If you speak a lot, your chances of getting selected are increased: It’s simply not true. Saying irrational things will leave a bad impression on the evaluator (judge). Even if you have a lot to say, say it in a concise manner. Let others also make their points. It shows team spirit. (However, that doesn’t mean you should cut back on your time so that others can speak. Live and let live.)
Myth 5: If you speak like a celebrity, you’ll make a great impression: Please don’t underestimate the evaluators. They want to hear you, not a famous personality. Be yourself.
Myth 6: If you keep quiet, you may still get selected: No chance. No pain, no gain. You have to say what you must, or how else will the judges evaluate you?
Myth 7: Only fluent speakers perform well in a GD: Fluency has its benefits, no doubt. But even if you are not an absolutely fluent speaker, still you will have a fair chance if you know what to say and how to say it. Your knowledge, attitude, manners, attentiveness and other qualities also determine your score. (That doesn’t mean you can ignore the fluency part entirely. Work on it as much as you can, but don’t take unnecessary tension. In fact, some organizations arrange language fluency lessons for those bright candidates who need them.)
Myth 8: You may use your native language in a GD: Some people believe they can do this. No, you mustn’t. While an evaluator may forgive some of your mistakes, speaking in your native language will definitely leave a negative impression, unless, of course, it is also the official language of the discussion. However, you may use a few words or examples which are very common and generally known to all. Otherwise, stick to the language allowed to you.
Myth 9: The group must reach a consensus: No. Though it is good if the group does reach a consensus, but it is not a condition (unless stated so by the organizers). Evaluators know you may not have sufficient time to reach a consensus. Just do your best.
2.Types of Group Discussions
1. Topic-based discussion: You can be provided a topic which is:
(a) A controversy : For example, your topic could be ‘Caste based reservation’, or ‘’China — Biggest threat to India? or Which diet is better — vegetarian or non-vegetarian’, etc. In this type of discussion, you are required to take a stand on the given topic, and support your stand with suitable arguments and examples.
(b) A descriptive one : For example, you may be told to discuss ‘Indo-US Relations’, or ‘Poverty in India’, or ‘Causes of Inflation’. In this kind of discussion, your knowledge of the subject plays an important part. Else, you may be provided a plain fact and told to discuss it.
(c) An abstract topic : This type of discussions has gotten popular in the recent years. Topic may be anything under the sky, such as ‘Zero’, ‘Black’, ‘Gold’, or a number, or anything you can think of. Your creativity comes into play here. You simply say what you think is relevant about the topic.
2. A case study: You may be given a real-life situation or an imaginary case scenario, or even a dilemma. Then you’ll be asked to present your opinion on the given situation, or find a solution to a given problem (as a group or/and as an individual). You may be instructed to speak one by one or all at once, or even both. Such variations hardly matter to a candidate who is well prepared.
3. Preparation Matters A Lot!
How to prepare for Group Discussions: Some simple and powerful techniques
How to practice with friends: If you were thinking that you need to cut back on the time you spend with your friends to prepare for a GD, think again. In fact, group discussions are one of those few tests in which your friends can help you a lot. Every time you’re discussing something with them, you’re preparing for a GD. However, you need to set apart some time to discuss the topics which are commonly asked in GDs. We have provided a list of such topics. Ask your friends to discuss them one by one, taking at least one or two every time you meet. This exercise will be even more helpful if you have a mentor watching you, so that you don’t divert from the topic. They may also provide you invaluable feedback. Use an alarm clock (or the alarm in your mobile phone) to keep track of time. After the discussion, ask your friends to give an unbiased feedback of your performance. Try to minimize the mistakes pointed out by them next time you’re discussing. Also, at least once a week, try to look as formal as you will be in a real discussion. Dress formally, act formally and think formally. It will make you feel more comfortable on the D-Day. One last point: Don’t include those friends in such discussions, who don’t take the discussions seriously. You may meet them other times. What? None of your friends wants a serious discussion? Let’s see what else you can do in that case. How about your classmates?
