How to lead a discussion

How to lead a discussion

One of the key functions of leadership is the ability to effectively lead group discussions. When opening a group discussion you always risk going off subject and ending up in the middle of tangents. Sometimes that can actually be productive and others, a total waste of time. Either way, the process of including others in brainstorming sessions can be very valuable. Learning how to validate everyone’s comments while keeping the discussion relevant and productive is key.

Here are 8 strategies for leading productive group discussions:

  1. Know what you need to accomplish up front. Be clear about the outcomes you are seeking.
  2. Establish the ground rules up-front. Consider including total time for the exercise, amount of time for responses, introduce the parking lot (see 3), identify objectives, etc.
  3. Utilize the “parking lot” technique. Whether you are using an electronic device, notepad, white board or a giant post-it note, designate a visual area to hold ideas that need to be considered but are not necessarily relevant to the current discussion. Anything said that will take you off-track, but should be explored at a later time, needs to go on the list. Validate the comment, then say let’s “parking lot” that for later. It’s a respectful way to mitigate the tangents and stay on track.
  4. Allow time for introverts to respond. They typically will not fight for airtime like their extroverted teammates, so notice when they want to provide input and invite them to contribute. Send the agenda ahead of time to give all people time to prepare and organize their thoughts.
  5. Remember you might have the best idea in the room and…..you might not! Be open to both options.
  6. Provide timelines for circling back on outcomes. Close the loop on any item you thought was important enough to include. Your team needs to know how it ends.
  7. Give recognition where it is warranted. If it wasn’t your original idea, give kudos to the person that deserves it. They will feel appreciated and that will ensure they continue to participate in the future. We have all had it happen…the “boss” is standing there talking about the great idea that YOU came up with. Don’t be that kind of leader. Nothing kills your effectiveness faster than taking the credit for someone else’s good idea! (Oh, thank you Marla for introducing me to the parking lot!)
  8. When it is appropriate, explain why you chose the direction you chose. You are the one that is seeing the big picture (hopefully). Most of your team has a more narrow scope. Connect the dots for them when needed.

Leading group discussions is a huge part of leadership. Many of us fall into an extreme category of either being too collaborative or not asking anyone for feedback. Finding middle ground will lead to better outcomes and more engagement from your team. Two heads really are better than one….provided they are in sync.

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How to lead a discussion

The first article in this series explained how to plan a group discussion.

In this article, we describe best practices when leading a group discussion.

There’s much more involved than simply getting people in a room, waving a magic wand, and declaring “Discuss now!” Your role as a discussion leader is complex and requires great mental dexterity and tact. How can you keep the discussion steadily flowing in a productive way at the right pace towards achieving your objectives?

Best Practices

Every discussion is different, and being a successful leader requires you to adapt to your individual situation. Still, there are a set of best practices which will lead you to success more often than not.

1. Use tools which promote discussion.

Flip charts, whiteboards, and sticky notes are ideal. The nature of these tools make them ideal for encouraging participation: a blank canvas, easy to erase (or turn the page) and iterate.

Resist slides. Slides feel permanent, and give the impression that there’s nothing left to discuss. (Occasionally, you may kick start a discussion with a few slides to set context, but don’t overuse them.)

2. Diverge first, then converge. Repeat as necessary.

“ Your role as a discussion leader is complex and requires great mental dexterity and tact. ”

A common mistake made by discussion leaders is to converge too early. Not only does this strategy carry the risk of missing a good idea, but it makes participants tentative, fearing embarrassment for offering an idea that may be immediately eliminated.

Instead, consider starting your session by brainstorming and letting the ideas flow without analysis and judgement. This encourages early participation and gets everyone involved. Later, with many ideas on the table, start narrowing the options together and converge on the best ideas.

3. Restate and summarize often.

Summarizing is important to remind your group of the consensus that has been achieved. Be sure that your summary reflects the opinions expressed by your group; don’t skew reality to push your personal agenda.

In short discussions (e.g. thirty minutes or an hour), it is sufficient to summarize only at the end.

