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focus groups

Learning My "ABCs"

Learning My "ABCs"

I never truly understood the meaning of “going from 0 to 60“ until I got to know April. That phrase is now the definition of my life every day, every week - and I'm loving every second of it!

This summer, April hired me as her Chief Wrangler, which is just a really awesome way of saying office/project manager. I was thrilled to be putting some of my strongest skills to work - I excel in organization, planning and keeping everyone calm, all in a super fast-paced environment. On top of that, we were working out of April's home. It's always an adventure when you are sharing an office with 2 dogs and a toddler running around. It was never a dull moment.

Although we all enjoyed our afternoon breaks to play with April's adorable little girl, the three of us were growing busier by the minute. In August, we decided to get a space of our own - a really cool, loft-style space in the West End with wood floors, exposed brick and a great view of the city. As an added bonus, we are in the same building as one of our long-time clients!

My first few months have been full of training, researching, assisting on projects and keeping track of ever-changing schedules. April, Mayuri and I are always on the go, while trying to coordinate our schedules and keep communication lines clear and open. Work days have been more on the longer side lately, which isn't so bad when your company promotes Friday afternoon fiestas! We always try to keep things fun and interesting!

Despite all the madness, there are some really exciting things happening in our company with some great opportunities ahead of us this fall. I can't wait to see where we are in the next few months and to help our company grow. I've had to do some adjusting on my part, since I've never had as much responsibility as I do now. However, I feel truly blessed to be a part of such a unique and talented group.

The next few months are sure to be a wild ride. Keep tuning into our blog and you will hear all about the exciting upcoming months and the everyday happenings in a small, yet extraordinary/dynamic company.

Focused Group Dynamics

Focused Group Dynamics

One of the best things about my job as a moderator is getting to create an atmosphere where a group of strangers feel comfortable enough to talk about a focused topic for a couple of hours.

It’s fascinating to be in the driver’s seat, gently nudging each person to give a point of view or express their opinion. And it’s just as interesting to watch the complexity of group dynamics in action. What a joy it is when the group interacts and expresses differing opinions in a constructive way, providing true insight. I believe this doesn't happen automatically. Rather, it comes with a bit of finesse. While there are times when it’s necessary to go to more dramatic means to ensure cooperation and avoid group think, the following steps will help you get there most of the time:

1. Set the Stage—I believe people in most focus groups generally want to give you what you want—insight from their perspective. I also believe that people need “coaching” many times on how best to do that. So, it is your responsibility as the moderator to properly set the stage. Tell respondents that you expect everyone to participate, that you expect them to have at least some differing opinions. Explicitly stating your expectations in the beginning will help you when you have to shut down the loudmouths and call on the wallflowers later in the discussion!

2. Be in Charge—you, as the moderator are responsible for the discussion thread. If you don’t manage it, someone else will. Do not be afraid to shift a respondent from an off-the-topic monologue. Time is not your friend in a group…you only have a set amount of it to extract insights. Therefore, keep yourself and your respondents focused on the objectives of the discussion. Again, be in charge of what you want to hear!

3. Use Non-Verbal Feedback First—this is especially important when gaining reactions to communication pieces or concept ideas. Get a quick read non-verbally by having participants write their opinions first. I also believe that structuring the verbal feedback process is helpful. Ask for positive comments first, then neutrals, then negatives. Structuring the feedback this way helps you stay on a path of constructive feedback rather than everyone jumping on a negative bandwagon.

4. Control the Loudmouth and Nurture the Wallflower—it is important to your clients to hear from everyone (if they all have something meaningful about the topic to say, that is☺) So, again, it is your job as the moderator to ensure that the “loudmouth” doesn’t overtake the conversation. You can do this by simply stating, “Thanks, I really want to hear from XXX.” When trying to get the “wallflower” to speak, it helps to make strong eye contact with them and when all else fails, call on them. “I haven’t heard your thoughts yet, XXX. Please tell me what you’re thinking.” Specifically stating the respondents name who is not participating will usually at least get them focused in again.

April

The Art of Listening

The Art of Listening

That's what we do as qualitative researchers...we listen...and we gain insights from listening, right? Not always easy after multiple interviews spread across any number of days, especially for those of us who have trouble remembering people's names upon initial meeting...

How do you train yourself to listen better...is it even possible?  Not sure for everyone but here's how I do it when I'm moderating.  I have to start out the first few minutes of an intro REALLY listening (in a group or an IDI or an ethnography), and if I do that, something clicks and I'm able to focus throughout the remainder of an interview.

So, how do I REALLY listen?  You guessed it...visually, with a picture!  Yep, we are all familiar with the images we want respondents to use to share their deepest emotions.  I love using these in intros for two reasons:  1)  it gives respondents and clients a high level, metaphorical image about the subject at hand and 2) it gives me a greater mental picture to help me stay focused for the rest of the interview...it gives me art for listening!