How to practice in a class: A class seems to be the perfect place for formal discussions. And why not? You have almost everything you need for a group discussion available in a class. You can rearrange the chairs (at least after college hours), use blackboard, and avail the help of your professors (at least those who are friendly with the students). Moreover, you can definitely find the students with similar goals. Spend some time with such students after college hours. Just take care that you notify the group when to meet and in which room to meet. Practice as described in the previous paragraph. Again, take care to include only the serious participants who want to learn something.
How to practice with family members: If one of your family members has gone through the process of group discussions, you’re lucky. Ask them to discuss something with you (that ‘something’ could be anything — a breaking news on TV, a newspaper headline, or even anything related to their profession). Even if they have been out of practice for years, at least they can listen to you when you speak and provide their feedback. They’ll be more interested if you choose a topic related to their field of work.
Using TV and Internet to your advantage: There are so many news channels on TV and hundreds of useful websites on the internet that can help you enhance your knowledge about the current and historical topics, and can also teach you how to express your thoughts clearly. Watch discussions and debates on the news channels. Some popular ones are ‘The News Hour’ on Times Now, ‘Hard Talk’ on BBC World, ‘Centre Stage’ on Headlines Today (there are always some nice debates/discussions on the news channels these days). If you love internet, search ‘Group Discussion’ on any search engine and you’ll find almost all the information you want. On ‘You Tube’, you can find recorded discussions. If you’re looking for information, search Wikipedia. There are more ways available today than ever before were.
Make your mobile your true friend: In most of the mobile phones, you get the ‘recording’ option (or else you can use a tape-recorder). That means you can record your own voice and play it back to know how you sound when you speak. You can use a stop-watch to check your pace. Although some experts say that a particular pace is most suitable to make others understand your point, but trust me, a real GD can be very unpredictable. May be you’ll get a plenty of time to make your point, or may be others will keep interrupting you. That’s why, in my opinion, you should be able to change your pace according to the situation. If you get sufficient time, speak at your natural pace. If it’s a hell out there, you may have to speak a bit faster. Prepare for both. The following exercise will definitely help you: Take a book, find a nice paragraph (preferably a part of your favorite leader’s speech), read it at your natural pace and then at a faster pace, record both, judge whether you were able to make it understandable both times. Do it as many times as you want. It will help a lot.
How to practice alone: Stand in front of a mirror and try making a short speech (it need not be longer than 1-2 minutes). Watch your expressions as you speak. Watch your body language. May be you should use your hands more/less, or may be you should keep your chin a bit high! Watch the way you dress; your color combination, knot of the tie, shoes, etc. Notice every big and small detail. Make changes as you desire. Remember, the more you sweat in practice, the less you bleed in a fight (or a GD). Three words for you — practice, practice and practice. The more prepared you are, the less tense you’ll be on the D-Day.
4. Special Tips for Those Who Hate Group Discussions
There can be many reasons for why you hate group discussions. May be you are an introvert person; may be you think you can’t get through it; may be you have a BP issue! And it is also true that the number of people who hate group discussions is quite high. But since you can’t afford to hate it, here are some tips for you:
1. Begin your preparations as early as possible. You should try to get better at discussions. When you do something well, you begin to like it. It’s a well-established fact.
2. When you practice in front of a mirror, try to speak like your favorite speaker/news anchor/politician sometimes. Think why they love to speak. If you like this exercise, if it helps you, continue it.
3. Make your GD practice a fun. For instance, when you’re working on fluency, speak the dialogues you like. It will make the activity more appealing to you.
4. Go in depth of expected topics; try to find more and more about them. The more you know an issue, the more you can speak on it.
5. Learn to admire yourself. No matter how bad you perform, you’ll still be more courageous than those who simply watch and laugh at others. As you might have heard, you never fail if you try. Every performance prepares you for the next one.
