The Role of a Moderator in Focus Groups

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When companies want to test a new product or concept, they sometimes gather a group of consumers together in a focus group to interview them about their attitudes, impressions, or experiences with the product or concept. Unbiased, leaders, usually from outside the company, called moderators, lead these focus groups. The moderator plays a crucial role in guiding the interview process and eliciting responses from participants.

Manages the Process

  • The moderator follows an agenda and loose script with key points and questions that need to be covered during the focus group. The moderator keeps track of time and directs participants to each new topic of discussion when it is appropriate. The moderator also sets the ground rules for discussion, such as letting participants know that they can disagree with each other and that everyone has a right to speak. The moderator or her assistant takes notes of the session, and it is usually recorded.

Manages the Group

  • The moderator serves as host, greeting participants when they arrive and making them feel comfortable. Focus group participants need to become comfortable enough to share their honest opinions, and the moderator's job is to create that feeling of rapport. During the focus group, the moderator pays attention to talkers and non-talkers and ensures that talkers do not dominate the discussion and that non-talkers have a chance to voice their opinions.

Elicits Responses

  • The moderator's job is to ask participants questions and elicit honest responses. The moderator requires training in how to ask unbiased questions and avoid leading questions. The moderator uses probing techniques to get a deeper understanding of a participant's opinion.

Synthesizes and Reports

  • After a focus group session or group of sessions is done, the moderator writes up her notes and synthesizes the results. She will usually write a report for the client detailing the findings.

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