To run a focus group properly, organization is key. Preparing for focus groups often takes weeks of preparation with tasks ranging from recruitment, to moderator guide development, to the design of participation packets, to finding facilities, to confirmation letters. With so much to think about, when the day actually comes no one would blame you for forgetting even the simplest of items for your focus group.
Checklists and protocols help ensure you have everything you need for your focus group. As a focus group moderator in Syracuse, NY, I've followed these checklists over the years when preparing for focus groups so my attention can remain focused on the group discussion and objectives of the client. When the day comes, moderators and the team do not want to be spending time worrying about picking up last-minute items.
Follow this focus group checklist to ensure you have everything you need.
Next time you have a focus group, use the following checklist to prepare. Some of these are "no brainers" and are the most basic of must-haves. The idea is to create a comprehensive list of all of the possible items you may need.
Focus Group Checklist
Focus group box
An obvious item here, but if you and your team are going in and out of the facility, have a convenient storage box to put everything in is extremely helpful. It's also benefited us a few times when we've been caught in the rain to prevent rain-soaked participation packets on the way out.
Stipends (counted and individually numbered)
It's helpful to count the payments out and individualize them into envelopes. It makes the payout process that much easier at the end of the focus group. We also include a thank you note in our envelope with links to our website to encourage social media follows, likes, and shares. These participants likely had a good experience at the focus group and were paid, so it's a great time to reach out and ask for a rating on Facebook and Google.
These sit in front of the participants around the table so the moderator can address them by name. The choice is yours: pre-print them according to your attendance list or let the participants be creative and write their own when they arrive. If you pre-print, don't forget one for the actual moderator.
Sign-in sheet and attendance form
This form can be used at the beginning of the focus groups as participants check-in but can also be used at the end when they sign for their stipend and confidentiality. Why create two separate forms when they can be merged into one?
Pens or pencils for participants
If you have written exercises or a participation packet, you'll need to provide pens or pencils. If you are hosting at a facility, these will be offered but if you are traveling to a conference room or hotel for the focus groups, you'll need your own. Bring extras, some will mysteriously disappear.
Copies of moderator’s guide
Make sure client viewers and your analyst have a copy of the moderator's guide (printed or digital.) It helps them follow the discussion and understand what's coming next. It's not necessary but it's better to provide the client the option.
Print out enough copies for your focus group participants with a few extras. The same holds true here for the clients. Make sure they have a printed copy or digital copy available.
Candy for participants
Why not right? If participants are happy and engaged, they'll be more likely to feel relaxed and be open with their comments. Some would argue no, because it makes the audio more difficult to understand but I've found it has a negligible impact.
Tape and Signs
Definitely needed if you are hosting your focus groups in a non-traditional setting. Signs in the building which point focus group participants to the right room are critical to set the tone for the sessions.
Markers, marker board, or easel
This helps the moderator keep the participants engaged in the discussion by writing activities on a board. Make sure you have everything you need including markers that actually work. Binder clips, paper clips, sticky notes, and rubber bands
You'll never know what you'll need them for (e.g., grouping packets, papers, hand-outs, etc.) but you do know if you don't have them, you'll wish you did.
Digital recorder and extra batteries
Essential for groups hosted off-site. Make sure you check the recorder periodically throughout the focus group to ensure it is working and hasn't run out of battery. If you are at a facility, they will handle this for you but we always make it a point to make sure the host or hostess clicked record when the groups begin. I've been in a few groups across the country where we've missed the introduction of groups because the staff was side-tracked.
Extension cord (for laptop)
You may need this if you are showing visuals on a projector or screen. Sometimes the focus group or conference table is not conveniently placed next to an outlet. Having an extension cord prevents any issues with your laptop battery.
Drive Research is a market research firm in Upstate, NY. We offer a number of market research services including online surveys and focus groups including moderator services. Contact Drive Research at [email protected] or call us at 315.303.2040.