Getting the most from focus groups

Focus groups are a straightforward way for organisations to research new projects or understand the needs of the customer.

They have proved to be a highly insightful, bringing together a group to discuss a topic providing a more natural setting than one-to-one interviews. They are also a great place to allow participants to share their stories This qualitative research method can generate rich data in a less resource intensive manner.

Our tips on running a successful focus group

  1.  Keep the group size small – The ideal group size for focus groups is about 7 or 8 people. Any more than that and people start relating to each other collectively instead of individually.
  2. Use a good moderator – Focus group moderating looks easy but he truth is that getting the discussion going is just the tip of the iceberg. A good moderator will: keep them on the subject, keep the discussion moving, bring out the people who are not participating, bring people back to the subject when they stray.
  3. Introductions Get the group members to introduce themselves, where they are from, what they do, an ice breaker activity would be ideal as it will help the transcriber differentiate people. This will make transcription easier as differentiating a group of voices when you do not know the speakers can be tough
  4. Microphone –  Position in the middle of the participants to pick up all sounds and place the microphone on a stand as it naturalises the recording. If your group is sitting around a table and the microphone is on it then put a cloth under it to muffle interference caused by accidental table movement
  5. Preparing your recording environment – Check that the sound from microphone moves in all directions. Remember: hard surfaces reflect sound and can cause delay or echoes and soft furnishings can absorb or muffle sound. If you choose a big room, then the session should be done in the corner of that room to reduce the effect of reverberation and echo
  6. Playback your test recording – Listen out for background noise, outside intrusions such as traffic, ambient noise in the room and your participants moving or eating
  7. Backup immediately – As soon as you can get it onto your computer, laptop or in the cloud. Make sure a copy is in another location, because all the time it exists only on your recording device it can be lost, stolen, damaged or tampered with losing your data forever!

Remember, the quality of your audio recordings will impact the quality of your transcription, so ensure that you get the recording right and follow our tips.

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