In long discussions (e.g. a day or multiple days), summarize at regular intervals. (I try to do this at least every 60 or 90 minutes.) This allows you to naturally “close” one topic and move on to the next.

4. Be open-minded and curious.

“ Be genuinely interested in hearing the opinions of others, and be open to changing any preconceptions you hold. ”

Be genuinely interested in hearing the opinions of others, and be open to changing any preconceptions you hold. Ask questions sincerely. When someone contributes a fresh idea, explore it wholly, regardless of what your initial reaction might be.

The sign of a poor discussion leader is one who attempts to systematically convince everyone else in the room that they are always right. That’s not a discussion; it’s a lecture.

5. Build consensus.

As the discussion heats up, emotions can run high among participants. If left unchecked, the atmosphere may begin to feel combative. Participants may start to dig in and entrench themselves in positions, and forget about the common objectives.

“ Help all participants understand and appreciate the perspectives being offered by others. ”

Resist the temptation to “take sides” or pretend that you are the judge or referee. Instead, help all participants understand and appreciate the perspectives being offered by others. Find the common ground which binds together diverse opinions and share these connections.

To succeed, draw upon classic public speaking skills e.g. tell stories; make analogies; walk up and down the ladder of abstraction.

6. Beware negative language.

As leader, you have great influence over the mood of the room. The words you choose and the non-verbal communication you exude are infectious, whether positive or negative.

Exhibit genuine positive emotions, such as happiness, excitement, curiosity, optimism, surprise, and thoughtfulness.

Attempt to stifle negative emotions, such as anger, boredom, disappointment, disgust, indifference, hopelessness, or misery. This isn’t always easy; I have felt all of those at various times when I’ve led discussions.

7. Record minutes as you go.

If minutes are required for your discussion, it is your responsibility as the leader to ensure they are recorded. Don’t attempt to do this yourself; delegate someone from the group to take minutes.

The moments when you summarize verbally are excellent opportunities to clearly document decisions you have reached. Each time you record a shared decision, it builds momentum for the group.

8. Stay on schedule.

When the discussion is flowing, it is tempting to ignore the clock and let it flow. This is a dangerous habit. Schedule slips inevitably lead to unsatisfied objectives.

Sometimes, you need to be flexible and consciously reschedule on the fly. Most of the time, however, it is wiser to stick to the schedule. In a lengthy session (e.g. all day), enforcing the schedule early sends a message to all participants that the schedule is “real” and not “just a guideline”.

9. Take care of your participants.

Remember to take breaks at regular intervals; exhausted participants will tend to lose focus and become quiet.

Resolve problems with the environment as they occur. Act decisively.

10. Delegate leadership when appropriate.

There may be situations where it makes sense for someone else to lead the discussion for a certain topic within your overall session. Delegate leadership of the discussion to have the “right” person lead for a while.

Do not “surprise” them on the spot — this never turns out well. Ask them ahead of time so they have a chance to prepare. Let them know when you will pass control to them, for what purpose, and for what duration of time.

When the time comes for the transition, make sure this shift is communicated clearly to the group. Support the temporary leader by being an active participant.

Next in this Series…

In the next article of this series, we’ll learn how to manage challenging personalities within your group.

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Leading a good discussion is not as easy as it looks. It requires quite a bit of planning and an understanding of group dynamics. Here are some tips to help you with the challenge. You may also download this information as a PDF or Word document.

Prepare in advance
If you will be leading a discussion along with one or more students, you should get together with the other students ahead of time so that you can agree on the learning goals of the discussion and decide which management strategies will be helpful.

a) Identify learning goals. If you are a leader of a class discussion, you need to decide on exactly what the class should learn as a result of participating in the discussion. Having specific learning goals is what distinguishes an academic class discussion from a ‘bull session’ back in the dorm. Here are just a few of the possible learning objectives for a discussion of a journal article about evolutionary biology:

    Students should be able to identify the area of evolutionary research the article addresses.

Perhaps most importantly, students should be able to identify the broad goals of the research described in the article. They should be able to do so without regard to the specific species investigated, which forces students to think in broader terms.

