6. Sixth, in most cases, there will be viewers from the research firm and the client and perhaps their ad agency folk watching in the back room behind the one way mirror (or on a streaming service).
They are there to watch and learn so you should just forget about them. Often the simplest, most honest and direct answer can really shake up the people watching the group.
Once I was researching an important new campaign for a global brand, and they were comparing the aroma of their product to a bouquet of tulips. But one respondent noted that tulips generally don’t have a scent, so this didn’t make sense.
You could hear the egos deflating in the back room.
7. Seventh, focus group moderators are professionals and a lot more goes into handling a focus group than meets the eye.
You might see them reading questions from a Discussion Guide, but a really good moderator doesn’t handle the guide as if it were a script, but more a general list of topics that need to be covered.
Moderators will be polite and respectful of their respondents. If everyone likes an idea but you, you should not be goaded or coerced into changing your opinion – challenged, perhaps, but not pressured.
If you are challenged, it is usually intended to get you to explain what it is about something you don’t like, or to see how vehement you are in defending your point of view.
8. Eighth, humor can be the best tool to get people to relax and drop their guard, so I love to use humor to wake people up and bring them into our collective task that is the focus group.
I like to tease people, but I try to do this gently. A moderator should not make fun of someone for their appearance or for their opinions.
The same goes for the respondents who should never put down another respondent for any reason. So please be respectful of your fellow focus group participants.
9. Ninth, participants are sometimes shown early-stage concepts or sensitive materials.
In most cases these materials are confidential and are collected at the end of the group. Please be respectful of this and don’t sneak off with any papers or discuss the focus group materials in detail with others after the groups.
Sharing preliminary concepts to friends or colleagues is inappropriate because thanks to your input and those from other participants, they will most likely be fixed before they go public.
10. Tenth – as a moderator, I can guarantee to my participants that their views will be heard, but we cannot guarantee that the sponsors of the sessions will act on the findings we present them.
Finally, the focus group is an important tool for, among others, foundations, manufacturers, service providers, political campaigns and health professionals.
Whatever the purpose of the groups, they should be interesting, relevant and potentially important. Take part.
About the author
Carlos E. Garcia, born to Mexican immigrant parents, grew up in East Los Angeles and attended Pomona College, UC Berkeley and National University (BA, MA and MBA respectively). He has over thirty years of experience in the field of US Hispanic consumer research, twenty one years at the helm of his own company, Garcia Research. Most recently SVP at GfK: Knowledge Networks, where he headed up their Hispanic research efforts. He's gone full circle and now back at the helm of Garcia Research, a Hispanic market and Multicultural-focused research firm.Website