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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.