Moderating a focus group is easy. Moderating a focus group well is not. Our qualitative consultants have moderated hundreds of focus groups across a breadth of categories with a variety of respondent types. Skilled moderators know what they’re doing because they have spent years perfecting their craft. Here are a few tips we’d like to share with you.
Moderators Have Ways of Making You Talk
Moderating is like conducting an orchestra. Moderators work hard to ensure that every voice is heard. They ask questions which generate lively discussion. They know how to construct a discussion guide (visualize a funnel) to start vague and get increasingly specific so as to avoid bias. They shut down “squeaky wheel” respondents and, conversely, bring out quieter souls.
Bag of Tricks
Skilled moderators have a large toolbox of exercises and approaches that they use to get below the surface answers. Projective exercises and creative techniques encourage fun, freedom, and thinking beyond the rational. (Tip – if respondents say that they purchase mostly on price, your moderator is falling down on the job).
Do Your Homework
A successful homework exercise can make an enormous difference in focus group quality. Without homework, recruited participants often have not thought about and/or have no recent experience with the product/service being discussed. A successful homework exercise primes the pump, generating deeper, more nuanced insights.
Mix it Up
We often conduct focus groups as part of a mixed-method approach in which participants are asked to journal via mobile phones, conduct self-ethnography, or participate in an online forum. We often find that one method either clarifies or fuels the learning from the other.
It’s All About the Recruit
Successful recruits depend on high quality screeners and recruiters. A great screener should successfully pinpoint the target audience. Choose the right recruiter for the task, and use the knowledge gleaned from years of forging relationships with the best in the business. As any experienced qualitative researcher will tell you, a focus group is only as good as the recruit.