Of course, you also need to make sure that you fully understand all your learning goals! Be sure to discuss this with the other leaders of the discussion to make sure you are all on the same page.

b) Develop questions. It is a good idea to have a list of initiating and follow-up questions prepared that might be used during the discussion. These should be designed to promote discussion that will address your learning goals. Some can be more speculative to elicit opinions. For example:

    Are all of the results obtained consistent with the hypothesis being tested? Are there any major outliers in the data?

As a discussion leader, make sure that you have thought about possible answers to each question you pose to the class!

c) Share responsibilities. By getting together with the other discussion leaders, you will also be able to decide how you will share responsibility during the discussion. For example, you might decide that each of you will assume primary responsibility for a specific portion of the discussion.

d) Ground rules. You should also discuss the ground rules for the discussion. Will you require students to raise their hands and be recognized to speak or will you opt for free-form? Both have pluses and minuses. The formal option provides the leader greater control over the discussion, often making it easier to ensure all students participate. The free-form option sometimes leads to more lively discussion but can often move off-topic quickly — and you will need to take responsibility for redirecting the discussion back to key issues.

e) Task management. You will also need to decide how you will manage the discussion. You might consider assigning groups of students to focus on particular parts of the article (i.e., abstract and introduction, methodology, analysis and conclusions) — though of course, each student will need to read the entire article as well. This forces the students to take greater ownership of the article.

Initiate the discussion
The primary mistake made by novice discussion leaders is that they talk too much. Remember, your job is not to make an oral presentation but to promote discussion by others. Generally, you will initiate discussion by asking a question or by making a statement and asking for a response. If you are lucky, someone in the class will respond promptly to your questions, but sometimes your question will be met with a long and uncomfortable silence. In fact, this is usually what happens at the outset of the discussion when participants do not yet feel at ease. What you do in response to this silence is crucial. Above all, do not answer your own question or begin a presentation of the material. This simply informs the class that they need not respond since you will do that for them. Try re-wording the question, and wait them out! They are uncomfortable too, and eventually someone will say something to start the discussion.

Manage the discussion
Once the discussion gets going, you are faced with the delicate but extremely important task of providing periodic direction to the discussion while still giving it considerable autonomy. Discussions rapidly take on a life of their own, and it is important that you give the discussion freedom to grow and evolve in its own way. Students will rapidly lose interest in participating if it becomes clear that only certain types of responses are acceptable. At the same time, you need to keep an eye on your learning objectives and prevent the discussion from veering too far away from the subject at hand. Remember, this is an academic class discussion and not a free-form chat. If the discussion has strayed too far afield or if you need to move on due to time constraints, simply interrupt the discussion, acknowledge the current focus of the discussion, and announce that you want to bring the focus back to the original topic or that you need to take up the next issue.

It is also very important to make sure that all participants are involved and contributing. You should pay particular attention to make sure that all students have the opportunity to share if they desire. Make mental notes when a student has made an attempt to contribute but may have lost out on that opportunity because a classmate interrupted or someone else spoke up sooner. It is important to offer this student a chance to add their comments to the discussion.

Sometimes, the discussion may appear to be progressing well, when in fact, only one or a few students are dominating the discussion. If you have established the hand-raising/recognition requirement, the problem can be moderated in this manner. If not, try to include others by asking something like “Does anyone else have a view/comment that they would like to share?” or by calling on specific students to respond. Pay particular attention to soliciting the input of students who may have tried to contribute to the discussion earlier, but were not aggressive enough to make themselves heard.

End the discussion
At the end of the discussion, take a minute or two to make a few summary comments regarding the discussion. This is also an excellent time to reemphasize certain points associated with the discussion’s learning goals.

Writings about arthropod ecology, arachnids & academia at McGill University

I’m teaching a graduate class in Entomology this term, and part of that class involves students leading discussions about scientific papers in our discipline. These discussions are typically between 60 and 90 minutes, with a small group (4-6 individuals). This post provides some advice and guidelines around how to go about doing this. That being said, this is not a ‘one size fits all’ kind of world, especially when talking about science: you may have better or alternative approaches when discussing scientific papers – please comment, and share your ideas!

