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Rules for Discussion Leaders

A group discussion is a planned conversation between three or more people on a selected topic, with a trained discussion leader.  The purpose is to express opinions, gain information on the topic, and team from the other group members.


bulletTo share ideas and broaden viewpoints
bulletTo stimulate interest in problems
bulletTo help participants express their ideas
bulletTo identify and explore a problem
bulletTo create an informal atmosphere
bulletTo get opinions from persons who hesitate to speak
bulletWith ten or fewer people


bulletBe an active part of the group.
bulletWork to solve common problems.
bulletDiscuss completely, but do not argue.
bulletContribute ideas related to the subject.
bulletAsk questions to clarify ideas.
bulletBe clear and brief -- no speeches.
bulletListen and team.
bulletWrite down good ideas.


bulletPreferable seating arrangement is a circle, semicircle, U, or hollow square so that each person in the group can see every other person.
bulletMake the room as comfortable as possible.  Check the ventilation and lighting.
bulletHave paper and pencil ready to record main points.
bulletStart the discussion on time. Close on time.
bulletEncourage informality and good humor. Permit friendly disagreement, but on the point under discussion, not between personalities.


bulletHelp the group feel at ease.  See that everyone knows everybody else.
bulletGive everyone a chance to talk.  Let the person talking remain seated. More people will participate and those talking will feel more at ease.
bulletSet the tone for the discussion: emphasize that there are no dumb questions or comments; stress that there are many ways of handling any situation; point out that everyone's ideas are of value during a teaming experience.
bulletFoster discussion by asking questions such as: "How does that apply to your job?", "How would you handle that situation?", "What are your thoughts?"
bulletBe careful of the person who tries to monopolize the discussion. Interrupt the "speechmaker" tactfully and lead the discussion to another person.
bulletCall on individuals who seem ready to talk, rather than going around the circle.
bulletDirect rather than dominate the discussion by easing yourself info the background when the group gets into the swing of it.
bulletKeep the discussion general so that it is of interest to all present.
bulletKeep the discussion on the track.  If it gets sidetracked, bring it back to the main subject by suggesting there are some other important points which need to be covered in the limited time.
bulletObserve and respond to participants' body language (nodding head, leaning forward or backward, hand position, eye contact, etc.)
bulletIf you feel that some important point is being neglected, mention it.
bulletSummarize periodically.  Stop occasionally to review the points that have been made.
bulletStick to the time limit.  If there doesn't seem to be sufficient time to cover the subject, mention this in your training session evaluation, and take action to correct this before the next session.
bulletKeep spirits high.  Encourage ease and informality. Let everyone have a good time.   Don't let the discussion drag or get boring.
bulletQuickly summarize the conclusions in such a way that everyone will realize the important facts brought out in that discussion.


bulletAnticipate participants' responses to the material presented.
bulletIdentify potential problem situations before hand and plan contingency approaches.
bulletConsult other trainers for approaches and insights they have found helpful.
bulletTurn difficult situations and comments back to the group. Allow group members to work through the situations or comments themselves.
bulletLimit your opinions on controversial subjects and avoid expressing personal opinions.
bulletNever argue with a participant.


bulletPrepare for the discussion.
bulletGet the group to feel at ease.
bulletGive everyone a chance to talk.
bulletKeep the group on the track.
bulletSummarize periodically.







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Last modified: October 15, 2016.