Tips for Leading a Group Discussion

As a leader or team man­ager, you might need to lead group dis­cus­sions. How­ever these ses­sions could also be used in a learn­ing con­text for exam­ple if you wish to teach a lan­guage. This arti­cle gives you some tips on how you can run a suc­cess­ful group discussion.

Make your group dis­cus­sion inter­est­ing and informative

The pur­pose of a group dis­cus­sion is to get every­one involved. You should reign in the peo­ple who are dom­i­nat­ing the top­ics of dis­cus­sion. Nor­mally these groups have a nat­ural leader who will set the terms of the conversation.

These are some of the things that you might need to control:

  1. Avoid overzeal­ous plan­ning: The dis­cus­sion has to have an air of infor­mal­ity so that shy mem­bers can con­tribute to the dis­cus­sion. If one per­son is dom­i­nat­ing the dis­cus­sion or if there are too many strict rules then you will lose the fun fac­tor in the dis­cus­sion. Let the mem­bers nat­u­rally con­tribute to the top­ics on hand. You might have a doc­u­ment to set the para­me­ters of the dis­cus­sion so that you do not end up wan­der­ing into irrelevancies.
  2. Select the right peo­ple to par­tic­i­pate in the dis­cus­sion: There is no point in get­ting a group of lawyers to dis­cuss the intri­ca­cies of waste man­age­ment engi­neer­ing. The indi­vid­u­als that are part of the con­ver­sa­tion need to have some­thing to bring to the table. If you are run­ning a class then there will be a self selec­tion process. You might need to turn down some appli­ca­tions if there is noth­ing that they are going to con­tribute to the group.
  3. Time man­age­ment: Your group dis­cus­sion can descend into a farce if you have not taken the time to cre­ate the right time man­age­ment sched­ules. You have to set lim­its on dis­cus­sion points so that you cover all the rel­e­vant top­ics. At the same time you have to take note of the fact that some mem­bers may get bored if the dis­cus­sion goes on for too long. There are spe­cific lim­its on the time that you have to cover the questions.
  4. Cul­tural dimen­sions: The cul­ture that you are oper­at­ing in might have impli­ca­tions for your dis­cus­sion. For exam­ple Swedish cul­ture gen­er­ally does not sup­port emo­tional out­bursts or ges­tur­ing. On the other hand, African cul­tures tend to pre­fer lively debate. In Japan, polite­ness is the order of the day. These are the cul­tural under­tones that you need to con­sider as you plan your group discussion.

Above all you need to have an objec­tive that dri­ves the dis­cus­sion. There is no point in going for exploratory dis­cus­sions with­out any direc­tion. They will end up bor­ing every­one. You might find that your audi­ence gets fed up if you have noth­ing seri­ous to say. A good mod­er­a­tor will be able to select a topic that is of inter­est to the mem­bers of the group. They will also have a sys­tem for ensur­ing that no one gets off-message when they are work­ing with the group at the begin­ning. In that sense you will be able to max­i­mize the effec­tive­ness of the discussion.

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