Suggestion Three – honor the diversity
Groups are as different as the folks who sit around those oblong tables. Don’t jump to conclusions just because you’re sitting around the table with a group of teachers (typically more friendly than others), anesthesiologists (typically more guarded than most), or banking customers (typically more hostile than others) because even though there are those generalities or even stereotypes, those can be quickly blown when you realize each and every one of those anesthesiologists, teachers or customers are just people: people who live their lives above and beyond their interaction with your clients’ products or services; people who deal with family happiness’s and challenges; people who come from different races, religions, creeds, genders, cohorts, etc. Sure, package them into subsets, draw enough assumptions to build your guide and frame the discussion, but once you sit down with 8-10 strangers sitting around you, take off the gloves, heck, if you have to, take off your shoes too, and look at them as individuals who need to be treated as such. And, never forget, the guide is just a guide. A moderators’ guide is a fantastic jumping off point but it’s the nooks and crannies that you explore, while you’re in the group, learning about your respondents as people that will bring you those gems that every client will be pleased to have gotten.
Last, but hardly least – reap the rewards and the surprising extras!
So, all the very best to you as you moderate a group, or hire a moderator to tend to your project. But as you’re doing so, take a moment to remember that people are just people and they all come to your table with aback story. The job of the moderator is to decipher where these folks are coming from as effectively and efficiently as possible. Thus informed, you can then get down to brass tacks. Dig into the guide and make sure you come out of there having answered the clients’ objectives and, in a perfect world, even gleaned insights well beyond the barriers of the guide. Of course, for me, my biggest reward isn’t hearing from the client how thrilled they are with the groups (now, dear clients, don’t get me wrong…I love making you happy but my responsibility to you is to get unguarded information from your customers/clients/employees and that’s what I’m bound to do) but from the respondents themselves. When you have respondents walking out of your groups thanking your for having invited them, there simply isn’t much that is more rewarding. You know when respondents say ‘thank you,’ they trusted you enough to open themselves up and share their honest opinions. You know you mined those gems which will serve your client well, and that, dear reader, is the key, no, it’s the technique of all techniques, that puts you heads above the rest. Know your project, understand the objectives, learn the clients’ product or industry but, above all, moderate a group which will leave the respondents leaving happy having been there.