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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tips and TRICKS In GROUP DISCUSSION

1. Initiation Techniques 
2. Body of the group discussion 
3. Summarization/ Conclusion 
Initiation Techniques
• Initiating a GD is a high profit-high loss strategy.

When you initiate a GD, you not only grab the opportunity to speak, you also grab the attention of the examiner and your fellow candidates.

If you can make a favourable first impression with your content and communication skills after you initiate a GD, it will help you sail through the discussion.

But if you initiate a GD and stammer/ stutter/ quote wrong facts and figures, the damage might be irreparable.

If you initiate a GD impeccably but don't speak much after that, it gives the impression that you started the GD for the sake of starting it or getting those initial kitty of points earmarked for an initiator!

When you start a GD, you are responsible for putting it into the right perspective or framework. So initiate one only if you have in-depth knowledge about the topic at hand. 
Body of the group discussion
• Different techniques to initiate a GD and make a good first impression:

i. Quotes
ii. Definition
iii. Question
iv. Shock statement
v. Facts, figures and statistics
vi. Short story
vii. General statement

i. Quotes

Quotes are an effective way of initiating a GD.

If the topic of a GD is: Should the Censor Board be abolished?, you could start with a quote like, 'Hidden apples are always sweet'.

For a GD topic like, Customer is King, you could quote Sam (Wall-mart) Walton's famous saying, 'There is only one boss: the customer. And he can fire everybody in the company -- from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.'

ii. Definition

Start a GD by defining the topic or an important term in the topic.

For example, if the topic of the GD is Advertising is a Diplomatic Way of Telling a Lie, why not start the GD by defining advertising as, 'Any paid form of non-personal presentation and promotion of ideas, goods or services through mass media like newspapers, magazines, television or radio by an identified sponsor'?

For a topic like The Malthusian Economic Prophecy is no longer relevant, you could start by explaining the definition of the Malthusian Economic Prophecy.

iii. Question

Asking a question is an impact way of starting a GD.

It does not signify asking a question to any of the candidates in a GD so as to hamper the flow. It implies asking a question, and answering it yourself.

Any question that might hamper the flow of a GD or insult a participant or play devil's advocate must be discouraged.

Questions that promote a flow of ideas are always appreciated.

For a topic like, Should India go to war with Pakistan, you could start by asking, 'What does war bring to the people of a nation? We have had four clashes with Pakistan. The pertinent question is: what have we achieved?'

iv. Shock statement

Initiating a GD with a shocking statement is the best way to grab immediate attention and put forth your point.

If a GD topic is, The Impact of Population on the Indian Economy, you could start with, 'At the centre of the Indian capital stands a population clock that ticks away relentlessly. It tracks 33 births a minute, 2,000 an hour, 48,000 a day. Which calculates to about 12 million every year. That is roughly the size of Australia. As a current political slogan puts it, 'Nothing's impossible when 1 billion Indians work together'.'

v. Facts, figures and statistics

If you decide to initiate your GD with facts, figure and statistics, make sure to quote them accurately.

Approximation is allowed in macro level figures, but micro level figures need to be correct and accurate.

For example, you can say, approximately 70 per cent of the Indian population stays in rural areas (macro figures, approximation allowed).

But you cannot say 30 states of India instead of 28 (micro figures, no approximations).

Stating wrong facts works to your disadvantage.

For a GD topic like, China, a Rising Tiger, you could start with, 'In 1983, when China was still in its initial stages of reform and opening up, China's real use of Foreign Direct Investment only stood at $636 million. China actually utilized $60 billion of FID in 2004, which is almost 100 times that of its 1983 statistics."

vi. Short story

Use a short story in a GD topic like, Attitude is Everything.

This can be initiated with, 'A child once asked a balloon vendor, who was selling helium gas-filled balloons, whether a blue-colored balloon will go as high in the sky as a green-colored balloon. The balloon vendor told the child, it is not the color of the balloon but what is inside it that makes it go high.'

vii. General statement

Use a general statement to put the GD in proper perspective.

