The tagline on our training manual, Passport to Success, reads, “Data doesn’t change behavior…inspiration does” couldn’t be truer than when conducting focus groups. We must first connect with our target audience. Yes, I know…we have been “schooled” on the practices of fidelity when conducting focus groups. We have also found, through extensive experience, that most people will share freely when feeling validated, respected and feel comfortable.
Here are some suggestions:
· First, you must make sure that the focus group participants are a true representative sample.
· In general, people like to talk about themselves so finding out about them makes them more likely to be more active participants and more willing to share.
· Ask an interesting question of each participant first! Then actually listen to the answers. One example when conducting a focus group of high school students is: “Please tell us something about yourself that most people do not know” and you will get some amazing answers! Also, most of the answers are so interesting that you will immediately make an association with the people that you remember them and their names. Additionally, you will be able to make humorous comments during the time spent that helps all to be comfortable.
· Make sure to ask direct questions that actually lead the participants to the information that you want to find out. This way, you will leave armed with enough knowledge to begin building a strategy to address the actual issues and not what you and others may have assumed!
· Validate each person and keep control of all situations so that everyone feels respected.
· Document conversations.
· Be aware of attention spans of your audience and keep to an appropriate time schedule.
· Time equity is vital! Never allow a few to dominate the session. (I will elaborate on some techniques later)
· Just before you leave, recap and ask if anyone has anything to add that they did not get to share.
There is so much to conducting focus groups even though it might seem simple. However, through these sessions, we have gained so much trust of those participants and the rewards are great!