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Pay attention to content, process

The ‘what’ as well as the ‘how’, ‘when’ and ‘why’ are equally important in a group discussion

education Updated: Mar 10, 2010 10:39 IST
Hindustan Times

All that one observes in a group discussion (GD) for entry to a B-school can be categorised into two broad areas: content and the process. Content is all about the ‘matter’ (or the ‘what’) spoken in the GD, whereas the process refers to the ‘how’, ‘when’ and ‘why’ of the discussion. Both are equally important and need adequate attention. A high-quality contribution with no regard to the ‘process’ is as suicidal as one high on packaging but with little content. Let’s look at some skills and attributes that you need to succeed in a GD.

Cognitive skills or knowledge: The most important aspect of your contribution to a discussion is the quality of content (QOC), which is reflected in the points you make, your knowledge of the relevant subject and the supportive examples you give.

Comprehension of the core idea: It is essential to deliver high quality content. But to do that, you should speak on the topic and not deviate from it.

The panel wants to see whether you have identified the crux of the problem and are offering relevant solutions. If the point is relevant and well phrased, it will definitely earn you credit.

Logical reasoning: This includes understanding the topic, generating quality arguments, analysis and a progressive approach to a justifiable conclusion. This is one of the necessary attributes of an influential participant. Such people convey an impression of being open-minded and logic-driven rather than being opinionated.

Behavioural and personality skills: These include rapport-building, team membership, participation, patience, assertion and accommodation, amenability, leadership, etc.

Communication skills: You should be able to articulate your thoughts properly and understand what others are trying to say. Do not speak for more than 20 to 30 seconds at a time.
You can enter the discussion once every two to three minutes, i.e. roughly six to eight times in a 20- to 25-minute discussion.
Clarity of thought: In whatever you say, follow a logical sequence/order rather than presenting the points in some bits and pieces.

Be a good listener and give space to others: You must treat fellow group members with equal respect.

To be a good speaker, you need to be a good listener first. Listen to others and try and demonstrate good team skills, by taking someone else’s point forward.

Be polite: Be polite and clear in your points. Do not ridicule or be harsh to any group member.

How you manage to interject others is one of the skills needed for the GD, which you can develop by participating in mock discussions. Do not take any member’s comments personally. Overall, your attitude should be extremely formal.

Body language and eye contact: Maintain a balanced eye contact with all participants. Don’t exchange glances or smiles with anyone among the contenders. Don’t keep looking invigilator throughout the discussion. While listening, look into the eyes of the speaker. While speaking, maintain eye contact with the entire group.

Look for more tips next week

First Published: Mar 09, 2010 12:14 IST