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How to initiate, summarise a GD

Brijesh Singh, Arun Mittal
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February 06, 2007

Part I: MBA admissions -- 9 personality traits, evaluated

Friends, I completely support the given topic that channels like MTV should be banned as they are affecting our Indian culture.'

Or, 'Finally, to conclude, I feel that India should not attack Pakistan.'

How many times have we seen or heard someone initiate or conclude a group discussion like this? Quite often, of course.

There is a general tendency among candidates to grab an opportunity to initiate or summarise a GD topic without putting proper emphasis on the content. Candidates often start or end a GD during B-school admissions without knowing the importance of initiation or summarisation. Which is where this article will help.

A group discussion can be categorically divided into three phases.

1. Initiation/Introduction

2. Body of the group discussion

3. Summarisation/Conclusion

In this article, we will discuss the first and third phase.

Initiation/Introduction
 
Initiating a GD is a double-edged sword. When a candidate initiates, apart from grabbing an opportunity to speak, he also grabs the attention of examiners and fellow candidates. So, if a candidate who initiates is able to make a favourable first impression through his content and communication skills, it will help him sail through the GD.

On the other hand, if a candidate stammers, stutters or quotes wrong facts and figures, the damage done is irreparable. The candidate who initiates also has the onus of giving the GD the right perspective or framework. So, initiate only if you have in-depth knowledge about the topic at hand.

If, after initiating well, a candidate does not say much during the GD, it still gives the impression that he or she started the GD just for the sake of starting it, or to get those initial points earmarked for an initiator. There are different techniques to initiate a GD in order to make a remarkable first impression:

1. Quotes

An effective way of initiating a GD. If the topic is 'Should the censor board be abolished?' a quote like 'Hidden apples are always sweet', is apt to capture attention and convey more than what is actually said. For a topic like 'Customer is King,' one can quote Sam Walton's famous saying, "There is only one boss:  The Customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the Chairman down, simply by spending his money somewhere else."

2. Definition

One can start a GD by defining the topic or an important term in the topic. For example, if the topic is, 'Advertising is a diplomatic way of telling a lie,' one can initiate by defining advertising as 'Any paid form of non-personal presentation and promotion of ideas, goods or services through mass media such as newspapers, magazines, television or radio by an identified sponsor.' Similarly, for a topic like 'The Malthusian Economic Prophecy is no longer relevant', a candidate could simply start by explaining the definition of the prophecy.

3. Question

Asking a question at the start of a GD creates an impact. It does not signify asking a question to any of the candidates so as to hamper the flow, it implies asking a question and then answering it yourself. If a question is being asked to hamper the flow of a GD, insult a participant or to play devil's advocate, it should be discouraged. But, if a question is being asked to promote the flow of ideas, it is appreciated. If the GD topic is 'Should India go to war with Pakistan', for instance, you could start by asking, 'What does war bring to the people of a nation?'

4. Shocking statement

Initiating a GD with a shocking statement is the best way of grabbing immediate attention and putting forth your point. If the topic is 'Impact of population on the Indian economy,' for instance, it can be initiated with a statement like, 'Near the centre of the Indian capital stands a population clock that relentlessly ticks away. It tracks 33 births a minute, 2,000 an hour, 48,000 a day, which calculates to nearly 12 million every year. That is roughly the size of Australia. As a current political slogan puts it, nothing is impossible when 1 billion Indians work together.'

5. Facts figures and statistics

When a candidate decides to initiate a GD through facts, figure and statistics, he should quote them accurately. Approximation is allowed for macro level figures, but micro level figures need to be correct and accurate.

For instance, we can say that approximately 70 per cent of the Indian population stays in rural areas (macro figures, approximation allowed) but we cannot list 30 states of India instead of 28 (micro figures, no approximations). If a person ends up stating wrong facts, it works to his or her disadvantage.

6. Short story

This can be used for a GD topic like 'Attitude is everything.' The topic can be initiated with the help of a short story as follows: 'A child once asked a balloon vendor, who was selling helium gas-filled balloons, if a blue-coloured balloon would go up as high as a green-coloured one. The vendor told the child that it was not the colour of the balloon but what was inside it that made it go high'

7. General statement

This can put the GD into proper perspective. For example, if the topic is 'Should Sonia Gandhi be the prime minister of India?' one could start by putting it into perspective with, "Friends, before jumping to any conclusion, let us first find out what qualities a good prime minister should possess. We can then compare these with the qualities possessed by Sonia Gandhi, which will help us reach a conclusion in a more objective and effective manner.'

Summarisation techniques

Most GDs are left without a conclusion, and it isn't even essential that a group reach one. Remember that a GD is about getting to know one's personality traits and it is the process, not the conclusion that reveals these traits. Even though not every GD is concluded, every one is still summarised. While a conclusion represents a final stage, where the entire group decides in favour or against a topic, in the case of a summarisation a candidate summarises in a nutshell what the group has discussed. The following points should be kept in mind while summarising a discussion:

1. No new point should be taken up.

2. A person should not share his or her own viewpoint alone.

3. A summary should not dwell only on one side of the GD.

4. It should be brief and concise.

5. It should incorporate all the important points spoken.

If a candidate has been told by the examiner to summarise a GD, this means it has come to an end. It is not advisable to add anything once a GD has been summarised.

A simple framework for a summary can be, 'We had a healthy group discussion and, as a group, evaluated this topic from different perspectives. Some of my friends spoke in favour of the topic and the reasons they gave were (elaborate), while some good points against the topic were (elaborate). In all, we had a very good discussion with everyone participating enthusiastically.'

The initiation and summarisation techniques mentioned above will help you make an impact and succeed in a Group Discussion.

-- Arun Mittal is DGM, South and West, Career Launcher India Ltd, which prepares students for exams like GRE, CAT, GMAT, etc. He can be reached at arun.mittal@careerlauncher.com

Brijesh Singh is City Business Head, Bangalore, Career Launcher India Ltd and an alumnus of Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies, Mumbai. He can be reached at brijesh.singh@careerlauncher.com

Part I: MBA admissions -- 9 personality traits, evaluated




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