A few years back I read a book titled Secrets of a Master Moderator written by Naomi Henderson from Riva Market Research & Training Institute. The book was a good read and offered insights and actionable takeaways which I could incorporate into my work as a focus group moderator in Syracuse, NY. Moderating can be a challenging task and many learn they do not fit the profile the hard way (while actually conducting a focus group live.) It takes a person who has a combination of skills which they can use on the fly to mesh with the wide-variety of participants you'll obtain in a focus group setting.
Although the author expands on the top 25 qualities in the book, Drive Research is going to highlight our top 10 here. If you are interested in reading the other focus group moderator qualities or reading more about moderating tips I highly recommend purchasing the book.
1: Works as the Moderator and a Consultant
Who better to assist on the analysis and reporting of the focus groups than the moderator himself or herself. The insights gained inside the focus group need to be transferred into the report for actionable next steps. Be wary of the moderator who handles the groups but hands the findings and report writing off to a different team.
2: Remains Objective
No matter whether the moderator feels positively or negatively about a topic of discussion or the feedback they need to remain completely objective.
3: Creates Focus Group Objectives
This is a different kind of objective, not the unbiased kind. This quality relates to the moderator being able to set the project up for success. If the moderator understands the goals and what results are expected he or she can better structure the focus groups to meet those objectives.
4: Creates Custom Moderator's Guides
All focus groups are unique and your moderator's guide which manages the flow and direction of your groups should be unique as well. Don't accept a cookie-cutter approach to focus groups. Ensure your moderator is spending the time to develop custom insights for you.
5: Good Listening Skills
Perhaps the most important skill for not only moderating focus groups, but market research in general. The moderator needs to pick up on verbal and non-verbal clues. When a participant says one thing but their body language says another, the moderator needs to dig and try to uncover the reasons.
A good moderator is a leader of the room. In addition to creating seamless discussion, he or she must be aware of other dynamics. Sometimes body language says the group needs to liven up, sometimes the quiet participants in the corners need to be called upon for feedback. The moderator needs to take charge in these situations.
7: Challenges Assumptions
With qualitative research, the idea is to explore a topic. It's important to go beyond face-value comments and peel back the onion. Only through this process do you uncover those golden nuggets of insights.
One thing is for certain, the focus group will never go as planned no matter how much preparation or training is done. In a group with 12 individuals, you never know what feedback you'll receive and how conversation might be sidetracked. It's important to hire a focus group moderator in Upstate NY who can go with the flow and keep order.
9: Moderates Effectively
This means the moderator can get through the majority of the guide and participation packet answering all of the key objectives.
10: Is Human, Not a Robot
Probably my favorite quality in this list. A focus group project is a lot of work. The groups are the culmination of weeks of recruitment and prep time. The groups often extend into the evening hours so you have to have a little fun in the process. Add in some humor, be sarcastic, and be human. Although you are seen as the immediate leader of the room, building a quick rapport and relationship with participants will help you get honest and real feedback.
Contact Our Focus Group Moderators
Drive Research is a qualitative market research company in Upstate, New York. Our President and Owner is a certified VoC professional and focus group moderator in Syracuse, NY. Questions about an upcoming focus group project or need an experienced moderator to manage your groups in Upstate NY? Contact us at 315-303-2040 or email us at [email protected].