The vital phase

Good body language speaks for itself.

Good body language speaks for itself.  

IF YOU want to perform well in a group discussion, you should prepare well for the event. Candidates who are proficient in their academic subjects may not necessarily be able to do well in an exercise of this nature, unless they have prepared well for this specific test. Since the skills for facing an interview or making a public speech are a part of group discussions too, there are common elements in the preparation as well.

Develop an active interest in news events.

Carefully read news reports and listen to radio/TV bulletins/discussions for gathering facts/views. Don't swallow all news or views. Scan analytical articles in dailies and newsmagazines of quality.

Read editorials, in-depth articles and newsmagazines thoroughly and note down significant views, observations, and quotes.

Gather accurate information on topics of general interest. (Keep regular notes on current affairs.)

Pay special attention to divergent views on controversial subjects.

Melt them in the crucible of your mind, process them and extract inferences and conclusions that would form the basis of your balanced views and convictions

Prepare well on popular/controversial issues.

Develop language skills. (Learn to avoid grammatical errors. Note down good expressions and captivating quotes in a personal diary.)

Enrich your vocabulary through constant effort.

Perform drills in spoken English, touching serious subjects, in small groups of friends. Practise the right pronunciation.

Observe the techniques adopted by good speakers.

Keep in mind that how we tell is as important as what we tell.

`Relevant points in the most appropriate phrases' is the mantra for success. Cadences in voice, pauses for emphasis, appropriate body language and non-verbal expressions for support are important.

Speak patiently, complete every sentence and do not swallow the last word in any sentence. Do not stop sentences midway and start fresh ones, this will irritate the listeners.

It is not necessary that you always speak in full sentences; a phrase or even a single word properly uttered in the right tone can create great impact.

Don't talk in a loud pitch, or in a taxingly low volume.

The examiner sitting away should also hear you well. Don't be too fast and sacrifice clarity.

Rhetorical questions may be used if you can do it well. (These are questions that are to not be answered by anyone. Example:

At this pace of tumbling values, where will India be after half a century?)

Language should be simple, but powerful. Avoid high-sounding words/bombast. Arrange facts and make arguments cogent, logical and reasonable. Don't give the impression that you are confused. As far as possible, use concrete words; avoid abstractions. Illustrate through striking examples.

It is a good thing if you can show initiative by starting the discussion. But there is no point in trying to be the first speaker unless you have good points to begin with.

You should never take extreme positions on controversial issues. Try to be impartial and objective. The golden mean is the best. You may agree or disagree; but voice arguments based on facts. How well you marshal facts and argue is significant. You should have a treasury of facts garnered during your systematic preparation. Avoid mannerisms such as "Well", "As you know", "I mean", "sort of", "basically", "er er", and "Is it not?"

You should not carelessly say something and then go for correcting it. (e.g. The anticipated cost of the project is Rs. 500 crores; I mean Rs. 500 lakhs).

You may modify your views accepting an argument, but not change colour like a chameleon. Do not try to monopolise the discussion, silencing others even if they have no valid points. Such an effort will create a negative impact. If a natural leader emerges, do not attempt to browbeat him, so as to silence him. Look at the participants by turn. Appreciate the good points raised by others. Valuable views expressed by others should not be ignored. However, you should not blindly repeat such views. Careful listening throughout the session is an integral part of group discussion. Never misquote a person.

Take opposition with a smile. Do not strongly retort if someone attacks you. Keep in mind that an understatement is more effective than an outright retort or open shouting. Don't explode on blunders from others. A worse gaffe may come from you later. Do not get disheartened, if a person discredits one of your views. Be broadminded in your approach. Remember that the same words make different impact on different people, depending upon their backgrounds and their frame of mind.

Encourage silent members. For example, if a participant remains silent for a long time, you may ask a question such as "What do you think about this view, No. 6?"

If someone asks you to speak, do grab the opportunity. Even while you are opposing someone, continue to be pleasant. Resort to humour, only if you can handle it well. Never give the impression that you are a clown. Never block others, when they want to say something. Never lose your poise. Do not be unduly emotional. Never allow any bad or provocative word to slip from your mouth. When a negative thought is to be stressed go for a milder word instead of a hard and irritating one. For example say persuasive not manipulative, or retarded not idiotic. Never air a view that can be interpreted as an insult to a person or a group.

Keep your body language under check. Do not give room for someone to say that you are arrogant. Do not express crude/raw views.

If you have several points, do not make all of them in one stretch. You would get further chances to express some of them. Even if someone else mentions some of those points, you can come back to them offering different perspectives.

If someone tries to obstruct your speech, you may continue by saying politely "just a moment", "kindly allow me to complete this one point", "excuse me" or something similar.

Even while you are refuting a point raised by one of the participants, do not go on staring at his face. Instead, you should address the group - your eyes should travel around.


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