For example, if the topic is, Should Sonia Gandhi be the prime minister of India?, you could start by saying, 'Before jumping to conclusions like, 'Yes, Sonia Gandhi should be', or 'No, Sonia Gandhi should not be', let's first find out the qualities one needs to be a a good prime minister of India. Then we can compare these qualities with those that Mrs. Gandhi possesses. This will help us reach the conclusion in a more objective and effective manner.' 
Summarization/ Conclusion
• Most GD do not really have conclusions. A conclusion is where the whole group decides in favor or against the topic. 
• But every GD is summarized. You can summaries what the group has discussed in the GD in a nutshell.

Keep the following points in mind while summarizing a discussion:

1. Avoid raising new points. 
2. Avoid stating only your viewpoint. 
3. Avoid dwelling only on one aspect of the GD. 
4. Keep it brief and concise. 
5. It must incorporate all the important points that came out during the GD. 
6. If the examiner asks you to summaries a GD, it means the GD has come to an end. 
7. Do not add anything once the GD has been summarized. 

GD Do's & Dont's
• Do's
1. Be as natural as possible. Do not try and be someone you are not. Be yourself.
2. A group discussion is your chance to be more vocal. The evaluator wants to hear you speak.
3. Take time to organize your thoughts. Think of what you are going to say.
4. Seek clarification if you have any doubts regarding the subject.
5. Don't start speaking until you have clearly understood and analyzed the subject.
6. Work out various strategies to help you make an entry: initiate the discussion or agree with someone else's point and then move onto express your views.
7. Opening the discussion is not the only way of gaining attention and recognition. If you do not give valuable insights during the discussion, all your efforts of initiating the discussion will be in vain.
8. Your body language says a lot about you - your gestures and mannerisms are more likely to reflect your attitude than what you say.
9. Language skills are important only to the effect as to how you get your points across clearly and fluently.
10. Be assertive not dominating; try to maintain a balanced tone in your discussion and analysis.
11. Don't lose your cool if anyone says anything you object to. The key is to stay objective: Don't take the discussion personally.
12. Always be polite: Try to avoid using extreme phrases like: `I strongly object' or `I disagree'. Instead try phrases like: `I would like to share my views on…' or `One difference between your point and mine…' or "I beg to differ with you"
13. Brush up on your leadership skills; motivate the other members of the team to speak (this surely does not mean that the only thing that you do in the GD is to say "let us hear what the young lady with the blue scarf has to say," or "Raghu, let us hear your views" - Essentially be subtle), and listen to their views. Be receptive to others' opinions and do not be abrasive or aggressive.
14. If you have a group of like-minded friends, you can have a mock group discussion where you can learn from each other through giving and receiving feedback.
15. Apart from the above points, the panel will also judge team members for their alertness and presence of mind, problem-solving abilities, ability to work as a team without alienating certain members, and creativity.
• Dont's
1. Be as natural as possible. Do not try and be someone you are not. Be yourself.
2. A group discussion is your chance to be more vocal. The evaluator wants to hear you speak.
3. Take time to organize your thoughts. Think of what you are going to say.
4. Seek clarification if you have any doubts regarding the subject.
5. Don't start speaking until you have clearly understood and analyzed the subject.
6. Work out various strategies to help you make an entry: initiate the discussion or agree with someone else's point and then move onto express your views.
7. Opening the discussion is not the only way of gaining attention and recognition. If you do not give valuable insights during the discussion, all your efforts of initiating the discussion will be in vain.
8. Your body language says a lot about you - your gestures and mannerisms are more likely to reflect your attitude than what you say.
9. Language skills are important only to the effect as to how you get your points across clearly and fluently.
10. Be assertive not dominating; try to maintain a balanced tone in your discussion and analysis.
11. Don't lose your cool if anyone says anything you object to. The key is to stay objective: Don't take the discussion personally.
12. Always be polite: Try to avoid using extreme phrases like: `I strongly object' or `I disagree'. Instead try phrases like: `I would like to share my views on…' or `One difference between your point and mine…' or "I beg to differ with you"