6. Don’t worry about the stage fright. Almost everyone has it. It tends to fade away with time.
7. If you have the problem of high BP, take your medicine regularly and act natural in a GD. There’s never a need to get overexcited. Trust me, there have been the performers who don’t shout at all and still perform extremely well. Only after enough preparations you’ll be able to do this.
8. In GDs, there’s always a second time. Don’t care so much about your performance that it gets on your nerves.
5. How to Perform Well in A Group Discussion
It is quite common for the students to feel a bit nervous on a crucial day; be it an exam, a GD or a personal interview. It’s okay to feel butterflies in your stomach. However, you can ward off unnecessary nervousness if you keep track of certain things. Here’s what you should do before and amidst a real GD:
What to do before a GD?
1. Take adequate sleep the night before GD.
2. Do not try to read too much before a GD. Preserve your energy for the main event.
3. If possible, read the headlines in the newspaper. Go through the major ones. May be they can provide you some good points for the day’s discussion! It will have a positive impact on the evaluators if you’re able to cite an example from the day’s news.
4. Needless to say, dress well. You should look as professional as possible (some people confuse professional with artificial; please don’t!)
5. Reach the venue one hour before the set time. Make sure you’re carrying all the required documents. Also take along a water bottle. Add glucose to it if you want. If you find other candidates already waiting there, it might be useful to talk to some of them (at least to those who like to talk). It may help you overcome any nervousness you might be feeling. You can even make some good friends!
6. Sometimes you may be asked to introduce yourself to other candidates. So, keep a brief introduction ready in your mind.
7. Do as you are directed. When your turn comes, take a deep breath, relax and enter the room. Some people find it useful to warm up by mildly stretching their bodies before a GD. Remember, other candidates also have their weaknesses just as you do; you’ll find them during the GD. Stay confident.
DO’s and DON’Ts of a GD
1. Be who you are. Never try to be someone else in a GD.
2. If you are well-acquainted with the subject, initiate the discussion. However, if you are not confident about it, don’t initiate. But try to be among the first one-third of the speakers.
3. It is a good strategy to start with a unique question/statement (sometimes called ‘startler’), but make sure it is relevant to the subject given.
4. Be assertive. Make your point strongly. It shows leadership qualities. However, don’t be rude or interruptive. Listen to others too. It shows you can work in a group.
5. Appreciate the good points made by others. It shows your team spirit, and can also fetch you some support in the discussion.
6. Don’t shout even if somebody else is shouting. Maintain your calm and composure all the time.
7. Some people say you should hide your emotions during a GD. I partly agree. However, at some point, you’ll feel compelled to say something. All you need to do is express your emotions in a sensible manner. Just don’t get carried away by them. But it’s okay to smile a bit at some point or express your dissatisfaction over a view at some other point. As long as it is within limits, it can be a part of professionalism.
8. Don’t get nervous even if someone is speaking better than you. Do your best and forget the rest. Usually, more than one candidates are selected from every group
9. Maintain your body language all the time. It shows confidence.
10. Encourage others to speak. It’s another trait of leaders.
11. If you haven’t been able to understand a point made by someone, ask for clarification. It shows you’re really interested in the discussion. However, avoid asking unimportant questions.
12. Use easily understandable words. Don’t use passive voice too much. Avoid the words and jargons that only you can understand.
13. Provide relevant examples to support your points.
14. If the discussion goes off track, try to get it back on track; and do that politely and strongly.
15. Try to conclude the discussion in the end.
16. When given a controversial topic, take a balanced approach. Appreciate good points made by others, but stay firm on your stand. Choose your stand wisely. Now, we will discuss the roles you can play in a GD. A good participant will be able to play more than one of the following roles in any GD.
Roles you can play in a GD
1. Initiator: If you initiate a discussion and introduce new points in the discussion, it shows your confidence, ability to take initiative, and creativity. An initiator will definitely gain some points over other members, provided he starts the discussion well.
