7 TIPS on performing well in a Group Discussion
Tip 1: Preparation steps before the Group Discussion
1. Make sure you stay up to date on current affairs
2. Dress smartly. Formal shirts, ties and suits for men. Ladies can wear ethnic dresses or suits. Avoid jeans and T-Shirts. Avoid canvas/ sports shoes.
3. Make sure you bring a notebook and a pen.
Tip 2: Some Frameworks for analyzing a given topic/ case
Topic: In some Group Discussions, you would be given a topic, usually in the form of a single sentence.
2. “The best way to learn is to teach.”
Case: Sometimes you would be given a detailed hypothetical case (one or two paragraphs in length) and asked to analyze it and then discuss it as a group.
Pros & Cons: Make two lists of the advantages and disadvantages of some given action. Ideal for analyzing topics like “Demonetization.”
Weighted Decision-Making: If a specific decision is to be made, determine the factors involved, assign weights to those factors and analyze all options against those factors.
“A developing nation needs access to cheap energy to grow its way out of poverty. Which form of electricity generation is best suited for a developing nation?”
Using this weighted decision approach, Coal seems to be the best option for a developing nation.
(Re) defining the problem: Ask further questions like “What?” “Why?” multiple times to understand the problem with clarity and to look at the case through multiple angles.
“Should NEET be used in Medical Entrance Exams?”
Q: Why is this controversy happening? A: Because number of medical seats is limited.
Then, perhaps building more teaching hospitals could be a workable solution.
Solution Enumeration Tree: If you have clearly defined the problem, then you can create a tree enumerating all possible solutions.
“How can a street vendor selling tender coconut water increase his revenue?”
This is a framework to ensure that you analyze a given topic or a case from all possible angles.
S – Social
P – Political
E – Economic
L – Legal
T - Technological
Tip 3: Listen carefully when you’re not talking
1. Listening to the conversation will help you identify opportunities where you can jump in and contribute
2. It helps you avoid repeating something that has been covered in detail already
3. If you keep notes of the conversation, it will come in handy if you need to summarize the entire discussion towards the end
Tip 4: Identify opportunities to grab your turn
1. Set the Stage:
Try to be the first person to talk. Don’t jump into the solutions. Rather, elaborate on the exact problem the group is trying to solve. Offer a clarifying re-definition of the problem statement. Suggest various angles from which the problem could be looked at.
2. Jump in with the flow:
After someone else in the group has made a point, respond with a relevant counter-point or suggest some enhancement or point out exceptions where that point is not valid. Don’t simply read out your points from your notebook, use the conversation flow to enter into the discussion.
3. Steer the conversation if needed:
You can also talk against the flow of the conversation, if you believe that some important angles are being ignored or if the problem has been poorly understood. Point out that there are some aspects that have not been covered and start elaborating on that.
4. Ask questions:
This is a rarely used technique in a Group Discussion, yet it often works wonders. You don’t always have to speak. Sometimes, you can just listen and ask clarifying questions to which others can reply. If you ask questions of people around the table, you become the focal point of the group.
5. Pair up to create a back and forth dialogue:
After someone else has finished, you can ask questions to that person. In turn, that person might hand the conversation back to you after issuing a clarification. The two of you can effectively hog the limelight, passing the turn back and forth, while the rest of the group looks on.
6. Summarize everything towards the end:
If you have been taking notes, you could summarize the whole discussion towards the end when the natural flow of the conversation has been exhausted.
Tip 5: Use your turn wisely
1. Don’t cover items that have been discussed in detail already.
2. Be specific. Have a structured bullet list of items you want to cover.
3. Use personal anecdotes & illustrations to make your point clearer and worthy of remembrance.
4. Use your fingers to count out your points. This will force others to wait until you’ve finished.
“I want to talk about three things,” she said while holding up three fingers of her hand. “First,” she continued as she pointed her index finger in the air, “While we have already covered A, I have a personal anecdote that illustrates this issue in depth...”
Tip 6: Adopt the mindset of a conductor in an orchestra, not just a participant
1. Avoid the Fish Market:
If no one is listening and everyone is just trying to talk over each other, you can step in and try to restore order by holding back interruptions and asking everyone to allow the current speaker to finish.
2. Get the discussion back on track:
If the discussion has gone off topic, or if the original problem statement has been misunderstood, speak up and try to get the discussion back on track.
3. Help out others who are struggling to get a turn:
Towards the end of the discussion, if there are a few people who have not yet had their turn, you can ask them politely if they would like to add their thoughts to the discussion.
NOTE: The three items listed above are NOT techniques for you to grab a turn. Rather, they are ways to showcase yourself as methodical and fair-minded.
Tip 7: Communicate with confidence and calmness
Get the body language right:
1. Don’t lean forward. Don’t crouch. Don’t slouch. Sit up with a stiff straight back.
2. Make eye contact with everyone as you speak. Don’t look down into your notes.
3. Use open hand gestures with your palm open and visible to everyone.
4. Address everyone by their first names. If you are in a Group Discussion with strangers, make the effort to know and memorize their names beforehand.
5. Don’t be aggressive. If you and someone else get into a disagreement which cannot be resolved, just smile and say, “Let’s agree to disagree.”
6. Admit errors graciously. If you spoke something that has been refuted, admit it and thank the other person for correcting you.
7. If you stutter or stammer, offer a self-deprecating smile and acknowledge your nervousness and then continue with the discussion.
8. If things are not going your way, take a long deep breath, raise your energy levels and jump back into the discussion.