5 Tips for Better Focus Groups
Over the years, I have moderated 100s of focus groups, and written moderator’s guides and screeners for countless others. While many think focus groups are an easy way to get feedback from members, it’s more than meets the eye (like most things in Associations!) Here are five quick tips to make your next focus groups the best they can be.
1. Make sure you have the right people in the room.
A focus group with the wrong people is useless. Write a screener questionnaire to make sure you have people who are your EXACT target audience will help ensure you get useful data. For a membership-related focus group, you’d want to know membership tenure, likelihood to renew, volunteer roles held, whether their employer pays dues, etc.
2. If you can’t outsource moderation to a 3rd party, have someone who is far removed from the topic at hand.
Outsourcing moderation to an impartial person will get you the best results. If your organization can’t afford that, make sure your moderator is not personally invested in the discussion. For example, putting your membership director in charge of moderating a focus group on membership benefits is a recipe for disaster.
3. Have a moderator’s guide.
A focus group is more than a discussion. It’s a carefully structured guided conversation designed to provide qualitative data on a specific issue. It’s the difference between asking someone “How are you doing today,” and “How are you feeling about that tough situation at work today?” The moderator’s guide should have carefully constructed, probing, open-ended questions.
4. Don’t be afraid of silence.
Moderators are trained to embrace the awkward silence. If you’re moderating the group yourself – know that silence is ok! If you let it drag out long enough, someone will speak up for sure. Once they start talking, pull others into the conversation using their names. “Great point, Fred. Let’s see what Amy thinks about that now.”
5. Go where the people are.
While in-person groups are best, that isn’t always a possibility when working with a tight budget. Online focus groups work well too! A google search will turn up several online focus group providers that will allow you to host text-only or video focus groups. However, there’s affordable alternatives at your fingertips! Zoom will work well and allow you to record the entire session, and Google hangouts could do the trick as well for a text-based group. While I typically recommend face to face groups (even virtually), if your topic is sensitive, a text based group is best so everyone can remain anonymous.