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Advanced skills to lead a discussion efficiently

From the most casual chats with friends to the formal and professional discussions, there is a leader in the conversation, someone who guides the conversation and keeps the room alive. You know who you are. You often have some of the best suggestions and yet it seems like there is a gap between the plan in your head and the words that come out.

Or maybe, it is very easy for you to ensue discussion on a topic. You express yourself in a lucid manner every time but feel like your points are being echoed, as if you can't really listen to what people are saying.

In either case, tune in to some good music and keep reading!

You might ask why is it important to take the lead in discussions? And what type of people usually end up leading the group?

The aim of any discussion is to facilitate conversation, throw back and forth several ideas and reach a conclusion. And without a proper lead, many of these steps can go awry. If a discussion is led by a knowledgeable and observant person, the decorum is maintained, productive points forward in the most efficient way and at the end each person is happy with the conclusion reached and feel like they have contributed towards the discussion and not been a waste of space.

There are always people in a group who will try to force their point of view onto others and might suppress opinions put forth, and if not confronted, will go on to be loud and stop listening. This is a very clear example of some bad discussion lead and emphasizes on the need of leadership.

So how do you assess if you are fit for leading a discussion and what other traits must you be careful of?

Is it a skill to be had by natural, outgoing team leaders only? - erudite

The general opinion tends to be that outgoing people, being social and talkative, can become great team leaders, especially because they can sway people's opinions and talk to anyone under the sun.

However, that is merely a statement that perpetuates the stereotype that only loud people can get things done and introverts are simply people who want to be social but are scared to do so.

Ice breaking

Any important aspect of a formal discussion is ice-breaking. We all know it is that awkward part of meetings, hellish to both the speaker and the listeners.

Whoever bears the curse of breaking the ice also has their reputation online. What if it's too cheesy? Or too detached and cold? How would you seem friendly yet not too fake at the same time?

I think the answer lies in the question itself. As a speaker or a team member, you do want to be friendly with the people involved (hopefully); but you also don't know much about them. And that ground is exactly what you can start on. Be frank with the team members but keep your tone optimistic and let them know that you wish to be friendly and the lack of introduction will not last longer. Give everyone a chance to introduce themselves and express information they are comfortable sharing.

Be loud and clear - let other opinions be expressed

While moving on to a new topic or shifting the focus of the conversation, make sure that you are loud and clear, so that everyone is reassured of the direction of the conversation and no confusion is created. Often vague instructions and rules lead to endless debates that do not end in anyone's favour. So make it clear what point is being discussed and what conclusions have been made.

Acknowledge other opinions and give thoughts

As Susan Cain rightly said,

“Everyone shines, given the right lighting.”

listening to your teammates is the best form of leadership
A good leader is a good listener

Sometimes you might lose the most valuable points because the person was not given a chance to speak or was not understood with enough patience. Assert the feeling of comfort and friendliness, right at the start and express clearly to everyone that their opinion will be valued and considered seriously.

Not only saying this is enough though; if you see some members waiting for their chance or trying to speak up, acknowledge their effort and make the whole group appreciate them patiently as they express their thoughts.

Language skills

Of course, it goes without saying that language skills are of utmost importance when trying to lead a discussion. Many times, as a leader, you will have to encapsulate a point into a concise yet understandable form; and this can be smoothly achieved if you are fluent in the language used as well any other languages if required.

If there are people who are not comfortable with the language being used or are not fluent enough, do correct them or suggest them words but not so often that they feel ridiculed or incompetent in front of others.

In a professional setting, try to use a varied and simple vocabulary so that the expressions are not misunderstood by anyone and workflow is not disturbed due to mutual misunderstanding. However, do not play around with the timing, venues or any critical details that are to be conveyed to the employees.

Encourage conclusion, not debate

We often see loud and incomprehensible political ‘discussions’ on the tv and laugh at the animated nature of the conversation. What we subconsciously neglect is that these decision-makers are having a debate that reaches no end and is a continuous echo of facts and opinions being thrown around.

However, this is not what you are looking for when you are involved in a healthy, productive discussion.

Always make sure to encourage mutual understanding and conclusion instead of debate.

It will not always be the case that everyone is in unison regarding a certain issue, and in such times don't take a backseat while grabbing some popcorn. While the idea does sound fun, for the sake of peace, take on a negotiating role and try to reach an understanding, so that decisions are made efficiently.

This will also help to create a healthy and creative environment, where expressing ideas does not become a competition of who's right.

What are some tricks you use during a discussion? Let us know in the comments!

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