Imagine that you have enrolled for a group discussion on your school debate team and are now in front of people with diverse ideas and perspectives. You have prepared very well the night prior to talking about your topic of choice. Still, you are confused as to how to start, which point to put out first so that you can grab the undivided attention of others and excite them to immediately want to put out their thoughts and opinions and initiate a group discussion. It is essential to know how to start a group discussion for both personal as well as your professional life. In this article below one will learn all about group discussions and explore fantastic ways to start a group discussion. But what is group discussion exactly to begin with?
What is Group Discussion?
In simple words, group discussion is any event in which a group gathers to discuss a certain topic. It is one of the aspects of interactive conversation in which individuals can express their perspectives, and share their ideas. They can be formal, informal, planned, or spontaneous. Group discussions can be administered in various settings including decision-making, educational, social, and professional. Some recruiters and education administrators use group discussions to evaluate a candidate’s communication skills, teamwork, social skills, problem-solving activities, general awareness, etc.
Difference Between Group Discussions and Debates
However, one needs to remember that group discussion is not the same as debate, despite both comprising group communication and idea exchange, the choice to make the topic a debate or discussion depends on the frame of reference and the goals that are aimed to be achieved from the activity. Debates are competitive whereas group discussions are collaborative; likewise, group discussions purport to explore the topics whereas debates aim to argue on the pros and cons of a certain topic.
Why Use Group Discussion?
Now one would wonder why use group discussions in such various fields. Over the past years group discussion has proved to be a reliable tool to test an individual’s soft skills like communication skills, interpersonal skills (teamwork), problem-solving, etc.
Characteristics of Group Discussion
There are various characteristics of group discussion from which one can identify and which are essential parts of a group discussion. These include
1. Diverse Perspectives
This is the most basic and prominent characteristic of group discussions as every individual comes from a different background and thus has different perspectives and experiences. This in turn leads to a dynamic flow of ideas and valuable insights.
2. Active Engagement
One of the primary purposes of group discussion is active engagement. All the participants here are encouraged to be actively involved in the discussion, interact with each other, and put out their ideas and opinions in front of the group. Active engagement helps in an overall comprehensive understanding of a topic from various perspectives.
3. Formal or Informal
As mentioned above group discussions can be planned and formal with a moderator, leader, time limit, etc, or informal and spontaneous where none of the above is planned and the discussion is more unstructured and spontaneous. An example of a formal and planned group discussion could be an organizing committee that decides how a particular festival in their college will be celebrated. Likewise, an example of an informal and spontaneous group discussion could be a group of friends deciding on which restaurant to visit on the weekend.
4. Collaborative Environment
Group discussions generally have a collaborative environment where all the members work together to achieve one goal or solve one issue. This improves creativity, problem-solving skills, and critical thinking as a subject is explored from multiple angles.
5. Active Listening
Group discussions put utmost importance on actively listening to others and then giving one’s input. All the members are motivated to listen to others’ perspectives attentively, take them into consideration (request for clarification if needed), and then give their views about it. It improves empathy and creates a safe space to share everyone’s viewpoints which gets considered with respect and understanding.
6. Time Constraints
Depending on the type and the context of group discussions, they may be either timed or without any time constraints. If time limits are introduced it would be to encourage individuals to maintain productivity and focus. Time constraints are more often put in formal settings than in informal ones.
Now that we know the characteristics of group discussion we can move on to ways to initiate a group discussion. How can you start the group discussion so that it makes an impact and attracts the attention of other participants?
5 Fantastic Ways to Start a Group Discussion
The above quote by Plato truly defines the significance of starting be it a group discussion, a speech, or a presentation; a good always leads to a good audience engagement (to know about how to open effectively you can refer to our article 10 Of The Best Things To Say In Opening Remarks). There are numerous ways to start a group discussion. However, the essential aspect is that they need to make an impact so that the rest of the discussion is interactive and has a smooth flow. However, before starting with the group discussion as an initiator it is essential for you to introduce yourself first. You can start with a basic introduction like “Hi I am XYZ” and then introduce the topic of the session by giving a brief explanation of it. Following this you can start with your content as you want.
Some of the interesting ways to start a topic could include the following:
1. Begin with Questions and Quotes
A creative and most famously used way of starting a group discussion or even speeches, presentations, and essays is using questions or quotes. It is one of the most intellectually stimulating approaches to begin a group discussion and capture the attention of other participants. Likewise beginning the discussion with a well-known quote aids in portraying your English and literature proficiency.
For example, if the group discussion is about pollution that you are having at night in an open space, you could start with the “Oh to be wrapped in the night sky today looking at the light of a hundred stars, they look so pretty today right?” then pause dramatic effect while they look up for stars and find an almost starless night and respond “exactly! We as humans have caused so much air and light pollution to date that in order to have this experience we need to travel far from our homes to secluded places with no light to get to watch at least some more of them and to reach there we need transport which just again may contribute to air pollution trapping ourselves in a vicious cycle, do we want to leave this to our future generation or even our future selves”.
