Monday, 23 February 2015

5 Ways to Stand Out in a Group (Discussion)

Group Discussion is a platform used by recruiters to evaluate aspirant's personality, their ability to communicate with peers and work in a group, to check their subject knowledge and most importantly their social skills. 

Whatever be the nature of job or the position, it demands working in a group and the ability to communicate your views to the group and accept the inputs from the members of the group. 


Here is a 5 Step Process to present yourself effectively in a Group Discussion and also to Stand Out from the rest of the group.

1: GRIP YOUR AUDIENCE

Hold the Group members and the panel’s attention intellectually. The manner in which you present your point, the choice of words, your logical thought flow and the appropriate tone should set the pace. Don’t make light of the tone part as most people tend to lose out even if they have a strong point because they are inaudible. Taking on the role of a facilitator adds to visibility. Don’t be aggressive in your body language and learn to counter the points put forth by your peers intelligently.

2: RECIPROCATE TO ENGAGE

Reinforce the meaning of a discussion by reciprocating to your peers point. It is logical to respond either through positive acknowledgement or reinforcement. A simple, ‘that’s a valid point’ or if you are contradicting then, I'm afraid that is not in line with what we were discussing at hand. Support your peer’s point by adding information or examples. Some form of response is critical for the discussion to have vigor and succession. Avoid expressing only points that you have prepared and ensure there is a link to the previous point mentioned.

3: ORGANIZE YOUR THOUGHTS

Always be clear in your head with what you want to say, learn to think on your feet, listen carefully to your peers and respond appropriately and in a timely fashion. Ensure your points are supported by clear and factual examples. Even better, provide famous examples. Something familiar registers easy and fast. Use transitional words and phrases like ‘in other words’ or ‘to rephrase it’ when you want to clarify or t ‘on the other hand’ or ‘on the contrary’ for contradiction. When you want to compare a point, ‘in the same way’ or ‘likewise’ works and ‘to illustrate’ or ‘for instance’ for illustration. Avoid incomplete sentences and don’t be ambiguous jumping from one thought to another.

4: UPHOLD THE GROUP

You can uphold the group by encouraging the shy ones or candidates who struggle to present their points. Many people find it challenging to complete a sentence or are inaudible while others may not get an opportunity to present their points. Step in as a facilitator and give them a chance to share their opinion. Pay attention and keep track of time, remind the team of time left and set the group in preparation for the conclusion. Be assertive but be courteous, do not interrupt another members point but wait to let them finish and then intervene at the right time. Watch your body language and at any point of time do not point fingers or raise hands at a member for the sake of emphasis.

5: PREPARE TO EXCEL

Start by acquiring information. Read voraciously, research relevant points on various current topics. Look at examples and explanations to help support your points especially needed to counter contradictions. Participate in mock group discussion to understand the group dynamics better.

Learn to identify your key skills:
  1. Are you good at listening and drawing points from peers to enhance discussion?
  2. Are you good at being a facilitator?
  3. Are you good at retention and are able to recollect points and present it at the right time, for example, summarization?
Record yourself and see how you articulate.
  1. Are you maintaining the right pace and volume?
  2. Are you comprehensible?
Preparation is a must and the right time is now.

On the whole, be yourself, show receptivity, think before you speak and use facts, quotes and statements to express a clear chain of thought. 


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Friday, 6 February 2015

Current Affairs: Not in One Day but Everyday

    “Current Affairs: The latest and updated news available for preparation in Competitive exams”. I’m sure you’ve see this headline as you search for the latest news online. The sources vary. We are aware of the many sites which guide us with questions and answers, The Hindu publishes a separate segment on Current Affairs. There are magazines that offer in-depth analysis of issues and events in India and around the World. There are even groups on Face book where discussions happen on various news posts. While these may be excellent sources to rely on how does one still take time to prepare on such a vast topic.  50 questions, 50 marks  - How to take advantage and score maximum marks in this section.

