GDs are among the most mysterious of the selection mechanisms. There is no one clear GD strategy that is a sure shot winner and what works in one GD may not work in another. Nevertheless you can maximise your chances of success by a little bit of preparation, exercising a choice among a few strategies, and doing some quick thinking during the GD.
One way to understand a GD is to see it as a simulation of an actual corporate meeting where a decision has to be taken. There is an agenda for the discussion, different ideas are presented and debated, and, if possible, a consensus is arrived at. From this perspective a successful GD is one in which there is a plurality of ideas and viewpoints, there is a healthy discussion and debate, there is good energy and yet it is not a fishmarket, and there is a clear conclusion – ideally a consensus on what the group thinks and what needs to be done further.
So what can you do? In every GD a few individuals get noticed because they are able to make clear contributions to the discussion. One or more of the following helps immensely:
1) Pre GD Preparation of Topic: There are a few topical issues that will invariably make their way into each years GDs. You can
i) Collate some of the better editorials, op-eds or articles on each topic.
ii) Summarize the points for and against the issue. Write them down in two columns
iii) Reflect and decide on your own stand on the issue. Write down your major arguments in defense of your stand. That’s the third column 🙂
2) During the GD: Each GD can be broken down into three stages
a) The Beginning: The early stage of the GD is ideal for listing out clear points for or against the topic and setting the context for the discussion. At this stage don’t cut people off but allow for diverse viewpoints. Its also a great time to take charge of the discussion if you feel the confidence.
b) The Middle: This is the best to consolidate, to elaborate on an important point or two, or to effectively refute an earlier stated contention. In general a great time to make a solid point that can influence the discussion:-)
c) The End: The greatest need and opportunity here is for someone who can fairly summarize the discussion and point out or ask for a consensus from the group.
Listen carefully during the GD, make brief notes of the points others are making and then look for the best opportunity to jump into the discussion. As I mentioned earlier, the opportunity will arise at least thrice. Sometimes all you need is one good point. That and the attitude you display during the GD. In general a safe choice is to be seen as a confident teamplayer, assertive when needed, and willing to listen.