While face-to-face focus groups remain the gold standard, virtual or web-based focus groups are a popular alternative, especially when time and money are short. But they're also more challenging to facilitate. Here are the most common challenges, and how to address them:

Challenge #1: Keeping participants focused
Because attendees are participating from the comfort of their offices, they are more prone to distractions like checking their email, taking a call or chatting with a co-worker. Use PowerPoint® to keep participants focused on the topic at hand.

Challenge #2: Encouraging participation
Without the benefits of face-to-face interaction—body language, facial expressions, etc.—it's tough to encourage participation. Use visuals to keep participants engaged. For example, show a process to test if it's understood, or browse a web site to test the information architecture.

Challenge #3: Ensuring equal contribution
When you can't see your participants, it's hard to tell if you're hearing from everyone. Use a roll call to get answers to vital questions. Do this by calling on each and every participant individually and asking them for their perspective.