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Focus Group Planning
Due to the great level of impact it creates on the organization, a focus group is considered very important among different business research methods.
A group of six to twelve key people, some experts advise not to go beyond eight members, comprising clients and non clients sit together to discuss important issues and come up with the right solutions.
Follow the below steps when planning how to conduct a focus group. Remember, you should start following these steps way before the "D-day."
Step 1: Define the objective of the focus group. Write down the problem statement whether it is a product development or new product introduction or project changes.
Step 2: List the questions (Limit your questions to five to seven) pertaining to your objective. Write them down by prioritizing the important ones in the beginning.
Step 3: Normally focus groups run for one to two hours. Schedule start and end time, and date appropriately.
Step 4: Choose and book conference rooms, arrange for name tags and refreshments (depending on what time the session is). Members might get dry throats due to continuous talking and discussing, make sure you have enough water or juices to be served during the meeting. Do you know where the restrooms are from the conference rooms? Check on that, so that members do not waste time searching for one.
Step 5: Create an agenda with a welcome note, review of objectives, explain the ground rules to the group, etc.
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Recruit Participants for a Focus Group
You need to be extremely careful when recruiting participants for a focus group. Make sure members are of the same status and position. This will help you avoiding ego clashes during interviews. Remember to select members who are participative, knowledgeable on the subject and reflective. You can also seek help from the person who is good at strategizing talent management.
Ted Donnelly, MD a Baltimore Research Consultant advises not to have people from the business research teams as they tend to dominate the group. There are also few research consulting companies who can support forming a group by choosing the right people from their databases.
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Appoint a Moderator
Can you take the role of a moderator? Are you the right person to control and manage the group during the session? If you are confident enough to handle the group with an unbiased manner, you do not have to worry about appointing a moderator. If not, appoint the right person as a moderator. If the group is excessively strong, it is advisable to appoint a professional facilitator who can manage the show well.
If you are the facilitator, do your homework well before the show. Develop negotiation skills and tactics to navigate the discussion by maintaining the flow beautifully and handle people well at the session.
- Make sure all members are participating in the session.
- If one person is dominating, try to avoid having a direct eye contact with him/her.
- If someone is not participating, show a supportive face, try to have an eye contact with them and pull them toward the discussion slowly.
- If someone is behaving abnormally or uncontrollably, give him / her a responsibility of note taking and monitor them well.
Experts advise against moderating the group on your own among known people and customers. Groups may not feel comfortable sharing their ideas directly with you.
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Appoint a Recorder
Recording the information discussed during the session is very important. You may consider using an audio or video recording of the session. Make sure you inform the participants of such existence. You must appoint a person who can take notes or points discussed during the session. Even though it is advised to use a trouble maker as a note taker, be careful while selecting a recorder. They should be able to grasp things quickly and write them down in perplexed or difficult situations.
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Develop a Guide for Discussion
Prior to the focus group session, develop a guide, mentioning the key questions, what is expected from the participants, how you are planning to record the happenings and how the results will be shared, etc. Guides should also help the participants learn how important it is to maintain the show on time. You can also leave a feedback form at the end of the focus group where the quantitative results can be collated.
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Manage the Show / Session
Once you have planned how to conduct a focus group, now it is time for execution. Make sure you have all aspects prepared according to your plan. Check the conference room before starting the session to ensure everything is fine. Check whether all participants are in the room before starting with the welcome. At the end of the session, summarize the key information and questions discussed during the session. Most importantly, establish ground rules and make sure everyone including you and/or the moderator follows it.
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Present the Report
Now you will have two sets of data. Qualitative responses from questions discussed and quantitative data from the feedback form. Analyze the results using the right methodology and come up with solutions. If you have appointed a professional moderator for managing the session, he / she will be able to help analyze the results. When you have the results, prepare a report and present it to management for approval.
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Execute the Results
Once approved by management, implement the changes. Be sure to monitor the execution of change processes. You may have to collaborate with various functions in your organization to complete the implementation process. Share the results and the status of the implemented processes to the participants. This is a very important phase of your agenda on how to conduct a focus group. Apply your change management skills to turn your focus group session a successful one.
Author is an HR and Project Management professional with experience conducting focus groups.