There are a lot of students out there who are more scared of the Group Discussion part of the selection process to a management program than they are of the entrance test or interview and I would say, they are right to be scared. Many promising candidates have been weeded out at the GD stage just because they made some silly goof-ups. Here are some of those mistakes that you can easily commit and that you should train yourself to avoid.
- Losing your temper or becoming emotional
Long back a friend of mine, Sonia, was going through the process of getting admission to a prestigious B-School. She lost out at the GD stage. I asked her why and she had this to relate. During the GD, every time it was her turn to speak or make a point, a male candidate sitting next to her would mutter something derogatory under his breath. The first time it happened, she ignored it. The second time it happened Sonia got slightly nervous. The third time, she lost her temper and lashed out at him. In fact, she also burst into tears after her show of temper.
The boy was hauled up for his behaviour but Sonia also did not make it past that stage. Quite simply, the selectors thought that she had overreacted to the whole situation. Nobody should take anything lying down and you have to speak out if you are being harassed or heckled in any way. But there is a way to deal with such situations. She could have calmly told the selectors about the interruptions or she could have found a way to expose his behaviour. Instead, she lost her temper and then became emotional about it. While there is nothing wrong in it technically, remember at the GD stage, the moderators are also watching how you deal with conflict, different opinions and view points and whether you can manage difficult situations.
Remember, you should never lose your cool. It does not reflect credit on your personality, however you might try to justify it.
- Showing off your knowledge
This is a great temptation indeed. When the GD is on a topic that you know very well and for which you have prepared hard, then you are ready to show everyone how much you know and what’s more disregard other people’ knowledge about the subject.
Remember that others too would have prepared on the same topic and they might be holding differing views and opinions. Never try to show that your knowledge is supreme and that you have all the facts at your disposal. It will tend to alienate the other group participants and will only get you negative marks in the eyes of the selectors.
Yes, you know a lot about the topic under discussion – but admit that others may have equal expertise. Don’t be tempted to throw out data and figures at random. Keep them to a minimum.
- Stop Talking so Much
Candidates at GDs often believe that if they talk a lot at the discussions, they are likely to catch the attention of the selectors. Nothing is further from the truth. Make your point in as few words as possible. Do not try to hog the conversation. Wait for others to stop speaking before you begin. Never interrupt someone midway. Do not jump in with your arguments. Above all, do not keep talking after you have finished making your point. Sometimes silence can emphasise your arguments much better than words. Quality is what is important, not quantity.
You are being assessed not only in what you are saying but in your communication skills as well. This includes listening too. Assert yourself, but do not try to dominate.
- Do not play up your insecurities
Most candidates are nervous going into the GD and many people do feel that the others are better than they are. Everyone is in the same boat. Some people may know more or they may know less. But you have your own strengths. Do not let your insecurities overwhelm you. Contribute to the discussion energetically and with enthusiasm. Don’t hold back your opinions thinking that others will ridicule it or make fun. You are only hurting your own prospects.
The selectors will also be looking at your body language to gauge how you are dealing with the GD. Your uncertainty, your sense of inferiority, your insecurities can easily be read by them. Even if you are not feeling confident, talk yourself up. Boost your morale by telling yourself that you are good at what you do. Focus on your strengths.
- Language and communication
Many candidates lose out at the GD stage simply because they have not taken enough trouble to work on their language skills. Grammar, accent, pronunciation are very important, especially since you will be talking to people from diverse backgrounds. If you have a very pronounced accent, talk slowly and clearly so that everyone can understand you. You need to practise this at home, with your friends and family.
Practise how you are going to talk. Grammar and sentence structures are very important. All your hard work and domain knowledge will go to waste if you score poorly in the language department. Fluency is essential if you are to impress your co-participants as well as the selectors.
- Do not be scared to speak up
There are people who have never spoken in public in their lives. They have gone through their life shying away from the limelight. They may be introverts and it is quite possible that speaking in front of people makes them nervous and they may even stammer.
There is only one way to deal with this problem – overcome it. Start to talk on various topics in front of your family members. Get your close friends to co-operate with you. Sometimes just talking in front of so many people is frightening. Become accustomed to speaking in front of an audience. If you don’t get rid of that fear, it is quite possible that at the GD, your vocal will seize up and you will be unable to utter a word.
- Stop that flow of words
I had a friend during my college days. She was a very nice girl but she was an inveterate talker. She was one of those who could and did talk continuously. She had a lot to say on every subject. The only way one could stop her was asking her to shut up! Since no one wanted to do that, we would all run away from her.
Don’t be that person.
I have spoken before about quality over quantity. Learn to restrain yourself if you have the tendency to talk and talk and talk. Some people also have the habit of gesticulating too much and throwing their hands around. Our bodies are very expressive but you have to control yourself as well.
When you talk too much the following things will happen: you will start to digress from the topic, you will talk about irrelevant things; other people will become irritated and annoyed and the panellists will be giving you negative marks. Stop, think and then speak.
- Dress for the occasion
We all like to dress well, but remember you should dress to impress. You can dress elegantly and fashionably without being flamboyant. Sober clothes should be the order of the day.
Make sure your clothes are ironed well and are clean and neat. Keep makeup and accessories to the minimum.
- The time to prepare is now.
You should start preparing for the GD almost as soon as you start to prepare for the entrance exam. What are you waiting for? Do not wait until the entrance exam results are announced.
Read through newspapers. Keep yourself up to date on current affairs. Start thinking about likely topics that may figure at the GD.
- Don’t Bluff
Keep your bluffing tactics for your card sessions with your friends. The GD is not the place to try it out. If you are not sure about some points being made at the GD by the others, do not try to bluff it out and take them up on it. If you do not know, keep your mouth shut. Do not offer your opinion on a point of which you are uncertain. The selectors who are observing you will immediately catch you out. You are not expected to know everything.
Contributed By : Sidhartha Mohanty (Class of 2005, IBS Ahmedabad).