Planning a stress-free focus group

Any good researcher knows that great focus groups require meticulous planning.

To help you out, we have gathered together a few tips.

While they won’t guarantee a perfect group discussion, we hope they can go some way towards helping you avoid some of the most common pitfalls we see in focus group facilitation – losing control of the group, losing track of the conversation and running out of time.

Develop a clear objective

Trying to achieve too many objectives in a single focus group can quickly dilute engagement in an enlightening discussion, turning the conversation into a verbal questionnaire. Try to avoid this. Before you start the session, be clear on what you need to know, why you need to know it and to what end. This will create a suitably structured environment, in which free ideas can flow.

Don’t save the most important topics until last

When people are given a chance to talk about something they care about, it’s common that discussions can go off on a tangent and you may find that you end up running out of time before exploring everything you planned to. In order to avoid this, we recommend placing your most important questions in the centre of the session. By doing so, you allow the participants to warm up and settle in and will avoid rushing at the end.

Keep the conversation moving

Time is of the essence, so it is vital you use it wisely. If you are not getting a good response, move onto the next question, returning later to any missed questions if required. Consider whether the track of conversation is valuable for your research objective; if it isn’t, then try to move the conversation on.

Practice makes perfect

It’s not easy to plan and execute a focus group on your own if you’re a beginner. To make the most of your focus group, we recommend running through your discussion guide with a friend or colleague. This is a great method to check on both your flow and timing, as well as a chance to surface any last minute revisions needed. When you are happy with it, make sure to share it with your client for their feedback too.