4 Quick Tips for Better Virtual Focus Groups

Virtual focus groups are growing in popularity -- I’m pretty sure we all know why.

While traditional, in-person focus groups will have their comeback, online focus groups will likely be more popular for a while longer. 

To help ease the transition, our focus groups market research company shares 4 quick tips for better virtual focus groups below.

Need help recruiting, moderating, or hosting a virtual focus group? Drive Research can provide one or all of these services. Contact our team by emailing info@driveresearch.com or filling out an online contact form

blog: 4 quick tips for virtual focus groups


Virtual vs. In-Person Focus Groups: What’s the Difference? 

Two key differences between an online and in-person focus group are the number of participants and moderating style. 

The number of participants

A typical in-person focus group has 10 to 12 participants, while an online focus group should have 4 to 6 participants. 

There are fewer participants because creating an engaging atmosphere is significantly more difficult due to the outside distractions in an online format. 

Keeping the group limited to 4 to 6 people ensures each person has enough opportunities to share.

Moderating style

In terms of moderating online groups, moderators need to bring high-energy, build a sense of rapport quickly, and show appreciation. 

Moderators should also plan to call on participants more frequently than in an in-person group. 

While in-person groups typically have more cross-talk and group conversation, online focus groups thrive when each participant has their chance to share and reflect on what others in the group said. 

Recommended Reading: The Ultimate Guide to Conducting Online Focus Groups


Tip #1: It all starts with a great moderator’s guide.

First things first, right? A great moderator has a great moderator’s guide.

The ideal moderator’s guide starts with a summary of the focus groups (i.e., dates, times, audiences, recruiting plans), followed by the introduction and warm-up, sections of conversation, and then the wrap-up section.

The key to creating a great moderator’s guide is to outline the client’s key objectives and then craft a line of questioning to dive deeper into each of the objectives.

Start general, then dive into specifics

One of the tricks I’ve learned is that it’s helpful to start general and then dive into more specific questions.

In doing this, it’s also important to mix up the types of questions. Some groups thrive on broad, big-picture questions, while others thrive on more focused questions. 

The most critical piece is to pick up on whether participants are engaged and understanding the question. If participants seem to be struggling, be able to pivot question phrasing. 

The most critical piece is to pick up on whether participants are engaged and understanding the question. If participants seem to be struggling, be able to pivot question phrasing.

Star must-ask questions

Another important tip is to highlight or star key questions selected by the end-client.

This is done after the focus group moderator’s guide is signed off on by the end client.

Knowing each question in a moderator’s guide will not be answered due to time constraints, it’s ideal to know which questions are most important to address.

Recommended Reading: Tips for Creating a Focus Groups Moderator's Guide


Tip #2: The recruiting process should feel genuine and personalized. 

In addition to a great moderator’s guide, a focus group would not be successful without qualified participants.

Throughout the qualitative recruiting process, a great recruiting team will make communication feel genuine and personalized.

This includes the screening call, confirmation email, reminder phone call, and reminder text.

The market research team must also assess whether the contact would be a good fit for a focus group.

Generally, this includes being forthcoming when answering questions, showing interest in participating, willingness to expand or further explain ideas, and being polite and courteous to others.

We cover this tip in detail in our blog post, How to Recruit for Focus Groups Online.

Watch this video to learn more tips for your next market research recruitment project!


Tip #3: Set the tone and support engagement.

One of the worst things a moderator could during a focus group is to complain...about anything.

Rather than complaining or sounding low-energy, find ways to sound eager and energized. 

Having a bad day? Fake it until you make it. Seriously. Participants will notice, and it will pay off. 

Set the tone by being welcoming, excited, and appreciative of participants’ time. Remember, if the recruiting team was successful, all participants should be excited about the focus group.

Also, consider starting with a warm-up question like:

  • “If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be and why?”
  • “What’s your favorite movie?”

Warm-up questions like this help the moderator build rapport with participants, but it also helps participants get to know each other before diving into key questions.

Set the tone by being welcoming, excited, and appreciative of participants’ time. Remember, if the recruiting team was successful, all participants should be excited about the focus group.


Tip #4: Show appreciation before, during, and after the focus group.

Lastly, but most importantly, it’s important to thank participants throughout the focus group.

A great moderator will take the time to personally thank each participant at the beginning of the group, for sharing or expanding on their thoughts during the group, and at the end of the focus group.

Again, being grateful and appreciative helps create an effective and engaging experience for participants.

Want to learn more? Check out these 10 rules for focus groups.


Conduct a Virtual Focus Group with Drive Research

Drive Research, a national market research company, conducts virtual focus groups across the country.

We work with organizations to design, recruit, and moderate remote focus group sessions with key target audiences.

Interested in partnering with our team for your next online focus group? Contact Drive Research today.

  1. Message us on our website
  2. Email us at info@driveresearch.com
  3. Call us at 888-725-DATA
  4. Text us at 315-303-2040

emily taylor about the author

Emily Taylor

As a Senior Research Analyst, Emily is approaching a decade of experience in the market research industry and loves to challenge the status quo. She is a certified VoC professional with a passion for storytelling.

Learn more about Emily, here.


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