13. Brush up on your leadership skills; motivate the other members of the team to speak (this surely does not mean that the only thing that you do in the GD is to say "let us hear what the young lady with the blue scarf has to say," or "Raghu, let us hear your views" - Essentially be subtle), and listen to their views. Be receptive to others' opinions and do not be abrasive or aggressive.
14. If you have a group of like-minded friends, you can have a mock group discussion where you can learn from each other through giving and receiving feedback.
15. Apart from the above points, the panel will also judge team members for their alertness and presence of mind, problem-solving abilities, ability to work as a team without alienating certain members, and creativity.
GD Preparation
While selection tools and techniques like tests, interviews etc. provide good data about an individual, they fall short in providing real life data of how an individual would be performing in a real life situation especially a group situation. Team work being an integral part of the BPO work profile, it is important to ascertain group and inter-personal qualities of an individual. Group discussion is a useful tool to ascertain these qualities and many organizations use GDs as a selection tool along with Personal Interviews, aptitude tests etc. A GD is an activity where 
• Groups of 8-10 candidates are formed into a leaderless group, and are given a specific situation to analyse and discuss within a given time limit, which may vary between twenty minutes and forty-five minutes, or 
• They may be given a case study and asked to come out with a solution for a problem 
• They may be given a topic and are asked to discuss the same 
1. Preparing for a Group Discussion: While GD reflects the inherent qualities of an individual, appearing for it unprepared may not augur well for you. These tips would help you prepare for GDs: 
Reading: This is the first and the most crucial step in preparation. This is a never ending process and the more you read, the better you are in your thoughts. While you may read anything to everything, you must ensure that you are in good touch with current affairs, the debates and hot topics of discussion and also with the latest in the IT and ITES industry. Chances are the topics would be around these. Read both for the thoughts as well as for data. Also read multiple view points on the same topic and then create your point of view with rationale. Also create answers for counter arguments for your point of view. The electronic media also will be of good use here.
Mocks: Create an informal GD group and meet regularly to discuss and exchange feedback. This is the best way to prepare. This would give you a good idea about your thoughts and how well can you convince. Remember, it is important that you are able to express your thoughts well. The better you perform in these mocks the better would be you chances to perform on the final day. Also try to interact and participate in other GD groups. This will develop in you a skill to discuss with unknown people as well. 
2. During the Group Discussion: 
What do the panelists assess:Some of the qualities assessed in a GD are:
Leadership Skills - Ability to take leadership roles and be able to lead, inspire and carry the team along to help them achieve the group's objectives.
Communication Skills - Candidates will be assessed in terms of clarity of thought, expression and aptness of language. One key aspect is listening. It indicates a willingness to accommodate others views.
Interpersonal Skills - People skills are an important aspect of any job. They are reflected in the ability to interact with other members of the group in a brief situation. Emotional maturity and balance promotes good interpersonal relationships. The person has to be more people centric and less self-centered.
Persuasive Skills - The ability to analyze and persuade others to see the problem from multiple perspectives.
GD is a test of your ability to think, your analytical capabilities and your ability to make your point in a team-based environment.
These are some of the sub-skills that also get assessed with the skills mentioned above:
• Clarity of thought 
• Group working skills (especially during a group task of case study discussion) 
• Conflict handling 
• Listening and probing skills 
• Knowledge about the subject and individual point of view 
• Ability to create a consensus 
• Openess and flexibility towards new ideas 
• Data based approach to decision making 
While, it is not possible to reflect all these qualities in a short time, you would do well if you are able to show a couple or more qualities and avoid giving negative evidence on others.
GD Mistakes
Here's a list of the most common mistakes made at group discussions:
Emotional outburst
Rashmi was offended when one of the male participants in a group discussion made a statement on women generally being submissive while explaining his point of view. When Rashmi finally got an opportunity to speak, instead of focussing on the topic, she vented her anger by accusing the other candidate for being a male chauvinist and went on to defend women in general.
What Rashmi essentially did was to
• Deviate from the subject
