Jim Weaver of Consumer Opinion Services shed some light tonight on the benefits and drawbacks of focus groups, and the crucial importance of having a good moderator.
I appreciated the strategy involved in thinking about the client’s objectives, and whether a focus group would achieve those objectives. In addition, the researcher must think about the people in the focus group. What will happen if you put these demographics in a room together to talk about this subject? Will it yield trust, and the ability to truly share one’s experiences? If not, a focus group may not be the best route.
When conducting the focus group, the moderator must draw information from everyone. S/he is not afraid to make someone leave the room if needed. S/he elicits responses from everyone. And s/he builds trust, takes his or her time to learn the best ways to communicate with participants, and warms up to controversial topics. I was struck by how observant and socially savvy the moderator must be to learn very quickly about how these participants communicate, and adjust his or her methods as needed.
Finally, I appreciated his candor about writing reports. Like these blog posts, it’s best to keep it short and sweet.