17 Nov 2016 19:19 IST

The open secret to excelling at group discussions

Being up-to-date with current affairs and communicating well are the key

The placement season will start soon in most institutes and candidates must brace themselves for a gruelling test of their capabilities. Of the various tools used for selection and elimination by organisations, group discussions have endured for years and is here to stay. It is one of the most effective exercises to spot and select people with leadership traits, and communication and interpersonal skills.

This is an open secret!

Everyone is aware of the importance of group discussions. There are enormous amount of articles and videos about group discussions and here I am adding to that with this article. Yet, group discussions are feared and most students tend to fumble during this and lose out.

Instead of writing about how to handle group discussions let me share with you the key pitfalls and problems that a person faces in a group discussion.

Lack of confidence: The biggest constraint for a person during any GD is the lack of confidence. This could be because a person is an introvert. Or they could be intimidated and stressed by the placement process. Regardless of the underlying reason this lack of confidence ends up being the single biggest roadblock during group discussions. This leads to extreme behaviour like the person being totally quiet or shouting out to be heard.

Poor communication: This is the next biggest issue and in most cases very closely linked to poor command over the English language. Invariably, this leads to lack of confidence, which in turn leads to further difficulties in communicating. Interestingly, I once witnessed a confident person with good communication skills but he wasn’t fluent in English. Instead of being intimidated by this, he announced that since everyone knew Hindi he would discuss and debate in Hindi. When the moderator quizzed him on his actions, he replied that there was no specific instruction that the group discussion must be in English and more importantly Hindi was commonly used in corporate discussions. He came though because of his confidence and communication skills.

Not being well-informed: Group discussions are usually about some contemporary topic. This is another major pitfall as most students do not read newspapers and are woefully uninformed about current affairs. I have seen everyone in a group being dropped because no one knew anything about the topic. Being well-informed also helps boost confidence levels. When a person hears a topic he or she knows about and has enough information on, the initial confidence is enough for a good start. Otherwise, the group discussion remains a non-starter for that person.

How can a person overcome these pitfalls?

Practice and more practice. That is the only answer and solution to handling group discussions successfully. Conduct mock group discussions every week with your friends. If possible record these and analyse them. More importantly keep abreast of all the current affairs and be well-informed.