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7 ways to initiate a B-school group discussion
Shweta, Top Careers & You
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February 06, 2008

The group discussion (GD) stage of B-school admissions can be a stressful process, fraught with questions like: should I initiate the discussion, should I mug up statistics and financial figures, and many other like these. To calm your fears, experts from have provided some useful inputs on the intricacies of GD exclusively for readers of

There is no doubt in the fact that initiating a group dicussion (GD) is a "high-risk, high-return" strategy. Whenever a participant initiates a GD, apart from grabbing an opportunity to speak, he/ she also grabs everybody's attention. Everybody in the group listens intently. So if a participant is able to make an impression through content and communication skills they have won half of the battle. On the other hand, if while initiating a GD he/she stammered or quoted wrong facts the damage done is irreparable.

Moreover, the candidate who initiates a GD has automatically taken up the responsibility of showing a direction to the group. If the person initiates by taking a stand or by giving a conclusion it does not reflect very well on his personality.

So, one should 'initiate a GD' only when one knows the topic well and when one has sufficient inputs related to the topic so as to contribute at regular intervals. Initiating without much information on the topic for the sake of just 'grabbing attention' can be the first blunder of your GD.

However, if you think you have sufficient information and facts to support your initiative, you may use any combination suggested to take the first winning step:

~ Quotes
~ Definition
~ Question
~ Shocking statement
~ Facts figures and statistics
Short story
General statement

Quotes are an effective way of starting a GD. Not only does it serve as a way to put your point across through one powerful sentence but also helps you validate your opinion with that of a renowned personality.

For instance, somebody, when asked to discuss the topic "Customer is the King", gave the group an excellent start when she quoted Sam 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."

You can start a 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", one can begin by giving a brief but impressive definition of advertising. One definition goes like this: Advertising is 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.

Here 'question' does not signify asking a question to any of the candidates in a GD; it implies asking a question and then answering it yourself. If, in a GD, a question is being asked to hamper the flow of a GD or to insult a participant or to play devil's advocate it should be discouraged but if a question is being asked so as to promote the flow of ideas it is appreciated.

For instance, if the topic is "Should India go to war with Pakistan?", it's a good idea to start by asking a question: What does war bring to the people of a nation. We have had four wars with Pakistan till date, but the pertinent question is what have we achieved?

Shocking statement
Initiating a GD through a shocking statement is the best way of grabbing immediate attention and putting forth your point. However, giving a shocking statement means you must have hard facts and stats with you.

An example can be where the topic is "Impact of Population on the Indian Economy". Here one can initiate by saying: 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's impossible when 1 billion Indians work together."

Facts figures and statistics
Again, this method is very powerful if facts, figure and statistics are current and accurate. Approximation is allowed in macro level figures but micro level figures need to be correct and accurate eg we can say that approximately 70 per cent of the Indian population stays in rural areas (macro figures, approximation allowed) but we cannot say 8 wonders of the world instead of 7 (micro figures, no approximations).

If a person ends up stating wrong facts it works to his disadvantage. For instance, for a topic like "China, a rising tiger", a candidate can start like by saying: In 1983, when China was still in its initial stages of reform and opening-up, its real use of FDI stood at USD 636 million. China actually utilised $53.5 billion of foreign direct investment in 2003, which is almost 84 times that of its 1983 statistics

Short story
A short story may also be used in a GD. An abstract topic can be initiated using this strategy. Here is an example wherein the topic was "Attitude is everything".

This topic can be initiated with the help of a short story: A child once asked a balloon vendor who was selling helium gas filled balloons whether a black balloon would go as high in the sky as a green one. The balloon vendor told the child that it is not the colour of the balloon but what is inside it which makes it go high.

This is how the initiator can then relate the story with the topic and carry it forward from there.

General statement
A general statement can also be used so as to put the GD into proper perspective eg if the topic is "Should Sonia Gandhi [Images] be the prime minister of India". You can start by saying: Friends, before jumping to the conclusion "Yes, Sonia Gandhi should be" or "No, Sonia Gandhi should not be", let's first find out the qualities of a good prime minister of India. We can then compare these qualities with the qualities possessed by Ms. Sonia Gandhi. This will help us in reaching a conclusion in a much more objective and effective manner.

In this manner you can give direction to the further discussion on the topic.

On the whole, experts from recommend that whether you initiate or entire in the middle of a completely messed up GD, it is very important that you speak logically with factual support.

You must have a purpose and it should never be just to show you presence in the group. The actual purpose is to give a valuable contribution to the discussion. If you think you can do that in the last few minutes even, you have done your job.

Top Careers & You ( has been preparing national and international candidates for high-end tests viz. CAT, XAT, FMS, SNAP, GRE, GMAT, SAT etc. since 1998.

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