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Focus Groups Moderator Techniques

Watch this Blog for Focus Groups Moderator Techniques
by Jeff Anderson, President Jeff Anderson Consulting

Over the next few months I will use this blog to explain some of the skills a successful moderator must know to create a successful focus group discussion.

A successful focus group discussion is very different than a normal, interactive casual conversation. The focus group moderator has a job to do and must get reactions and answers to a long list of important questions. The moderator must also get these answers through relatively equal contributions from eight to ten strangers, and do all this in less than two hours.

In most casual group conversations, people are relaxed and take their time “getting to the point.” Often background is provided before points are made; stories are told in a narrative style where the point slowly emerges. People in casual conversations can often even forget the ultimate point of their narrative before getting to it. However, in a focus group, if it doesn’t stay focused and cover the topics with efficiency, the discussion will fail to meet the needs of the client.

Respondents that come to a focus group are generally more apt to have a casual, slower conversation as they will be naturally inclined to behave as if time were not of concern. A focus group moderator cannot counter these natural tendencies by “rushing” the respondents, or by urging respondents to “get to the point.” People will naturally be offended — and the group will get nowhere.

To change respondents’ conversational behavior, the moderator must create a new set of norms for respondent behavior. They must invite respondents and entice them into an effective focus group discussion mode. In my experience, I have found several techniques and principles to follow in meeting the challenge of establishing the unique, conversational dynamics of the focus group.

Come back often as I reveal what has worked for me as I share moderating techniques. I invite you to add your contributions as well — and I hope to hear about your successes and experiences for creating a successful environment for focus group discussions.