2. Info-seeker: When you ask other group members relevant questions on the points they have made, you become an information seeker. Asking questions can fetch you some points, but don’t overdo it; or it might give an impression that you don’t have sufficient knowledge of the subject.
3. Coordinator: When you help keep the discussion on track, when you make sure that all the important points are discussed one by one, when you show the relations between various ideas presented, you become a coordinator. But remember, unless you prove your knowledge in the initial phase of the discussion, other participants may not accept you as a coordinator. Moreover, to an extent, a coordinator is expected to have an influential personality. If you could prove that you are a good coordinator (in addition to being a good team player), you can expect to get wonderful points.
4. Elaborator: When you elaborate upon the points and ideas presented during the discussion, when you provide examples to support them, you become an elaborator. It requires having a good knowledge of the subject to play this role. But if you manage to do it, you are rewarded well.
5. Opinion giver: When you give your opinion on the points made by other members, you become an opinion giver. However, you must only play this role in addition to other, more important ones (initiator, elaborator, etc), because being an opinion giver alone doesn’t hold much value. So, it’s more like a secondary role that can fetch you some additional points. Nevertheless, if your opinion can change the opinion of the group, the rewards can be nice.
6. Critic: Being a critic doesn’t mean you need to criticize other group members; it simply means that you have to make an unbiased assessment of the points made by them. When done in a polite manner, it can be quite helpful to the group and make a good impression on the evaluators. But if you’re just a critic and play no other part in the group, you will definitely attract a lot of criticism from the rest of the group, and that will be detrimental to your own image. So, play your cards carefully.
7. Energizer: When you act as a stimulator and motivate the group to act in a more energetic manner and in the right direction, you are an energizer. When done in a positive and cheerful manner, it can definitely be a positive trait.
8. Summarizer: When you summaries a discussion, you become a summarizer. To play this role, you should keep track of the points discussed during the discussion. You need to tell the group what important points came up and what conclusion can the group reach, or if no consensus was reached. Needless to say, you need to be an active participant throughout the discussion to play this important role. As we discussed earlier, a good candidate will be able to play multiple roles during a discussion. Some of the qualities and traits you need to display during a discussion are — enthusiasm, assertiveness, team spirit, ability to take initiative, firmness (not rigidity), curiosity, logical thinking, up-to-date knowledge, attentiveness, ability to think under pressure, decision-making and good communication skills, etc. Some points are kept reserved for each of these qualities. Similarly, if you display negative qualities (like lack of attentiveness, aggression, indecisiveness, lack of team spirit, etc), you lose points. And here’s the good news — When you are focused on your positive qualities, the negative ones may not show at all! So, instead of worrying about the negative, focus on the positive.
Caring by not caring ‘too’ much
We know how much the success i n a group discussion matters to you. But think this way — What if your tendency to care too much makes you nervous during a group discussion and degrades your performance? A renowned negotiator, Herb Cohen advises people to care but not THAT much. Similar thing can be said about a GD. No matter how important it is to you, don’t let it get on your nerves, and don’t get emotionally attached. Remember, no chance is last chance. When you participate with a free mind, you naturally perform well. It’s okay to feel a bit nervous, but why take unnecessary tension? Some candidates can’t even sleep the night before the GD. Remember, performance, not stress, is your goal. Focus on GD without wasting your precious energy on stress.
6. How to Shoot Troubles in A Group Discussion
When you are given a topic you don’t understand: Many participants fear that they might be given an unknown topic to discuss. Though it happens very rarely, yet it may happen. For instance, not everyone understands the meaning of ‘Euthanasia’ (mercy-killing). So, what can you do when you encounter a tough situation like this? Simple, wait for someone else to introduce the topic. When one or two speakers have already spoken, you will be well-acquainted with the topic. Then you can present your opinion. Whenever you have a doubt whether you understand the true meaning of the topic, never be the initiator. A wrong beginning can cost you an opportunity.
