As in a horror movie, bad things happen to good people. The consultants at Davis & Company can attest to that, especially when it comes to moderating employee focus groups. While our experiences aren't exactly akin to being chased by an axe-yielding psychopath, they're scary nonetheless. But there are ways to survive.

Too many participants
"Our client invited 25 participants to each focus group because the organization had a history of high no-show rates to meetings. However, the topic must've been particularly juicy for employees because all 25 showed up, even the ones who said they couldn't attend!"

How I survived: "Since the ideal number of participants is 10 to 12, I knew something needed to be done. Had another moderator been available, I would've split the group in half and held two sessions. Instead, I chose seven people at random, thanked them for coming and released them back to work, bringing the group to a more manageable 18 participants."
 

Distracting environment
"Knowing that focus groups should be free of environmental distractions, I arrived early to prep the room: I drew the blinds, adjusted the temperature and hung a big sign at the front of the room asking attendees to turn off their cell phones. Just as the focus group got underway, the landscapers started blowing leaves right outside the window!"

How I survived: "I knew the noise would eventually subside, but I was especially concerned that it would interfere with the digital recording of the session. I quickly phoned the client and asked her to send an admin to take notes as back up."
 

Challenging participants
"Where challenging participants are concerned, I had the worst of all: the talker. From the start of the group, I knew 'Jim' was going to monopolize every conversation and dominate the group. The rest of the participants couldn't get a word in edgewise."

How I survived: "I acknowledged 'Jim's' expertise on the topic and informed the group that I'd like to hear from someone else. When this technique didn't work, I started calling on participants by name so others would have a chance to contribute."

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