A Remote Moderator’s Checklist For In-Person Focus Group Sessions

Rafael Roxas
Apr 30, 2021

As Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Regardless of whether you’re an inexperienced or experienced moderator, it doesn’t hurt to be sure about your game plan for moderating your remote focus group sessions. We’ve written down this checklist for remote moderation that any moderator can use to ensure they’re ready for the big day.

  1. How’s Your Interview Schedule? 

Have your clients briefed you on the details of their discussion guide? Have you brought up your concerns regarding how certain activities would translate remotely? Is what they gave you appropriate for the time limit they set?

A solid discussion guide on paper doesn’t always translate well in remote moderation settings. Make sure your client’s goals are written intentionally for online sessions to remove the guesswork and extensive improvisation on your part. It also helps to have a timing structure for which questions you will ask and at what point in the session you will ask them. This will keep things on track and leaves you time to ask the more thought-provoking questions towards the latter half of the session.

  1. Have You Determined Your Ground Rules?

You probably already have a list of rules laid out before you to help avoid unwanted scenarios and keep all your participants on track, but are you certain they’ll cover all your bases once the focus group takes place? Does your briefing go over how long the focus group will last and what will be discussed? Does it discourage being around distractions such as mobile phones and noisy environments? What’s your protocol for bathroom breaks? Keep in mind that without your physical presence directing the attention of your participants, nothing’s stopping them from tuning out of your remote focus group sessions.

Here are a few ground rules that you might want to consider including in your list:

  • Inform your participants that the focus group session will be recorded.
    • While recruitment should’ve made this abundantly clear before selecting participants, it doesn’t hurt to add a little reminder to the start of your sessions. By doing so, you give participants one last chance to affirm their consent on participating in your discussion.
  • Address people by their name-tags
    • You want to avoid offensive gesturing and confusing back and forth debate during the discussion so it’s in your best interest to make sure your client finds out what your participants like to be called before the session takes place.
    • Providing name tags is an added security since you can also explicitly request that everyone respect and use the names written on them. This saves you time during introductions and ensures that all your participants will get a chance to be heard.
  • Emphasize that there are no wrong answers
    • This builds the confidence your participants will have sharing their thoughts and lets them know that feeling different from others is fine and that no arguments between viewpoints are necessary
  • Go through what your role is in the focus group
    • Even if they’re aware of your role, it’s good to bring it up once more to ensure everyone is on the same page, especially for those moments where you may need to interrupt a participant to move the discussion forward.
  1. Ready for your ice-breakers?

Make sure your icebreakers do the job of easing the participants into the heavier aspects of the focus group session. This is the portion of the focus group where it's imperative to be extremely flexible. You never know what personalities are attending your focus group so your pre-planned ice-breakers may need to be modified at a moment’s notice to ensure everyone is having a good time. It also doesn’t hurt to start off by asking everyone to answer one or two simple questions which can help make them become more comfortable with each other and more willing to provide in-depth answers during the focus group.

Here are the three question types you should prepare:

  • Probe questions
    • Introduce participants to the discussion topic and make them feel more comfortable sharing their opinion with the group
  • Follow-up questions
    • Delve further into the discussion topic and the participants’ opinions
  • Exit question
    • Check to ensure that you didn’t miss anything
  1. Are your exercises diverse enough?

Focus groups can feel long for some participants, even more so in a remote setting. Providing your participants with varying exercises captures their attention consistently by breaking off patterns and routines that would otherwise dull a discussion very quickly. Rating scales, role-playing, or word associations are great exercises to start off engagement properly.

  1. Do you know what to do if tech issues pop up?

Ask yourself and your team, “Whom should I contact in case of a tech issue? What’s the best way to contact them?” Keep these answers in mind once the focus group begins because you never know when the unexpected could occur.

Moderate Your Remote Focus Groups with CCam focus

CCam focus is a lightweight plug-and-play recording and streaming solution that combines in-person interviews with remote moderation and observation, all within that same live session. If you’re worried about losing valuable insights due to the lack of physical presence in remote focus group sessions, why not have your participants discuss in-facility while you moderate remotely? It’s a healthy compromise that allows your respondents to connect authentically while still providing you the convenience to gain those valuable insights from the comfort of your own home. Encourage, engage, and elicit your focus group respondents for their feedback with CCam focus.

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