1. Provide a (quick) summary of the paper:

In most cases, you want to first provide the audience a brief but accurate overview of the paper. It’s often useful to do a little research about the authors – this provides a context that may be very helpful and may prove insightful later on. For example, do the authors have a publication record that aligns with the current paper? Are the authors graduate students or post-doc (not that it matters, but it does provide context!).

The focus on the summary should be about the Research Questions / Hypothesis, and to explain these you will also need to discuss an overall conceptual framework. This means you need to know this conceptual framework very well. After providing the broader context and framework, you should quickly go over the main methods, and the key results. You should act as a guide for your audience, and take them through the key results. Try not to spend a lot of time on more trivial aspects of a paper. In general, your summary should not delve too deeply in the discussion part of the paper.

Don’t forget: you are assuming everyone in the room has read the paper, so your overall introduction should be relatively short (no more than 10 minutes). More time may be required if a concept or methodological approach is particularly complex. Try not to provide opinions or critiques of the paper at this point in time – save this for the general discussion.

2. Ask for points of clarification:

Before proceeding with detailed discussion of the paper, you should ask the audience if they require clarification on anything in the paper. You are leading a discussion and therefore considered an ‘expert’ on the paper, and as such, should be prepared to handle these points of clarification – this will most likely require you to do a bit of research on areas of the paper that you do not understand! It’s important you you make it clear that you are not starting a detailed critique (yet); you are first making sure that people all understand the critical ‘nuts and bolts’ of the paper.

3. Leading a discussion:

The majority of the time should be spent on the actual discussion. There are many ways to do this, but here are some tips:

  • Try not to let your own opinion of the paper distract or take over – your goal is to get other people to reveal their own views; these may or may not agree with your own views! Be welcoming and accommodating to other people’s opinions and viewpoints. Never make anyone feel small or stupid, even if they make a goofy mistake.
  • That being said, make sure that you do have an opinion, and be willing to share it at some point
  • Prepare a list of questions that you could ask other people if the discussion needs help to get started. Always try to find positive points in a paper, even if the paper is, overall, very weak. Similarly, try to bring out negative features even if the paper is strong. This means you have to sort out strong and negative parts of a paper for yourself (well ahead of time)
  • It’s sometimes a good idea to first go around the room and ask for something that people felt was strong and positive about the paper, and then do this again but ask for points of constructive criticism about the paper.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask people (specifically) for their views on some sections of this paper: a gentle push may be needed to get started on discussing the specifics, but this can be fruitful.
  • Since you are chairing the discussion, don’t be afraid to take control if the discussion wanders too far from where it needs to be, and/or if the discussion gets too trivial or mired in the weeds
  • Related, whenever possible, draw the discussion back to the actual research objectives, and try to broaden the discussion out to the overarching concenptual framework: are the results generalizable to other fields? Does the paper make broad and meaningful conclusions that will be long-lived and significant?
  • Towards the end of the discussion, it may be useful to ask people how they might have done the work differently. Or, stated another way, what could have been improved?

4. Summarize the discussion:

Spend the last five minutes of your time reminding people abou the actual research objectives, and provide a concise summary of the discussion that just wrapped up. Do this in an inclusive way, and give a nod to everyone in the room: make everyone feel that their points of views and opinions are taken seriously. Try to get an overall consensus about the general quality of the paper, and one litmus test may be whether or not you would cite the paper in your own work, and in what context.

Learn about the role of the facilitator and ways to provide guidance and structure for productive meetings in the classroom and other workplace contexts.

1. Understand the role of the facilitator.

  • Stay neutral. Your role is to create the process and conditions that enable a group to discuss, plan, decide, learn, or grow (PDF). Conduct the discussion without trying to direct the group to a particular outcome.
  • Achieve learning objectives. Instructors need not be as neutral as facilitators, but you should strive to bring out the voices in the group, saving “teaching” behaviors until the group has explored the subject.

2. Provide structure to the discussion.

  • Decide on a process for the discussion, either independently or with your client.
  • Begin with some form of ice breaker (PDF). This helps participants get involved immediately to address the issues at hand.

