Techniques – Honor Diversity (#3 of 3)

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.

Techniques #2 of 3

Suggestion Two – Wear MANY hats

No group is a cakewalk, but they are fun, challenging and productive if you know how best to proceed.  So, as to what technique(s) I employ, I guess I’d have to say I’m part moderator (adhering to the needs of my client), part therapist (gathering insight into my respondents’ stories, their past…what they bring to the table and breaking down walls), part friend (put them at ease, validate their concerns) and part parent (keep them on track, after all we do have a guide to get through and everyone knows there’s no dessert (their incentive) until dinner’s done).

Of course there are many other hats I wear during the course of a group but these are present at most every one.  I’m good cop/bad cop, mom/dad, Frick and Frack, all rolled into one.  You have to be.  You need to be as flexible, agile and complex as those individuals sitting around your table.

A moderator with a monotone voice and a one size fits all philosophy need not apply.  Sure, you’ll get through the moderator’s guide with that type of person at the head of the table but will you get to the heart of the matter?  Will you gather honest input? Will you break down the barriers that just about every respondent enters the room with and bring them into your world enough to share space in a safe and unguarded way?

Focus Group Techniques – #1 of 3

Suggestion One – Start a conversation by identifying the nature of your groups

I can almost hear you ask … A conversation?  How do you do that?  Well, assess your group.   Do you have a friendly group?  They could get a bit chatty so tread carefully on the whole bonding thing.  Perhaps they are a guarded or ‘anxious’ group?  Take a couple extra minutes before you jump in, no need to rush.  Trust me… using a few extra precious moments up front, before you set in to the business at hand, will serve you well in the end.  Then there’s the hostile group – hmmm, why do you think they are hostile?  Are they sad, scared, and/or angry?  Listen for clues to figure out the genesis of their hostility – is it something directly related to the topic at hand, your client, the industry that you’re discussing?  Or is it bigger than that?  Maybe things have changed in their geographic area/within their company and it’s affecting the respondents around your table.  Validate their anger, sadness or fear, give them a moment (just a moment!!) here and there to air their frustrations and continue to stay the course.  This is the type of group you can’t manage with precision (or an iron fist) because flexibility (and kid gloves) is the only way to get them to open up.  In fact, if you try to shut themdown, you’ll practically hear the clicking of the mortar shovels building up those walls.

Don’t be fooled

So, you have groups which are friendly, anxious, hostile, and then, on occasion just an easy going group.  Oh, that’s great you say, right?  No, there are potholes here too.  An easy going group can be complacent and complacency leads to the following; leaning back in the chairs, doodling (and not necessarily the productive kind), day dreaming, etc.

More ‘techniques’ to follow throughout December…my little way of spreading the holiday ‘giving’ throughout the entire month.  Happy, happy, merry, merry and a HoHoHo!