The key to a successful focus group is all in the listening. You’re setting up a focus group because you need and want some feedback about your product, event, or concept. And you aren’t just looking for feedback like, “Do you like this product?” That kind of question could easily be answered in a survey. A focus group delves deeper and explores wider possibilities. Like “In what ways did this product meet your expections?” Or “What was the most memorable aspect of your experience at the event and will it influence your future decisions regarding this industry?” When the answers to questions have more detail and nuance than a simple yes or no, listening is key to your focus group’s success.
The first step in setting up a focus group is determining to whom you should be listening
Who is your product for? What kinds of people are you interested in attending your event? Let’s say you’re planning on pitching a pop-up booth for a family travel trade show. That could cover a lot of different types of people so you’ll want to be more laser-focused on a strong sample of your target demographic. For example, you could create a group of parents with children of a specific age range - for instance, 4-8 years and another for teenagers. The feedback you’ll get from both sets of parents with kids in those age ranges will be vastly different.
Once you’ve targeted the ideal demographic for your focus group, you’ll want to determine which aspects of your booth you’ll want to discuss with them
Ideally, focus groups are between 45 and 90 minutes. You don’t have a ton of time to cover everything. So once again, the focus is key. Narrow down the topics you’ll want to be evaluated. It’s becoming obvious why they call focus groups, focus group, right?
Setting up your focus group discussion questions is an important next step
You’ll want an experienced moderator that can ask open-ended questions which will generate a useful discourse. Prepare all the important questions in advance, but be open to where the conversation goes naturally - important follow-up questions you didn’t anticipate may be needed to get to that special nugget of information you’re really looking for. The moderator should keep the discussion moving and redirect it when it gets off track, making sure the group members feel comfortable to express their opinions and that they are being heard and understood. When a group member feels comfortable, they will be more open and honest and not try to simply please the moderator with answers they think they want to hear (this is known as the Hawthorne Effect).
Now is the time to listen
This is valuable information that you are going to want to share with your team members, designers or clients later. Let the group know that you will be recording the entire session. If you can have another team member in the room taking notes, do it. This team member can make notes about non-verbal cues the group is showing. Does everyone nod in agreement? Do some topics make some of the group uneasy and shift in their seats? Listen and observe everything you can, both verbally and non-verbally.
Setting up a focus group really comes down to focusing on what’s important, who it's important to and listening, listening, listening.
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