Example—Respond to a question:

  • What have we learned since last time?
  • What unfinished business do we have?
  • Tell us something about you that we probably don’t expect.
  • If you were in charge of this project, where would you start?

Examples:

  • Round robin: Each person speaks in turn.
  • Nominal group technique: Each person takes 30 to 90 seconds to collect their thoughts, followed by a round robin.
  • Small group discussions: Break big groups (more than eight) into smaller groups to discuss and then report about the subject. Using smaller groups ensures greater participation (PDF).

3. Guide the discussion.

  • Focus on group process. Is the group repeating itself? Are all members who wish to participating? Is the discussion staying on track and on time?
  • Explain what you see happening, and ask participants to confirm if their experience is the same. Be factual and specific. Avoid blaming or criticizing indivudals.
  • Summarize what is being said.
    • In a low-level summary, you simply to say back to the group what it said.

    Example: “So Bill agrees with Michelle that this suggestion would be too costly.”

    Example: “So Bill, it sounds like you are concerned about what this decision ultimately means for the future of this project. Is that right?” Note: Following a high-level summary, confirm your interpretation with the speaker(s).

    • Closed-ended questions (yes/no or factual) are useful for summarizing or reality checks, but they don’t elicit much input.
    • Open-ended questions (how, what, why, tell me, describe) draw people out. If your discussion isn’t getting off the ground, try an open-ended question.

    4. Record the discussion in a visible way.

    Record the discussion in a way visible to the group. Use flip charts, overhead transparencies, or meeting software projected onto a screen by the facilitator or a helper.

    • This is not the same as taking minutes, though you may use the recorded discussion to supplement the minutes.
    • Having the discussion visible helps the group to see the progress it’s making and to refer back to earlier comments.

    Note: Whenever possible, use the speaker’s own words, and be sure to record everyone’s comments to avoid creating tension and resistance.

    The first small-group discussion I led took approximately 15 minutes. No one had explained to me how to get a discussion going. Instead I was handed a list of questions and Scriptures to look up. My goal was to get through all of it as quickly as possible so that we could have our snacks and go home. Needless to say, no one was very excited about coming back to my small group.

    Since then I've learned a few principles about how to lead a good discussion.

    It's About Questions Rather than Information

    Any good discussion is dependent upon the questions. A good study will include open-ended questions that require more than a yes or no answer. However, you can have a great question that is perfect for garnering all sorts of discussion but kill it in an instant by providing the answer.

    Sometimes we leaders prepare for a study with anticipation, looking up the answers ahead of time so that we feel qualified to teach, and that's great. But if you are so anxious to provide an answer that you don't allow discussion, you will kill the effectiveness of the question.

    Another problem is when you assume you understand a Scripture passage better than you do. Suppose your text is Matthew 6:14-15, "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins," and the question is, "What do you think this verse means?" Perhaps you've been taught that this verse means that you have to make sure you have nothing against anyone the moment you die, or you'll go to hell. But maybe someone in your group thinks it means more generally that we are not to knowingly hold grudges, or we won't know and experience Christ's forgiveness in this life. If you push your point of view without allowing the others to express their points of view, you will not win them to your side; you will simply discourage them from speaking what they think. Better an all-out discussion where everything is on the table, and you can support your point of view with other Scriptures, than to assume you know all the answers.

    In fact, avoid giving your opinion until the end of the discussion. Be willing to let God's Word and Spirit be the ultimate teacher. Encourage the further study of God's Word and offer advice on where to find more information without giving pat, simplistic answers.

    Restate a Question that Goes Nowhere

    Sometimes you may have a fantastic question that no one answers. Find another way to state it so that it penetrates. Maybe the question is, "What role does organized religion play in the development of a national moral consciousness?" Give your group members time to think about it. Pause for a while, and if you still don't get an answer, rephrase it. You might say, "Can the church as a whole influence what our nation thinks is moral? If so, how? If not, why not?"