When someone is trying to dominate you: Some people would want to step over you and climb the ladder. You do meet such people in life and in GDs. Well, it is easy to tackle them. All you need to do is not to lose your composure. Just don’t pay attention to them. Take your own course; not the one they want you to take. Evaluators are experienced enough to recognize true talent; you should trust their abilities. Moreover, they will be happy to select a candidate, who can take unfair criticism in a positive manner.
When someone in the group is shouting: Remember, such persons are annoying to everyone in the group, not only to you. No need to advise them. Let the evaluators evaluate them. However, if you want to say something when someone is shouting, it can be a good strategy to appreciate any good point made by them and then adding what you want to say. You may want to go like this – ‘I appreciate you made this point, my friend. In fact I’d like to add that… .’ Never try to change the other members; that’s not your job.
When there’s a total chaos: Sometimes, a group discussion can be compared to an Indian fish market; everyone starts shouting at the same time. When nobody is willing to listen to anyone, it might be a good strategy to stay quiet until the shouters lose their energy and quiet down a bit. At that point, you can enter the discussion. Alternatively, you can start speaking in a steady and monotonous voice until the shouters give in and listen to you. At that point, you resume your natural tone (an example — ‘AlL-I-WANT-TO-SAY-lS India can tackle the problem of …”). These are the two strategies that work in a fish market. If you want to play a coordinator, you can ask the group members to speak one by one instead of all shouting at the same time (but it may not work when no one is listening to anyone).
When someone offends you: There may be the immature elements, who don’t mind pointing finger at anyone, without thinking about the consequences. If it happens once, you may choose to ignore it; if it happens again, you may politely say ‘Sorry, but I’m not bound to answer your questions’ or ‘Since we have limited time, I can’t respond to you on this point’. Whatever you say, say it politely but firmly. Remember, you are there to impress the evaluator, not an offender. As a well-known thinker, George Bernard Shaw once said, “ I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty and besides, the pig likes it.”
When things seem to be going against you: This point is not about talking in favor of or against the given statement. I’m talking about a painful but possible situation when other participants, due to some reason, start refuting every point you make. (Remember, everyone will not tarn against you for no reason. Try to identify the reason and eliminate it. May be you have said something offensive; may be you have given an impression that you are not confident about the points you made. Try to reverse the damage.) Well, if you know what you have said, back your points with suitable examples. However, if you have been wrong, then admit your mistake as soon as you realize it. Do it in a cheerful manner, without being too apologetic. There’s no point further supporting a wrong stand. However, stay firm on the correct points you made. To win back some support from the group, support the right points made by other members. It will help you make a comeback.
When, surprisingly, everyone is calm and composed: It is more like a dream, yet the dream may come true. If you want to stand apart in such a discussion, play an energizer. Stay cheerful (genuinely cheerful) and motivate the quiet members to participate more. Do it calmly yet enthusiastically. Yes, it is possible to be enthusiastic without being too excited.
7. What If You Still Fail to Perform in A Group Discussion
Sometimes nightmares do come true. Nobody expects things to go bad, but sometimes they do go. A candidate may fall ill a day before the discussion, and may not speak well. Or one may not perform due to some personal problem despite all the practice and efforts (for instance, if one’s mind is preoccupied with a relative’s illness). A failure may come due to any reason. If that happens, the worst thing you can do is ‘give up’.
How did you learn to ride a bicycle? I’m sure you lost balance and fell down many times. You got up and tried again and again. What if you had never got up and tried again after falling down once? Think. As I said before, no chance is the last chance. Some of the greatest business leaders were once denied a chance by the famous educational institutes. Some of the greatest athletes suffered worst injuries, and still became champions. Read any good motivational book and you will find similar stories. Remember, you are not defeated unless you accept defeat. Moreover, there are many good institutions and companies; not just one or two. Worthy people are always in demand. You may try again as many times as you need. Never surrender to the setbacks.
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