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There are 3 things to a group discussion

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  1. Initiation or Starting a GD
  2. The discussion
  3. Summarization

Initiation

Whether you should start a GD or not is one debate which always leaves students guzzled. Whether it is good or bad depends entirely on the candidate. By initiating a GD, you not only take the opportunity to speak first, you actually set the path the GD is going to take (provided you start on a positive note). This accompanied with the attention you grab from the examiner and your fellow candidates.

If initiation is timed correctly, supported with the proper facts and executed with the correct grammar and skill, it can leave an impression so good that you are guaranteed to sail through the discussion.

But one wrong step can lead you to a deep chasm, from where you won’t be able to come out however hard you try. If you start a discussion and stammer / quote wrong facts and figures, the damage may be irreparable.

If you initiate a GD, you should also keep in mind not to leave an impression that the start was just for the sake of it. So, always follow up a good start with equally good and regularly timed points so as to keep yourself in the middle.

As I said, initiation sets the path and tone of a GD. There are always some abstract topics where candidates rely on the first speaker to start so they can follow in that understanding. So, you should initiate only if you have in-depth knowledge about the topic at hand and are well prepared to handle any opposition that might arise after starting.

Discussion

This is where your skill and knowledge come into picture. If you’ve made a good start, half the battle is already won. If you started the GD and spoke for close to 60 seconds with everyone listening, you’ve almost won the whole battle!

For people who started the GD (and did that really well) it’s best to play safe. The best thing to do is keep pitching in every 1-2 min and dropping a valid point or supporting an argument. This way you will stay in the middle and the panel would not brand you as only the ‘GD Starting’ guy.

For all reasons, there are some techniques everyone can employ to shine in a GD. Some of the things that can you should practise using are

Definitions

It’s always good to start the 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, you can 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.

 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.'

Questions

Asking a question is a great way of starting a GD.

It does not mean that you ask a question to any of the candidates in a GD. 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?'

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." But such figures should only be quoted if you are accurately sure.

Shock statements

Initiating a GD with a shocking statement is another great way to grab immediate attention and put forward 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'.'

Stories

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.'

General Statements

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.'

Concluding a GD/Summarization

GDs usually do not have any conclusion, unless the panel has asked the whole group to arrive at one – in favour or against the topic. But, all GDs can be summarized. Whether or not there is a conclusion, you would be appreciated (and earn extra points) if you take the initiative to summarize what the group has discussed in the GD in a nutshell. Sometimes, the panel itself would ask you to summarize the GD, indicating that its over.

When summarizing a GD, keep the following points in mind  

  • Keep your summary brief and concise with all important points covered
  • Don’t raise a new point
  • State all viewpoints, not just yours
  • State all scenarios the GD ventured into
  • Once the GD has been summarized, do not add any extra point

A simple framework for summary can be, "We had a very healthy group discussion and we as a group have evaluated this topic from different perspectives. Some of my friends spoke in favour of the topic and the reasons that they gave were... whereas some very good points against the topic were... In all, we had a very good discussion where everyone participated with their full enthusiasm and vigour."

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