Think moderating a focus group is as easy as carrying on a conversation? It's not as simple as you might think. Whether you're an expert or a beginner, preparation and concentration are essential to keeping your meeting purposeful, on track and professional.

Here are 6 tips to help ensure a successful focus group meeting and how to put them into practice.

Your focus group challenge   Tips for success
Put people at ease

Shaking hands in welcome

 
  • Welcome participants with a handshake.
  • Offer them food or a beverage.
  • Invite them to ask questions.
  • Thank them for coming.
Set expectations

Leader pointing to agenda on flip chart

 
  • Review ground rules before you start.
  • Post the agenda.
  • Explain the reason for the session.
  • Ensure confidentiality.
  • Reassure participants that their opinion counts and that there are no wrong answers.
Engage participants

Woman at a whiteboard leading a focus group

 
  • Call on participants by name.
  • Ask follow-up questions.
  • Invite others to comment or to share a relevant story.
  • Record the answers on a flip chart or shared screen to prompt others' thoughts.
Keep the session on track

Laughing focus group participants

 
  • Regularly refer to the discussion guide or presentation.
  • Allow tangents and detours, but bring the discussion back to the main topic.
  • Diplomatically interrupt those who speak too long.
  • Ease tension with a joke and redirect the conversation.
Use active listening skills

Active listener

 
  • Maintain eye contact.
  • Listen to what participants are saying.
  • Ask follow-up questions to get more in-depth information.
  • Give everyone a chance to talk.
Practice before the session

Moderator preparing to lead a focus group by reading discussion guide

 
  • Get comfortable with the discussion guide.
  • Practice asking questions out loud.
  • Arrive a few minutes early to relax and reflect upon your role.
  • Brainstorm potential issues in advance and how you might address them.

 

 

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