Focus Groups: Part 5 – Running the Focus Group

6 mins read

This is the 5th part in our series on focus groups which explains 4 steps to running a focus group.

Focus groups involve running a group discussion and are generally conducted with a small group of people. It is recommended to have a maximum of 12 people present, as you want to get good quality feedback from each participant. The discussion is used as a research technique to gather data through group interaction. Now that we have prepared for the focus group by following the last 4 parts in this series, we are ready to get to the fun part – running the focus group!

Here are 4 steps that can be followed when running a focus group:

1. Greeting

The first step involves greeting all the participants as they enter the chosen focus group location. It is recommended to have either the facilitator or the notetaker providing a warm welcome as everyone enters. This creates a welcoming atmosphere, and also creates dialogue between the participants and the people running the focus group. If there are snacks and refreshments available, make sure to offer them as people are arriving as well. Once the participants have been greeted and directed to where they will be for the discussion, allow them to mingle among themselves before the session begins.

2. Introductions

Once everyone has arrived and is ready to begin, start with introductions before beginning the session. This will help everyone settle in and will also give the facilitator a chance to introduce the topic of the discussion and what they will be doing during the session. This should begin with the facilitator introducing and sharing a couple of things about themself, then having the notetaker do the same. After the facilitator has shared their name and something about themself, they can then share why they are here today, what the topic of the focus group is and the company it is being conducted for.

This may be the first time the participants are hearing exactly why they are here, what research is being done, and for what company as many focus groups want the participants to come in with no preconceptions of the company or products.

Next, we recommend having all the participants introduce themselves, as this will create more comfort and ease of conversation with others in the group. A great way to do this is by asking everyone to answer some ice-breaker questions such as:

    • What is a unique childhood experience you had?
    • What was your favourite gift you ever received?
    • What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

3. Consent Form

Before jumping into the discussion, it is important that all participants sign a consent form. The consent form should reiterate the purpose of the event, outline the participant’s rights, provide consent for video or audio recording if present, identify any compensation they will receive and how they will receive it, provide the facilitator’s contact information, then prompt for the participant’s signature with a date.

We have included a consent form template at the end of this article.

4. Discussion and Questions

Now for the discussion! Once consent forms are signed, the facilitator can begin asking the prepared questions that were chosen in Part 2 of this series. It is important that this feels like a conversation between the facilitator and the participants in the group and not a formal interview. Rather than needing to stay structured with each question prepared, follow the direction of the discussion, as other questions may come up.

Here are some tips to keep in mind during the discussion:

    • Include a visual cue before asking each question (if applicable). This will help greatly with the discussion.
    • Don’t feel obligated to stick to only the prepared questions if the discussion naturally brings up another question.
    • Make sure everyone in the group is participating. If only 1 or 2 people are consistently answering questions, ask something such as “Isabelle, what do you think on this topic?” or “Joe, what do you think of Ellen’s response?”
    • Do not run over the time communicated to the group! This could deter people from participating in another focus group in the future.

A Focused Discussion

To run a successful focus group discussion, it starts with a warm greeting, introductions and some ice-breaker questions, signing the consent form, and then asking questions for a conversation with the participants. Following the above steps will help in having a focused discussion for valuable market research!

The last article in this series on focus groups will explain how to analyze the results.

Download the Focus Group Informed Consent Form – Template.

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Visit our Resource Library for all available downloads.

If you require assistance with any of the guides, forms or templates, please contact a BIG representative.

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