5 Unique Focus Group Moderator Tips

Recently, Drive Research worked with Advance Media New York (AMNY) in Syracuse to volunteer its time to moderate a focus group session for Syracuse Athletics of Syracuse University. Focus groups are a form of qualitative market research aimed at exploring opinions and perceptions. They are not intended to be statistically reliable but they do provide some depth and insight into the mindsets of participants.

A focus group moderator is the person who guides and manages the focus group. He or she follows a moderator's guide which breaks the discussion down into specific sections. The moderator calls on participants, manages activities on the whiteboard, and interacts with clients in the viewing room.

5 Unique Focus Group Moderator Tips

Here are 5 unique focus group moderator tips from our team in Upstate, NY.

Tip 1: Have Fun, Eliminate the Barrier Between Moderator and Participant

As a focus group moderator in Upstate, NY this is an essential tip. Your job is to build rapport with participants as soon as they step into the focus group facility. Going into a focus group, participants are often nervous, skeptical, or unsure about the discussion.

It helps to eliminate that tension by making some introductions early on before the group even starts. If the participants feel they can relate with you they are much more likely to be relaxed. This results in more open feedback, honesty, and details.

Tip 2: Ask Why? A Lot.

Don't just take general feedback for granted. Be that annoying child in the back seat of the car. Ask "why?" Ask for clarification on specific words. Ask the participant to explain what they meant by that last statement. Ask participants whether that is a good or bad thing. Always be asking questions and diving deeper into feedback.

So be a professional version of that annoying kid in the backseat. As a moderator you'll come off as an active listener and interested. This will make the participants want to share even more information over the course of the group and be more descriptive. They'll learn "It's good" with no detail is not good enough.

Tip 3: Challenge Assumptions.

Similar to asking why, challenge participants thoughts. If the group lists off a number of positive associations with a brand but the discussion skews to the negative side of things and improvements, challenge that disconnect. "Why did you list of all positives but it seems like you have a lot of issues with product or service X?"

If a theme emerges earlier in the discussion but a participant brings up a counterpoint to that theme, challenge it and ask them to explore why their view differs from what was discussed 30 minutes ago? This type of questioning can lead to some excellent nuggets and findings in a focus group.

Tip 4: Use a Marker-board or Whiteboard. Often.

The easiest way to lower ambition and motivation among focus group participants is to remain seated the entire time. If the moderator sits for the majority of the group, it will likely reflect subliminally on participants. Participants will get lazy, tired, and quiet. Here's what we recommend to focus group moderators.

Get up. Walk around. Go to the marker-board or whiteboard often. Create activities. Write down lists of feedback in bullets. Change sides of the room. Change ends of the table. Sensing a theme here?

Get up and move around, keep your participants active and engaged.

Tip 5: End With a Recap of Highlights

Our focus group moderators have used this on several of our focus groups in the past and it has always provided some very detailed and actionable takeaways. We like to wrap up our focus groups by asking about one key theme or one key takeaway from each participant and go around the table.

This could be asking "What's the one thing you want improved about the product?" Or "What one thing could be offered to make you a more loyal customer?" Actionable questions like these provide small tidbits and walk-away findings for participants and viewing clients alike.

We love wrapping up our focus groups with this simple exercise. It also gives each participant one final word.

Contact Us

Drive Research is a focus group firm in Upstate New York. We also offer focus group moderator services if your company has a need for qualitative market research.

Questions about how we can assist with your next market research project? Contact us at [email protected] or call us at 315-303-2040.

Focus Groups