November 21, 2018, by Lucy
How to Survive a Group Project
In first year, I had to do a presentation about how the book 1984 could be regarded as a piece of literature. At the time, I thought it was the worst thing in the world because nothing fills me with more fear than giving a presentation. Quite simply, I would rather be tucking into the latest Bushtucker Trial than standing up giving a talk in front of a room of people. However, my little first year self was so naïve. She did not know what she had ahead of her… She did not know that such things as group presentations existed.
Indeed, it has only taken me to get to third year to be made to suffer the task that is the group presentation. Although simple on the surface, the group presentation is like enduring a marathon: no matter what obstacles are thrown your way, you must think of the end goal; the finish line. Speaking to people who have also been made to endure this form of assessment, I know that I am not alone when I talk of the perils that it causes. As a result, I though it would be useful to share my tips on how to survive the assignment.
The age of the internet means that reasons to engage in face-to-face interaction are decreasing. Even when it comes to things like group projects, technology such as Google Docs means that you don’t even need to see meet other people to work collaboratively. However, you shouldn’t replace physical interaction with this group work. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that it’s imperative to meet regularly with the people in your group. This way you can ensure that everyone is pulling their effort, is on the same page and that your work forms a cohesive whole. At the end of the day, it is obvious when groups work individually – slides are disjointed, and the presentation lacks a sense of structure. When you can book group study rooms in any of the libraries for up to three hours at a time, group meetings needn’t be an impossible event to organise.
With group tasks it is easy for people to do too much / too little of the work. Speaking as someone who is quite openly a control freak, it is easy for me to take over the work when I realise that people aren’t pulling their weight. Although this can result in good marks, it can also lead to a great deal of stress for the person doing all of the work. The best groups I have worked in have been those that delegate tasks fairly and equally – people can choose which bits they want to do, meaning that they can do something they enjoy and that they can put their effort into that instead of spreading themselves too thinly. That being said, as per my previous point, it’s important to meet and keep in contact with each other to make sure that your individual parts are actually relevant and fit with the entirety of the presentation!
QUICK TIP: When it comes to delegating tasks, I’d always recommend allocating small tasks on an individual basis, leaving the bigger bulk of the task to the group as a whole.
Organise and Plan ahead
There is no point going through the effort of scheduling meetings if you don’t prepare for the meetings themselves. Each time you meet you should state a line of focus for the present meeting. This way you will know what needs to be discussed, allowing you to work efficiently and waste as little time as possible. Likewise, at the end of every meeting you should discuss what needs to be done by the next meeting: whether it’s research, planning or even something as simple as formatting, it’s good to get something done between each meeting to perpetuate the sense of progression. When time is not on your side anyway, you need to do anything you can to best utilise the time you have.
Presentations are usually limited to the 20-minute mark at max. Although this may seem like all the time in the world, in reality it is nothing at all. When you have 5 people in your group for instance, this averages out to four minutes per person. When you consider this in terms of words this is around 600 words, and that’s nothing. Nobody expects you to cover everything possible in these time restrictions, meaning that it’s best to keep your project as focused as possibly. It is better to examine a small topic in as much depth as possible than to deal with a huge topic and only skim the surface. When going over the time limit is seen as being akin to going over the word count, there is no point risking blatant penalisation for something that you are in absolute control of.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Once the presentation has been made and the script has been formed, you should take it upon yourself to familiarise yourself with the project at large. By that I mean the whole project, not just your own slides. Even if you plan on reading from a script, if you are familiar with the concepts that you are discussing, you will be more confident and able to execute your lines in spite of any nerves that you may face.