To begin with make ‘Reading a Lifestyle’.
    Habituate reading news to become more knowledgeable not just for the exams. The attitude must change from solely focusing for the purpose of examination but rather make it a habit that improves not just your general knowledge but your reading comprehension and speaking skills. The more information you become aware of and retain, you become knowledgeable and it enhances your communication.

Let us explore some strategies to retain information we read.

Strategy 1:
For a particular issue, do gather prior history or events pertaining to the issue.  For example, Republic Day Celebrations just got over recently. Read up facts and history of this event.
  1. This was the 66th republic day celebrated across the nation.
  2. The First republic day was in 1950 when India became a Republic with Constitution of India coming into force.
  3. The main theme of 2015 Republic Day parade was “Women Empowerment”.
  4. U.S President Barack Obama was the Chief Guest at the 66th Republic Day parade and this was the first time The President of United States attended such a celebration.
  5. The first Chief guest of Republic Day Parade was President of Indonesia Sukarno in 1950.
When you explore the history and events of a particular event or issue, your knowledge is expanded and it improves recollection and retention.

Also make note of the important developments on a daily basis. This allows room for progressive knowledge check.

Strategy 2:
Skim through headlines quick and decide what to read.

Identifying what to read is also an art because it involves a lot of self discipline and an eye for detail.

In a page filled with advertisements and various news headlines, how does one focus and narrow down on the most essential one without wasting time on the irrelevant ones.

For example, if the headlines on a page were such that
  1. Let nation debate the Preamble: Ravi Shankar
  2. Jaishankar is Foreign Secretary
  3. Cabinet goes by HC Tax relief for Vodafone
  4. Now, German help for smart cities
  5. No more din in this tiger’s lair.
  6. Bedi woos Muslims
  7. Bardhaman Blast
So, which ones do you read and which ones do you overlook. Ideally, one should spend time on the second headline which specifically addresses the competitive exams and the third one maybe for Group discussions and the likes.  Most importantly do not get distracted by petty news, gossips and political hullabaloo and spend less time on state level and district level news. Ideally one needs to focus on the First Page, the economy section, Sports and International News. To get the best ensure you also follow a good newspaper or magazine and TV news hour.

Strategy 3:
Develop scientific ways to read the news paper in less time.

In order to do this one must increase their reading speed. First analyze how many words per minute (wpm) you can read. The average adult reads prose text at 250- 300 wpm. The idea is not to understand every word or get stuck with difficult words that hinder comprehension but to get the overall message of the text.

While reading, one tends to regress, ‘ conscious rereading’ and back-skipping (subconscious rereading via misplacement of fixation). This happens when you lose focus, daydream or just read for the sake of reading without paying attention to the content. This is when you do not comprehend and waste time rereading. So, it is important to eliminate regression and back skipping to increase speed. Learn to test yourself with reading for comprehension. Condition your mind to focus and register what you read.

Strategy 4:
Try to focus on the language as well.

There are many advantages while you take time to update yourself with the latest news. While you definitely expand your knowledge this also helps improve your reading comprehension skills and is a sure - fire way to expand one’s vocabulary. As a post reading activity, revisit the unfamiliar or new words and understand the application and usage of the word in various contexts.

Strategy 5:
Try discussing with friends.

There is nothing like a good discussion on a topic or news event that aids in retention.  Because it’s active participating learning, it’s more engaging and easy to remember.

Create forums or join a discussion forum, ask your friends and family views on the latest news and share yours too.

Current Affairs does cover a wide range of subjects. It builds language, vocabulary, reading comprehension, critical thinking, problem solving, oral expression and listening skills. It provides a ‘writing model’. Is a source to open up communications and offers ideal opportunities for group discussions and debates. Most of all it makes you a competent lifelong learner.

So, what’s stopping you from picking up that newspaper or magazine?

Read Away and Read Everyday!
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