7 Tips to Make an Impact in Group Discussions!

One important component of this process is the group discussion. You must have heard a lot about group discussions from your more experienced batch mates, friends and seniors. You may even have participated in one as part of a company’s recruitment process. So what does a GD measure? What ensures a high score in the GD or a rejection? Team Spirit? Knowledge? Communication Skills? Attitude? Ethics? These are a total of about 7, 8 parameters. You must have heard that the panel measures all these traits in a Group Discussion. That marks are allotted for each of these traits for each candidate.

Now a Group Discussion is conducted for 8 to 12 candidates over a period of 15 minutes to even 1 hour (IIFT). Each person speaks on average about 3 to 5 times in a GD. So that makes more than a 100 points to measure for the panel in a short span of time assuming 5 parameters per person and 10 candidates and 3 entries per person. Is it possible, dear students, for a panel to do that? Definitely not!

So what does a GD actually measure? A GD measures nothing but the Tangible Impact left by the candidate! At the end of the 15 minutes what does the panel think and even feel about the candidate? Is he a good, impactful person or is he a bad fish who would corrupt the whole class?

Secondly a GD is essentially a fight for attention. Most of the time you would find yourself cut off before you have completed your point. So what are the sure shot strategies to ensure that- a)You get heard? and b) Make an impact on the panel?

This post lists 7 essential methods to make an impact and ensure that you get heard.

1) The Double Edged Sword- Be the first to speak! This is a high risk maneuver. Begin with clich├ęs and statements like “I agree with the topic”, you will not just get rejected but also spoil the whole tone of the GD.

So how does one begin a GD? One begins a GD by laying open the topic for analysis. This can be done by analysing the title of the GD and asking questions about the same. This would lay a foundation for the topic. You can elaborate the topic by giving the background to the topic using techniques such as PESTLE, Bubble Diagrams and Key word analysis.(Do not be worried if you do not know these terms in detail . These shall be discussed in a later post).

For Example if there is a topic. FDI in Retail, boon or bane? You could start with the following introduction.- “FDI in retail has been a very divisive topic in the country splitting the country along several lines. First of all we need to understand the topic. What is FDI? What is retail and what are the possible impacts of FDI on retail. Who all are the interest groups involved apart from the general public and retail customer? How would the rural sector be affected? How would this change the market dynamics of the retail trade in the country? Dear friends, we need to analyse all these issues before getting into the thick of the topic”

Please note that your intro needs to be brief, compact and self sufficient. It should ideally be from 40 seconds to a minute and a half; assuming you get that much time to speak! If you flounder in the intro it is better not to have started at all.

2) High Risk High Return- The Devil’s Advocate
At times in a polarized GD it makes a lot of sense to choose the opposite point of view to what the entire group is taking. This obviously requires that you be very familiar with the topic and an eloquent person. Rest assured that if you are ill prepared, the entire group will rip you to bits!

To give an example- In a debate, suppose a whole group agrees that terrorism is a harmful phenomenon. Imagine the impact a person would make if he suddenly points out “The line between terrorist organisations and freedom struggle is often blurred. So many freedom struggles start out being defined as terrorism.” Then he goes on to cite examples of so called terrorist movements which were actually revolutionary struggles in Latin America, Africa and South East Asia. And concludes by citing how Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev were branded as terrorists by the British!!

Sounds good, right? But before falling prey to this strategy, make sure that you are THIS familiar with the structure of your idea.

3) Cite Figures- While a relentless monotone of figures would be a definite drag and make no impact, well chosen figures can hold the attention of the group and the panel.

Consider a debate on the death penalty’s continuance or abolishment where the group is concurring that Western countries are far more humane and just than India. You could possibly change the whole scenario by saying this “The USA, the so called harbinger of Human Rights, has executed over 52 people in 2009 while India has executed fewer than 50 people since Independence. Who is Just and Humane?” We are not sure if you would get an answer, but there would definitely be a moment of silence when the group ponders over what you said!

4) Begin a statement by “I want to make n number of points!”- This forces the group to pause and listen to you. Would it not be impolite to stop a person who has clearly stated that he has a definite number of points to speak and not verbiage?

For instance- Suppose a group is engaged in a heated debate on the pros and cons of the Internet being used for financial transactions. No one is getting a chance to speak. And one Individual says “I have 3 points to make on the distinction between using the Internet for merchant transactions by a retail investor and by a Large Corporation.” He is bound to be heard above the clutter.

Mind you, you should be brief. Make a graceful entry and even more graceful exit. Else you would surely be cut off.

5) The PREP Model: Examples have the ability to hold the attention of people. But without a point an example is lost. You can follow the pattern of Point Reason Example Point.

For example if a debate is taking place on “Is an MBA necessary to become a good manager?’ You could make an entry by stating” Friends I believe an MBA is not a precondition for managerial skills. The same can be acquired through practical experience also. For instance Dhirubhai Ambani was clearly a person who did not have an MBA but was a good businessman. Therefore I suggest that an MBA is not necessary to become a good manager.

This would clearly make an impact.

6) Quote an Authority: Nothing works as effectively in a GD as the words of a respected authority on the topic. For instance in a GD on “Social Sciences- Social and Science? A Paradox” you could make the following statement “ By Quoting the eminent Nobel Laureate Ernest Rutherford ‘All Science is Physics , everything else is Stamp Collection’, I would like to argue that Science has the criteria of rigor and objectivity which social science does not meet” ( It is a different matter that when Rutherford finally won the Nobel prize it was for Chemistry!! And it is yet another matter that making a statement like this before a panel of social scientists would be akin to “preaching atheism to a synod of bishops” to quote another sceptic of Social Science”

7) Lower your voice- In a GD when everyone raises their voice to get heard this is an absolutely counter intuitive thing to do. But at a right break in the commotion if you can make an entry in a slow, firm and measured voice the group will pause to hear you out.

It is difficult to give an example in writing as this is essentially a spoken technique. You would do well to observe those around you who employ this technique. In every 3rd or 4th group there invariably is a person who does use this technique. And it actually works!



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