How to Lead a Group Discussion


Education Roundtables works because you talk to each other; sharing solutions to common challenges, best practice, ideas and giving each other support, but it can be overwhelming if you are expected to lead the discussion and you’ve never done it before.

Ideally, we want a flowing discussion that is beneficial for the group and for you too. So here are a few tips to help you keep the discussion moving.

Tip 1 – Have a focus

A good discussion usually focuses on one topic, it answers a question or addresses an issue that everyone in the group is facing. It’s why I keep asking people to submit questions for the sessions. This makes leading the discussion a lot easier, you use the goals of the discussion to guide you. What are the group trying to get out of the discussion? Are you sharing ideas? Are you sharing information? Or, are you solving a problem? If you know the goal, it is easier to keep the discussion on track.

Tip 2 – Have ground rules

These are pretty simple, everyone should be respectful, allowing others to talk and waiting for their turn. Your role is to manage the time, and ensure that everyone has the opportunity to talk. Keep everyone involved. Keep an eye on the quiet ones, and ask their opinion, show that everyone’s opinion is valued – because it is.

Tip 3 – Ask open questions

Yes, I know, you’ve been nagging children in your class to do this for years, but it is amazing how often we forget this as adults. In many situations, you want to encourage a little more depth in the conversation and an open question helps you get that.

Tip 4 – Take brief notes

Sometimes you will need to redirect questions to specific people, or will need to revisit parts of the discussion, a quick note on who said which key thing helps with that. 

Tip 5 – Be a facilitator

The hardest thing to do is to keep the conversation on track, there will be moments when the conversation naturally drifts in an unintended direction. Some of these may be ideas worth exploring if you have time, or they may be suitable for discussion at a later date. When this happens, it is your role to reel everyone back a little and get them back on topic. Perhaps ask a key question that refocuses minds.

Tip 6 – Keep an eye on the time

The aim of the discussion is to move everyone forward, to give them something to think about, an action before the next session. It doesn’t have to be a huge action, but as time runs out, you will need to make sure to remind everyone to write something down. Ideally, they will share their action as it increases accountability. An action shared is much more likely to be completed. 

When the discussion ends, don’t forget to thank everyone for their contributions and thoughts.

Following these simple tips will help you lead a great conversation and shouldn’t be too painful.