This question might make an impact and help them ponder on their actions while also creating a great start to the group discussion.
2. Did You Know
You could also start the group discussion with an interesting fact, one that many people might not know about. It could be a great attention-grabber as interesting facts are found to be mentally stimulating as they challenge our previous notions of information forming a mental association. Moreover, this kind of information is more likely to be remembered as they stand out. Therefore if you are being assessed for your group discussion, adding facts and help increase the chance of the examiner or recruiter remembering you better.
For instance, if the group discussion is about whether a particular company should put ads of their product on multiple social media platforms and places or only showing them on one or two is enough, you could start with psychological fact (phenomenon) stating that when people are repeatedly exposed to something they tend to develop an inclination for that, like the music to which one is exposed to on Instagram reels might not be preferred one before, but might get added to one’s playlist after exposure multiple times (this phenomenon is known as the mere exposure effect). This type of fact can instantly grab the attention, make a strong point from your side, and impress other members.
3. Define the Topic
This means that you could start the group discussion and attempt to intrigue the moderators and members by literally stating the definition of the topic. This kind of start might sound a bit silly but there is a slight chance the other members might not even know the meaning of the term. Therefore you might gain some brownie points by doing so as it will create an impression on the examiners that you have basic knowledge of the topic in front of you. However, remember to add your own content after defining the topic.
4. Controversial Beginning
This technique might help if you want to increase the engagement of the participants in the group discussion. Here what you do is simply begin the discussion about the topic with a controversial statement (like pineapples on pizza taste good) that opposes the generic viewpoint. It will help stimulate the discussion and in no time there will be a lot of input from various participants, even the ones that seldom speak up in a group discussion.
This is because these statements often evoke a strong emotional response and challenge one’s existing beliefs. Thus the mental stimulation evoked by this encourages them to engage in critical thinking and form their counterarguments or arguments leading to debate where people become more eager to voice their opinions and perspectives. Additionally, controversial statements are memorable as compared to the non-controversial ones, and hence as mentioned before it’s more advantageous to you during a group discussion assessment.
Meanwhile one needs to remember that the controversial statement that is being presented does not cross a line or is unethical and hurt somebody’s sentiments.
5. Statistical Start
The last fantastic way in this article to start a group discussion is to begin with statistical figures. Quoting some accurately shocking statistical figures can create an impression for the examiner and the members that you are well aware of the subject matter and are also well-updated on its statistics, thus increasing your chances of being remembered. However, if you are not 100 percent sure of the figures in your mind do not try to state any statistical figures because even if you are inaccurate from 5 percent then it could create a lasting bad impression on others.
So now we know some fantastic ways to start a group discussion but in order to keep the image perfect throughout the group discussion you need to remember to avoid performing these actions.
What to Avoid During a Group Discussion?
It is important to know what to avoid during group discussion so that the event becomes seamless. You might need to remember the don’ts and if you are the panelist you should make them clear to other participants too. Some of the aspects to avoid include –
No Jumping Here and There
Given that every topic has its positives and negatives, you might want to talk about both sides and that would be a lot of content to talk about. Therefore, try to pick one side and speak more about it so that your thoughts come across clearly to other participants, of course you can sometimes counter your own thoughts to state some facts but be sure to stay more on one side than the other so that your ideas don’t get crisscrossed.
This is a very important rule to remember during group discussions. Do not interrupt someone when they are speaking or putting out their viewpoints. You need to maintain the decorum of the room as it’s not a fish market. Even if you disagree with them it is rude to interrupt, wait for them to finish, politely raise your hand till then, and make some notes so that you remember to ask or counter when you are given the turn.
Avoid ‘Avoiding Eye Contact’
Be it a group discussion, a speech or a presentation make sure to always make eye contact with everybody once in a while when you are speaking. Additionally, try to always keep eye contact with someone who’s speaking, do not fidget or play with your hair or clothes when they are talking it would look as if you are uninterested and create a bad impression.
Don’t Hear, Listen
When somebody is speaking, listen to them carefully and try to understand their viewpoint and what they are trying to convey. Never make the mistake of hearing halfway just for the sake of it and make a counterpoint, it might make you seem unprofessional.
Group discussions are a part and parcel of life, they are everywhere all the time be it personal or professional, formal or informal. Thus knowing how to start a group discussion effectively is an essential that one needs to become proficient in. Therefore one needs to learn about how to start a group discussion and how it works in order to have a successful group discussion where the target is achieved, participants get engaged and try to give their inputs from the start and everyone is satisfied with the outcome. By using various techniques mentioned above you could skillfully begin a group discussion which could pave the way for an explorative and knowledgeable experience along with a satisfying outcome.
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