    Don't just skip a question no one is answering unless even rephrasing it doesn't get a response. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to think through a question when the group leader moves along too quickly. Most of us have to process questions a bit before we can answer—at least to answer wisely.

    Communicate Love, Not Judgment

    Your group members are not going to want to answer questions honestly if they are ridiculed or shot down for their answers. In fact, they may not even come back. Look for ways to show that you care about the person and not just a right answer.

    If a group member answers a question with an obvious heresy, then you have to address it. If the person is not in the group to win recruits to his point of view, then you want him to stay in the group so he can learn the truth. To do that, you are going to need to learn how to correct while showing love. So instead of saying, "That's heresy," say, "Even in the early church they had this debate. Let's look at the Scriptures they used to come to the conclusion that Jesus is God." If you need time to look up those Scriptures, as most of us would, tell him you'll come with them next week. In fact, you may want to meet with him outside the group if the rest of the group doesn't have the same question. That way, you can move the group along but still show the person that you care about him and his ideas.

    Keep the Discussion on Track

    In the first study I led, I had no trouble keeping us on track. In fact, we didn't deviate an iota. When I learned to allow true discussion, I had trouble keeping us on the subject. The group leader has to learn that fine balance. You must allow discussion while making sure it stays on the subject. If it wanders, you need to gently bring it back.

    Back to the question, "What role does organized religion play in the development of a national moral consciousness?" Suppose Nancy answers that the church could affect things at a grassroots level, such as Christian teachers in the public school system influencing their students. That's a good answer that fits the subject. But Joe says, "You know, I don't like that new teacher the school system hired." This is off the topic and can lead to a complete disintegration of the study. As a leader, you need to get it back to the subject at hand. An easy way to do that is to restate the question, "Can anyone else think of ways that organized religion can affect the moral consciousness?" That way Joe isn't allowed to take over the study, but it will continue in a direction that people can learn from.

    Finally, bathe the whole thing in prayer. As you let God influence your preparation and discussion time, you will create an environment that allows the Holy Spirit to transform people's lives through God's Word.

    Even if your members are used to being part of group discussions and are good at listening to each other, it can still be a good idea to have somebody lead the meeting, in part to make sure that everyone’s voices get heard but also to come prepared with thoughts on what topics would be good to discuss, so if the conversation starts to run dry in one area, the leader can redirect to more fertile areas.

    The Moderator’s Role

    • The role of a moderator will vary from group to group. Some groups might have a consistent moderator – for example if your group is run by the local library, a librarian will probably lead the meetings; other groups rotate the role; others may not feel they need one at all. In general, we recommend having a moderator and rotating the role.

    • keep the meeting on track – digressions are fine but if the conversation strays too far off topic it’s your job to bring it back.
    • introduce a new topic of discussion if the conversation seems to be flagging.
    • make sure that everyone feels that their voice has been heard and that no one person’s voice is heard too much (and that includes your own!).
    • keep things civil – it wouldn’t be much of a discussion if everybody agreed, but it is important that people express their alternate opinions in constructive ways that open a point up for discussion rather than disrespectfully squashing the opposition.

    Tips on Leading Meetings

    It’s your turn to moderate/lead your book club’s discussion. What can you do to ensure a successful meeting?

    • Your group probably has a fixed day and time to meet but the location might change. Even with a fixed day, a reminder a few days ahead can be useful, and knowing where the meeting is to be is very useful!
    • Remind the group when it’s time for the discussion to start.
    • If there are new members, make sure they are introduced.
    • If there is any business to discuss, such as picking books for future meetings, you may want to cover these points before the discussion starts – in case people need to leave quickly at the end.
    • If there is a need, refresh people’s memories on your group’s ground rules – not all of them, just any where there have been issues. A minute or two on this can be time well spent. If you or other members feel there has been a problem in earlier meetings (e.g. one person dominating the conversation or too much off-topic conversation), this is the appropriate time to remind people what was previously agreed, rather than having to confront the person during the meeting.
    • Consider asking members to briefly give their opinion on the book. This makes sure that everybody’s voice is heard early on and also will give you a feel as to how the conversation will go, and what areas are most likely to be of interest – and, of course, which members of the group have actually read the book! (Groups vary in their opinions on whether members can come to book club not having read the book, but one thing most agree is that those who have not read, or not finished, the book cannot tell the rest not to discuss plot spoilers.) More on this here.
    • Have a good topic of discussion to start the conversation and make sure to have some more ready to introduce if the conversation flags, goes off topic, starts to repeat itself or gets uncomfortably contentious. Many books suitable for book clubs have discussion guides. If the book you’re discussing has one it’s certainly worth printing it out – but do look through it before the discussion opens and decide which topics you think your group will enjoy. Most discussion guides are written in conversational tones, but some seem to be written by people channelling their inner English literature and need to be decrypted to find the salient topic hiding within the complex and multi-part question! If there isn’t a reading guide, or you just prefer not to use official guides, you might find our DIY discussion guide tips of use.

