I think you’ll agree that leading group discussions can be very overwhelming at first. Well with the right plan you can easily have a flowing discussion that will be both informational and beneficial for the group and you. I will be going over advice and tips in this article to help you lead a successful group conversation.
You as a discussion leader control how well the discussion goes. It’s up to you to keep the discussion moving and get everyone involved. You are charged with ensuring the discussion stays on course and does not get out of control.
I don’t say this to scare you because it’s something you are very capable of doing. Continue reading to learn how to make your meeting a huge success.
Tips to Successfully Lead Group Discussion
- Use Your Discussion Goals to Guide You
What are you trying to get out of the discussion? Are you trying to learn about other people’s views? Are you trying to get information across to the group? Is it more of an idea creation or problem-solving session? These questions will help guide how you conduct your meeting. These goals need to also be explained to all the individuals involved before beginning the discussion. Understanding your goals for the discussion is vital in keeping the discussion relevant and not having the discussion go way off track.
- Plan Your Topics for a Productive Discussion
Now that you know your goals, think about what topics you want to talk about dealing with that goal. This is not a script for the group conversation but more an outline. The outline should be simple bullet points to help with the flow of the meeting.
- Invite the Right People to Get the Best Benefits
Inviting people that shouldn’t be there may lead to people being uninterested and can hurt the atmosphere of the discussion. Not inviting people that should have been invited will lead to a lot of information and ideas being missed that these missing people would have provided. There is a fine line between having too many people and not enough people. Think about your goals and use those to produce your list of participants.
- Send an Agenda so Members can Prepare
To get the most participation from the group send them an agenda before the meeting begins. Allow the members to come with ideas and formulate some opinions about the discussion topics. If you don’t want to send out a complete agenda at least let them know the main topic you’re planning on discussing.
- Choose the Right Type of Environment for the Discussion
The wrong type of environment can ruin a group discussion. You should try to utilize a place with good lighting, good acoustics so people can hear each other, and try to make it big enough to fit everyone comfortably but not too big where everyone is spread out. Also, try to make sure your meeting area is open and ready to go before your scheduled meeting because people may get frustrated having to wait. This means if you have any slides or presentations make sure they are ready when people arrive. Don’t make them wait on you to get stuff ready.
- Set Ground Rules to Maintain Order
Ground rules are very important in having a productive meeting. After thanking everybody for coming and explaining the topics, let everyone know what you expect. Make sure you brief that everyone should be respectful of others and rudeness will not be tolerated. If you want it to be an open forum that’s great but ensure you explain that people should wait their turn to talk and allow others to speak their voice.
- Get it Going with the Right Conversation Starters
After you set the ground rules, start the conversation by trying to get everyone involved right off the bat. If people in the group are not familiar with each other you should start with introductions. Let each member introduce themselves and describe a little bit of their background. Where they work, went to school, what they enjoy doing in their off time, etc.
If members of the group are familiar with each other you can go around the room and ask each member a question. It can be something like will you tell us something about yourself that not many people know or how do you like to spend your Sundays? Some may be a little embarrassed to talk in front of the group but forcing everyone to talk helps get those jitters out of the way and starts the conversation with everyone’s input.
- Ask Open-Ended Questions to Produce Member Input
Avoid direct questions as much as possible. Direct questions are questions like did you eat lunch today or do you agree with the topic. These are questions that can be answered with one to two-word responses like yes or no. Too many of these types of questions can begin to feel like an interview or interrogation.
On the other hand, open-ended questions advance the conversation. They are questions like how does this make you feel or why do you think this direction is the way to go. These types of questions typically require a more in-depth response.
- Everything is a Question to Keep the Discussion Lively
As the leader of the group, there will be many times that people turn to you with questions. Instead of directly answering the question, it’s a great opportunity to redirect the question to the group. You should control the conversation but not take over the conversation. Redirecting questions asked to you, give the group more opportunity to speak up and further the conversation on their own.
- Be the Facilitator and Moderator to Keep the Discussion Going
As the conversation progresses you will have the best results by facilitating and moderating the conversation. After the introductions, your job becomes directing the conversation. As the moderator, you need to keep order by ensuring people are not being rude and allowing others to have a chance to speak.
As the facilitator, you want to make sure the conversation keeps moving and stays on topic. There will be many times when the conversation naturally leads off in an unintended direction. These may even be ideas worth exploring but not right for the intended group discussion. In these cases, you can use what’s called the parking lot technique. It’s where you tell the group that we are going to move on from this topic but would like to come back to it at a later time to discuss more.
Other times the group may begin going down rabbit trails and discussing ideas that don’t pertain to the intended discussion. In these instances, it’s your job as the moderator to real them back in to get them back on topic. This can be done by letting them know they are getting off-topic a little and asking a question about the current topic you are on or even moving to the next topic.
- Give Everyone a Chance to Speak to Keep All Members Involved
Many times there will be people that don’t say very much. They may be introverted, they may not have much to say on the topic, or they could be looking for an opportunity to speak up but others may be hoggin the conversation. Spot these people and make it a point to ask their opinion on the subject. If the people hogging the conversation try to interject, politely redirect back to the person that hasn’t said much. It’s good to show that you value everyone’s opinion and they will be more apt to speak up later in the conversation.
- Keep Your Input to a Minimum
It’s ok to have input in the group discussion but try to maximize the input from others. Sometimes people will be afraid to go against what the leader says and may just agree with what you say. When you do give input try to summarize, recap, or clarify what others are saying. Remember you are not giving a briefing and instead having a discussion.
- End the Discussion on a Positive Note to Keep Spirits High
You should always try to end these discussions on a positive note. Explain to everyone how you got some very valuable information and thank them for their giving up their valuable time to participate. Even if it was a mandatory discussion, you should thank them for coming. This will make them more likely to participate in future discussions. Ending on the wrong note will leave people feeling like they wasted their time and participation in future discussions will suffer.
Wrapping It Up
Group discussions may seem intimidating at first but usong these tips they almost run themselves. The biggest part is to try your best at being comfortable and letting the conversation flow. With good preparation and a level head you will easily lead a great conversation and everyone will leave more enlightened than before the meeting.
I hope you this post helped you with leading a successful and purposeful group discussion.
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