Real time demonstration of behavioural skills is the basic rationale behind the inclusion of group discussion as one of the selection techniques. None of the other techniques test the candidate’s managerial skills like communication skills, knowledge and ideas regarding a given subject, capability to co-ordinate and lead, etc. as well as a group discussion. Involvement of strangers in the discussion, lower familiarity with the GD topic and limited preparation time makes the job easier for the selection panel while making things difficult for the candidates.
A group discussion, by definition involves speaking before a group of people. This puts in some aspects of public speaking i.e. speaking and content. However, due to its interactive nature, a group discussion also involves listening to other people’s ideas. A typical group discussion has 8-12 participants and lasts for 15 to 20 minutes. It means each participant gets an average of around 2 minutes to talk; the rest of the time is spent listening.
Consequently, group discussion preparation revolves around these three basic aspects.
Group Speaking Preparation
In a group discussion, a candidate should be able to convey his/her thoughts satisfactorily and convincingly before a group of people. Knowledge on a given subject, precision and clarity of thought are the things that are evaluated. One should speak only as much as necessary and try to avoid irrelevant talks and being verbose.
- To enhance fluency, tone of voice and articulation, start by reading aloud from a book or an editorial for around 15 minutes daily. Once a week, try speaking in front of a mirror on some topic. This would also help in collecting your thoughts in an organized manner.
- Most of us may be very vocal in a one – to – one conversation but are less so when we interact with a group; especially if it is a group of strangers. So, start having some discussions with a group made from your friends. Such discussions are a good way to begin as they allow students to focus on speaking without being distracted by the extremely competitive environment of a formal group discussion.
- After content preparation for one or two weeks, start attending competitive group discussions with like minded groups.
Group Content Preparation
Presence of content will be a primary determinant of how you perform in any group discussion. If you are making a content heavy point, especially with some facts and numbers, then everybody else will listen to what you have to say. This generally helps in making subsequent entries in the discussion. For someone who keeps himself updated with current affairs, content preparation may not be an issue. For others, I advise the following:
- Pick around 6 – 7 current affair topics, (events that took place in the past year) and start researching on these. Understand the event from different perspectives like personal, social, political, cultural, academic etc.
- While reading magazines or newspapers, focus should primarily be on well covered articles or stories. Reading articles from the Sunday Express, the Mint, Business Standard and the Economist is a good preparation for group discussions. One may also look at some blogs that contain a few well researched articles.
- While researching on topics, try to remember important facts and figures and form some opinions with justification.
- In many discussions ranging from the recession to China as a threat to India for outsourcing; comparison between India and China or US is inevitable. So, it is advisable to know a lot of economic and demographic details of these countries like GDP, population, social structure, major industries etc.
Group Listening Preparation
A crucial but ignored part of group discussion preparation is listening. Often we undermine benefits of listening. A good listener would summarize discussions well; he/she may score by presenting a good case over an idea originated by another participant but lost in high decibel noise. Listening seems very easy; but what takes some preparation is to be able to listen and at the same time, structure your own thoughts.
- Participate in some discussions as an observer. Listening exercise during such practice discussions would help you understand the dynamics of a typical GD that involves high-low noise levels. Such an exercise would provide you with some hints as to optimum moments for entering into discussions.
- Listening to other people’s ideas may help to evolve one’s thought processes by adding different perspectives.
Group Discussion Tips
- In a discussion, if you talk in a long winded way, then the other participants will not be courteous and wait for you to come to the point. Hence, speaking in a concise manner is very important
- Address everyone in the group so while you are making your point you are not talking to one person only but the whole group. At the same time, do not look at the moderators as they are not a part of the group.
- Dress formally and use formal language.
- Address other participants with respect. Do not gesticulate a lot; if you are accustomed to using your hands while making a point ensure that you do not encroach into the space in front of other participants.
- Do not point to a specific participant while talking. Do not get personal; try to be objective in your arguments.
- Avoid using extreme words and extreme statements.
- If you are disagreeing with someone else do it civilly. Disagree with the point and not with the person.