• Treat the discussion as a forum to air her own views.
• Lose objectivity and make personal attacks.
Her behaviour would have been perceived as immature and demotivating to the rest of the team.
Quality Vs Quantity
Gautam believed that the more he talked, the more likely he was to get through the GD. So, he interrupted other people at every opportunity. He did this so often that the other candidates got together to prevent him from participating in the rest of the discussion.
• Assessment is not only on your communication skills but also on your ability to be a team player.
• Evaluation is based on quality, and not on quantity. Your contribution must be relevant.
• The mantra is "Contributing meaningfully to the team's success." Domination is frowned upon.
Egotism Showing off
Krishna was happy to have got a group discussion topic he had prepared for. So, he took pains to project his vast knowledge of the topic. Every other sentence of his contained statistical data - "20% of companies; 24.27% of parliamentarians felt that; I recently read in a Jupiter Report that..." and so on so forth. Soon, the rest of the team either laughed at him or ignored his attempts to enlighten them as they perceived that he was cooking up the data.
• Exercise restraint in anything. You will end up being frowned upon if you attempt showing-off your knowledge.
• Facts and figures need not validate all your statements.
• Its your analysis and interpretation that are equally important - not just facts and figures.
• You might be appreciated for your in-depth knowledge. But you will fail miserably in your people skills.
Such a behavior indicates how self-centered you are and highlights your inability to work in an atmosphere where different opinions are expressed.
Get noticed - But for the right reasons
Srikumar knew that everyone would compete to initiate the discussion. So as soon as the topic - "Discuss the negative effects of India joining the WTO" - was read out, he began talking. In his anxiety to be the first to start speaking, he did not hear the word "negative" in the topic. He began discussing the ways in which the country had benefited by joining WTO, only to be stopped by the evaluator, who then corrected his mistake.
• False starts are extremely expensive. They cost you your admission. It is very important to listen and understand the topic before you air your opinions.
• Spending a little time analyzing the topic may provide you with insights which others may not have thought about. Use a pen and paper to jot down your ideas.
• Listen! It gives you the time to conceptualize and present the information in a better manner.
Some mistakes are irreparable. Starting off the group discussion with a mistake is one such mistake, unless you have a great sense of humor.
Managing one's insecurities
Sumati was very nervous. She thought that some of the other candidates were exceptionally good. Thanks to her insecurity, she contributed little to the discussion. Even when she was asked to comment on a particular point, she preferred to remain silent.
• Your personality is also being evaluated. Your verbal and non verbal cues are being read.
• Remember, you are the participant in the GD; not the evaluator. So, rather than evaluating others and your performance, participate in the discussion.
• Your confidence level is being evaluated. Decent communication skills with good confidence is a must to crack the GDs.
Focus on your strengths and do not spend too much time thinking about how others are superior or inferior to you. It is easy to pick up these cues from your body language.
Knowledge is strength. A candidate with good reading habits has more chances of success. In other words, sound knowledge on different topics like politics, finance, economy, science and technology is helpful.
Power to convince effectively is another quality that makes you stand out among others.
Clarity in speech and expression is yet another essential quality.
If you are not sure about the topic of discussion, it is better not to initiate. Lack of knowledge or wrong approach creates a bad impression. Instead, you might adopt the wait and watch attitude. Listen attentively to others, may be you would be able to come up with a point or two later.
A GD is a formal occasion where slang is to avoided.
A GD is not a debating stage. Participants should confine themselves to expressing their viewpoints. In the second part of the discussion candidates can exercise their choice in agreeing, disagreeing or remaining neutral.
Language use should be simple, direct and straight forward.
Don't interrupt a speaker when the session is on. Try to score by increasing your size, not by cutting others short.
Maintain rapport with fellow participants. Eye contact plays a major role. Non-verbal gestures, such as listening intently or nodding while appreciating someone's viewpoint speak of you positively.
Communicate with each and every candidate present. While speaking don't keep looking at a single member. Address the entire group in such a way that everyone feels you are speaking to him or her.