Shine the light on your problems, frustrations and desired outcomes.
What is a focus group?
A focus group is often a diverse group of people whose reactions are studied especially in market research, business, non-profit organisations and communities to improve outcomes.
Guided or open discussions about a new product or something else to determine the reactions that can be expected from a larger population. It is a form of qualitative research. It consists of discussions in which a group of people are asked about their perceptions, opinions, beliefs, and attitudes towards a product, packaging, service, concept, advertisement, idea or an opportunity.
Questions are asked in an interactive group setting where participants are free to talk with other group members. During this process, the leader, or facilitator, either take notes or ask a person to record the vital points arising from the group. Video recordings can be great but some might find that intimidating and not participate well. This is then used to guide future problem-solving and decision-making activities.
To find participants, just go to your local shopping centre or college campus and ask people fitting your participant profile if they would answer a few questions. Often, participants are paid a small sum to cover their time and expenses.
Although focus group activity may be informal, you should have an agenda or a list of questions to help you direct the discussion.
Who should attend?
A focus group is a small group of 5-15 participants.Invite family, friends, employees, volunteers, important customers and suppliers to attend a half-day focus group. I find about 15 people make up a manageable focus group and it gives everyone time to participate fully in the process.
Try to select members of the focus group carefully for effective and authoritative responses to the questions you propose to ask.
Establish a process for your focus group
Here is a simple process you can adjust to suit your requirements.
- Have a clear reason for organising a focus group.
- Prepare a clear outline of the objectives and desired outcomes.
- Think about the structure of the meeting. What topics need to be
- Write down a description of participants you would like to participate.
- Plan the venue and any equipment that might be required.
- Set the date and time of the focus group meeting. Select and invite participants.
- Appoint a suitable facilitator or leader to moderate the discussion.
- Organise refreshments to be delivered.
- Start the meeting on time.
- Be sure to introduce all participants and outline the purpose of the focus group.
- Record the meeting. Have a person take or record the meeting
- Finish on time after thanking the participants.
- Draw up an action plan as a result of the meeting.
- Send a thank you note to the participants
- Provide the participants with some feedback about the outcomes.
- Implement the action plan
- Monitor the action plan to ensure desired outcomes are achieved.
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An external facilitator is always preferred as they will have the experience in process and will bring objectivity and perspective to the process. Be sure the participants will not be intimidated by the ‘boss’ or anyone else in the group. You want open and free discussions.
Always calculate the time you need for each topic. Think of timing for the introductions, explanations, discussions, feedback and breaks. Winging the leadership of a focus group can often lead to time overruns or worse still frustrated or bored participants.