10 Tips for Managing Your In-Person Interviews Remotely as a Moderator

Joseph Elevado
Jul 16, 2021

Moderator talking to the focus group

COVID-19 has led market researchers to resort to conducting more webcam interviews or webcam focus groups online. However, some studies simply require qualitative research to be done with in-person respondents, where a hybrid approach of combining respondents in-facility with a remote moderator is a convenient option. But with how difficult it can be to moderate an in-person interview on-site, doing it remotely can take the challenge to a whole new level.

Here are some useful focus group discussion tips to help you effectively moderate your in-person interviews from wherever you are.

1. Schedule at a convenient time

Having the session scheduled at a time convenient for everyone is a great first step to having an effective discussion. At best, the session should be scheduled at a time when everyone can perform at their best without any preoccupations.

You’ll have to communicate clearly with your recruitment partner or your interviewees to have an idea on when to best schedule the session.

2. Clarify purpose of the interview

Giving each interviewee a clear view of the purpose of the interview allows them to prepare themselves properly to give insightful and meaningful ideas. Ideally, you should provide them with a brief overview of what the discussion will be about. A successful interview only comes when your participants are as ready as you are.

3. Anticipate technical issues

One of the worst things that can happen in a remotely moderated interview is a technical issue from either end that can cripple the discussion process, such as poor internet connection or your webcam or the on-site microphones not working.

The most reliable way to counter these is by partnering with an expert provider that conducts thorough tech checks as well as having a technical team on standby to take care of the problems when they happen.

4. Establish a friendly atmosphere at the start

A tension that may arise from differences in opinions becomes significantly harder in a remote setup since you can’t emotionally appeal to them through a screen very effectively.

To prevent this, begin the interview by introducing yourself as someone who’s eager to listen and learn about the participant’s views. Ask each participant a few personal questions for them to open up (e.g. what do they do for a living, what are their hobbies and interests, etc.). You can even crack jokes to lighten up the mood among them.

Even when moderating remotely, by doing these you can create a light and friendly atmosphere that promotes camaraderie among the interviewees and encourages them to discuss openly with each other.

5. Set the ground rules

Once the focus group session formally starts, you need to lay down the ground rules to ensure that the discussion stays its course throughout the allotted time. These include not only a run-through of the proper interview etiquette but also a reminder of the subject matter of the interview to keep the participants in-line from the get-go.

6. Facilitate the discussion

As the discussion kicks off, ensure that the group is on track with the agenda of the interview. This involves policing the topics and the flow of the session so it won’t get out of hand.

To ensure that the interview meets all of its goals, always keep track of time and the conversation and determine if it’s high time to wrap up the current topic and move on to the next one.

7. Ask for everyone’s input

Keeping every participant as engaged as possible ensures that every insight and idea is put out there for the group to discuss - but don’t force them to talk if they don’t want to.

Instead, encourage the group to participate by bouncing off every input by simply asking “Why?” This makes them more open to talking more and giving more useful insights.

8. Accept dead silence

There may be times when the conversation goes completely silent and no one talks for a while. Don’t fret - everyone may be tired or out of ideas in the middle of the discussion.

You can use this opportunity to let the group gather its thoughts for a bit and continue the meeting. Again, you shouldn’t force an input, as it can be counterproductive.

9. Use icebreakers

Icebreakers are a fantastic tool to keep potential tension down and establish rapport later in the interview, leading to a more fruitful and informative discussion. These can come in many forms like playing games, movie-watching, and friendly chatter.

When moderating remotely, you can be creative with your icebreakers by using technology. A good example is utilizing Microsoft PowerPoint to make simple yet refreshing games.

10. Summarize every topic

A neat and organized way to wrap up every topic in the interview is to make a quick summary after each one. This allows the group to have a clear outline of what has been discussed and a good reference for when they need to recall what happened later in the discussion.

Moderate Your In-Person Interviews Remotely With CCam® focus 

With CCam® focus, you can easily set up hybrid focus groups without the hassle. It is an HD 360° recording and streaming solution that offers streamlined discussions via omnidirectional microphones with clear audio quality. Paired with Civicom’s complete technical support, setting up and moderating in-person interviews remotely becomes a breeze.


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