It can be said that the quality of a good focus group is only as good as the one moderating it. An effective moderator keeps a delicate balance between art and science when they conduct their discussions. With a myriad of tasks to do, their job is no easy feat. They are in charge of managing group dynamics while also collecting relevant data on their topic. They set the tone for the research and are a key player in gathering important insights.
Moderating interviews can now be done remotely using a computer screen and a webcam. This shift in their environment caused a change in how they moderate focus groups. While some in-person aspects stayed the same, the inclusion of technology has brought with it some advantages and obstacles. Nevertheless, a good moderator must adapt to these changes to facilitate a successful focus group and build meaningful discussions.
But what are the skills you need to achieve these things? Here are some helpful focus group discussion tips to become a pro at managing your next webcam discussion.
Before the webcam session begins, the moderator needs to take a step back and consider the bigger picture of the discussion. What insights are they trying to uncover, and what can their respondents contribute to the conversation? Are their questions cohesive and help identify specific data? Having a set plan or road map for your focus group is crucial because it serves as a guide for the moderator to dictate the flow of conversation. Without structure, it can result in an unproductive session because the information gathered may be lacking or irrelevant to the research.
Make use of discussion guides to walk the participants through the session. These guides typically consist of a mix of questions, tasks, or topics that aid the facilitator in determining how the conversation will go. They are instrumental in helping moderators reach their research objectives while optimizing their discussions for maximum efficiency.
Keep in mind that it is acceptable to make adjustments to the guide if it leads to more in-depth insights. Unexpected responses can call for additional probing to get more accurate data. A great moderator should be able to “stick to the script” while also drawing out new reactions or topics of discussion from the group. Being familiar with a guide can also help account for any unexpected detours during the conversation.
Establish ground rules and ask for consent
At the beginning of the session, moderators should start by going over some basic “housekeeping” rules. This includes the meeting duration, the scope of discussion, and any other guidelines such as turning off any unnecessary distractions like phones or TVs.
Afterward, it is vital to obtain virtual verbal consent from your respondents. To do this, you should ask participants to provide their name and state yes or no as to whether they agree to participate in the discussion and to be recorded. Acquiring research consent ensures that the people taking part in your study clearly understand the project and its risks.
To help participants ease into things, it is important to first break the ice t. Being comfortable during the session means that your respondents would be more open to sharing their answers and perspectives with you. This is one of the focus group discussion tips you especially can’t skip because it is more difficult to establish rapport when people aren’t physically present.
You could start by asking everyone some simple questions like ‘what are your favorite hobbies?’ or ‘where do you live?’ Online games can also be played to get to know your respondents more thoroughly. You could even answer these questions or participate in these games yourself to make you seem more relatable to your participants. Remember that the goal of a moderator is to create meaningful conversation. Your session is not an interrogation. Match the tone of your respondents so that they will be more likely to generate more honest and comprehensive insights.
Maintain and manage engagement
Maintaining participant engagement online is arguably harder than in person because of the lack of physical interaction. Your respondents may not feel as connected to the session as you would like. In light of this, it is the moderator’s duty to keep their participants interested during the session. This can be achieved through asking open-ended questions that encourage them to elaborate on their answers. In turn, the moderator may then ask other people to comment on those answers or exchange ideas with each other to maintain the flow of conversation. Remember that when facilitating the discussion, you should remain neutral and avoid any leading questions that may influence responses. Moderators should also check in with participants to ask what they are feeling during the session since it is hard to discern body language or gauge emotions behind a screen.
If you have participants that haven’t contributed to the conversation, you could prompt them to talk by asking a follow-up question such as ‘for those who haven’t spoken up a lot, what do you think?’. This question may be that gentle nudge they need to help them participate and share their thoughts.
Moderators can urge participants to mute audio when they aren’t speaking and raise their hand if they want to say something to minimize background noise and organize the discussion. This is helpful if you want to avoid overlapping audio issues when your participants are speaking simultaneously.
One of the most critical questions a moderator should ask is ‘why?’. When your respondents give you one-liner answers, you should not be afraid to probe them for an explanation of their responses. Understanding the meaning behind them gives you a better grasp of their motivations and what message they want to convey. Never assume that you know what a participant means when they say something. Dig deeper and seek clarity when given a vague response that might blur your analysis.
Although it is important to stay on track, it can also be beneficial to follow the conversation as it evolves. This may lead to new perspectives or insights that may be helpful for your study. Be sure to show genuine interest in what is being said for your participants to share even more information.
Moderators should make it a point to have a recording of their webcam discussions to make it easier to refer to specific clips or topics. But as mentioned in one of the focus group discussion tips above, you must always ask for consent before recording your session. Having a reviewable version of your conversation allows you to share it with your clients or your team if they were not in attendance.
The most significant advantage of having a recording of your session is that it enables you to explore discussion points and evaluate any viable patterns, keywords, and direct quotes that can be helpful in decision-making. You can employ an HD video streaming and recording solution with video management features for your study for high-quality recordings.
Pause and reflect
Having a moment of silence to reflect on what was discussed is a good practice in face-to-face focus groups, but it’s even more important virtually. Contemplating certain topics, explaining, and giving feedback can go a long way in showing that respondents are talking to a real moderator and not just a person on-screen.
There is no need to fill every second with conversation. Facilitators should give participants a chance to pause and reflect for any additional thoughts before transitioning to the next topic. Take a moment to ponder on questions to receive carefully considered and well-thought-out responses.
Select easy-to-use and accessible technology
Commit to a successful webcam discussion by utilizing services specializing in delivering quality webcam discussions with good audio and video functionality. CCam® focus provides in-person recording and streaming technology that will give you the chance to experience superior and immersive focus group sessions even when moderators or respondents participate remotely. This platform includes a full-face video capability that is ideal for storytelling so moderators can put their respondents at the center of the discussion.
Access and manage your recordings through the use of advanced collaboration and curation tools. These capabilities are all instrumental in efficient insight discovery, both during and post-recording.
Choose a streaming solution with superior audio and video capture that you can take anywhere
Civicom CCam® focus can clearly capture the flow of conversation and reaction to any stimuli in your focus group sessions. Utilize a range of features that will enhance your qualitative research process. This includes panoramic and full-face video, clear audio, multiple camera angles, and video curation tools. Learn what makes CCam® focus different.