    “to get in very close to a reader and try to speak directly to what it is that they either might want out of the book or might be persuaded to see. [to persuade the reader] that certain truths about himself or herself, which are totally authentic, totally real, are being demonstrated to the reader for the very first time”

    To be fully prepared, you might wish to read our Tips on Handling Difficult Meeting Situations page!

    1. Pray before the meeting
    2. Do your preparation of the study
    3. Encourage those coming to have studied the same bible study outline before the day.

    The aim of the discussion groups is to get everyone into the bible. As the leader you must have done the study prior to the time. Write down other relevant bible passages to support ideas you have got. This will help in getting you prepared and confident to lead the group.

    Remember you should not do too much talking on the day. You are to lead the group not teach the group. Insights that you have received during your own study can either be mentioned along the way (if no one else has mentioned them) or used to prompt the discussion on. Needless to say, give adequate time to your payer time before the day.

    It is a good practice to allow about ten minutes toward the end of the Bible discussion time for a time of praying over what has been discussed. This could be done in smaller groups of three’s or four’s.

    GET A FOCUS AND KEEP TO IT.

    Leading a group is not as easy as it sometimes looks. After doing your preparation you should be aware of the lessons being put across in the study. Try to keep the group discussion focused on the main points. You will be amazed at how easy it is for the group to drift off course and start discussing things totally unrelated to the topic in question. All our Bible discussions are geared towards relating Bible truths (whether Old or New Testament) to our present day living. There is no point in having an in depth theological debate on the merits and demerits of Esau’s actions without relating it to ourselves.

    KEEPING THE DISCUSSION FLOWING.

    Some people have a tendency to do more talking than others do. There is no harm in this as long as other people are not denied the chance of talking because of them. However make sure the person or people doing the most talking are not going off point.

    When leading a group pay attention to body language. Some people just speak out. Others either raise their hands in an attempt to speak or just look at you seeking attention to speak. Those who just speak out tend to do more talking. Do not be afraid to ask them to give way to the person raising his/her hand (or giving off any other signal).

    Where someone has not spoken at all during the course of the discusssion you can ask him or her (politely) directly if they have anything to contribute.

    The time allocated to the bible studies should be known to everyone before the discussion begins. This can vary from one hour to half an hour. It depends on how much you have available.

    There is no value in rushing these studies. If the allocated time runs out during the studies simply continue them during the next study. Do not attempt to rush them.

    Groups of 8 people make a good size to manage for a discussion group. When half an hour is allocated for the studies it would take a group of about 8 people two sessions to complete each study here.

    PREPARE FOR QUESTIONS RUNNING OUT.

    Normally time is always tight. But if you ever experienced leading a group where no one has prepared you will be surprised how soon the questions can run out. In the unlikely event of this happening do not panic. Sometimes it might be just as good to let the Bible discussion end early. You might have not talked a lot but several deep and important truths might have been shared. Also, there is no point in forcing people to speak when they do not really have anything to say. They will only go off point.

    Always keep to the Bible Study structure that has already been drawn up. Remember, everyone is studying the same thing. Do not turn up to the Bible Study group with an entirely new Bible study in your hand and a big grin on your face. You will only be told to do it yourself!