Pieces of advice on organising and conducting focus group discussions

  • 2017-08-08 12:00:00
  • Generic

We conduct numerous focus group studies in a year, we have organised almost 700 in total - our researchers have conducted more than 6000 qualitative in-depth interviews so far. Now we seize the opportunity to summarise our accumulated knowledge in this article in 7 practical advices, for those who plan focus group studies.


1. Choosing the right research methodology


The first question we should ask ourselves is whether focus group research is the right methodology for us. If we want to test a hypothesis, it may be worthwhile to conduct in-depth interviews with the target group, because it is the right method to examine the issue. 6-12 personal in-depth interviews would be enough to create questions which we can ask online or via telephone from a sample of 100-500-1000 people in the certain target group. However, if our goal is to ask for the collective, thorough opinion of a group, stimulate them to think, build on the synergy and reveal new solutions, answers and interesting aspects, the focus group discussion is a perfect choice.


2. Clear goals for everyone


During a focus group research, we have to set goals for every concerned party – the participants, the moderator, the market research company, and also the client company. We have to make the goal of the research clear, but also explain how exactly they will profit from the project. The moderator’s aim is to reveal the whys, look behind the certain opinions and create the whole picture. The goal of the contracted market research company and the responsible researcher is to shape the information into a transparent and structured form and compile a proposal for the client. The client’s goal is to gather the structured and analysed opinions and receive the prepared decision-preparatory material.


3. Structured, but flexible guide


The spine of the research is a so-called guide, which leads the course of the conversation as a guideline. A well-assembled guide doesn’t suggest the answers, doesn’t lead the discussion to the goal, but confines it, so we can manage properly our most expensive resource, the time. The participants sacrifice 1 or 2 hours of their time, so we must get the most out of it. Writing the guide is a common task of the client and the researcher company. Both sides have to give all of their knowledge, about the subject of the research (where to start, what are the unnecessary topics, when should we lead back the conversation to its original course, etc.), and also about the implementation of the research (how to build up the discussion and open the participant, which questions are “barriers”, etc.). 


4. Recruit with attention


At a focus group research, the most important matters are the selection of the target group and the definition of the screening criteriums. The attendants need to meet the different criteriums to participate in the discussion. Ideally, there are 6-8 people in a group, the atmosphere is just right with this number, and everyone’s opinion can get on. Either our goal is to bring out the synergies from the homogeneous group or to clash the different heterogeneous opinions, the careful selection is fundamental. It is the task of the researcher company to pre-screen, pre-test and prepare the participants, so make sure everything will go efficiently and smoothly.


5. An experienced moderator


The moderator’s task is to lead the group and react to everything that happens during the discussion.  He/she is able to deal with every situation, knows who and when needs more space, feels everything, keep the pleasant atmosphere and momentum of the discussion. He/she needs to be fully prepared and know different techniques for every situation. The task of the researcher company is to choose the perfect moderator, who is able to deal with the situations, solve the problems and suit the client’s goals.


6. Pure and comfortable place


The location must be easily accessible with public transport, and we have to provide free parking. It must be available in working hours and also on weekends. Its interior should be pure and clear, give place to thoughts and fantasy to shine. We must seek for maximum comfort, with toilet, comfortable seats, bright and large space. There must be multiple audio recorders, projection and drawing opportunity, video recorder and live video streaming with simultaneous translation. It is excellent if you have an observation room with a one-way mirror for the clients to watch the discussion from the background. Taking into account the above aspects, we have arranged our office in the 14th district of Budapest. You can see some photos about our focus room below.


7. Paying attention to quality assurance


For us, the most important thing is our trustworthiness. Szinapszis Ltd. strictly follows the domestic and international market research policies and protocols.  It is essential to make the participant read, fill and sign the consent forms, which include the
regulations on anonymity and data management. If we would like to give them gifts, we must fill the proper forms as well.


If you follow these guidelines, you can bravely start your own focus group research!