You’ve been asked to lead a focus group. Or, you’re thinking of setting one up to get more feedback from people who could be affected by a decision. Whether you’re doing it for the first or the tenth time, it’s useful to review the basics of leading focus groups. Remember that they are not the same as work meetings: the point isn’t to reach a consensus, to work through a topic or to make good decisions on the spot. The main point of the process is to obtain as many perspectives as possible on a given issue.
The part played by the leader is often key to the focus group’s success. The leader is the one setting the tone, structuring exchanges and providing participants with the proper conditions so that key points can arise, leading to better decisions down the line. This tool will help you lead impactful and efficient focus groups.
Remember that the leader’s role is that of facilitator. As such, the leader must remain neutral, avoid taking part in the discussion, and refrain from influencing its results. Essentially, the leader is the custodian of the process.
Proper preparation is a must:
- Clearly define the goal of the meeting (this is especially important if you’re not the initiator of the process).
- If you don’t know the group, obtain information on the participants (their interest for the subject at stake, their relationship with each other, the key issues for the organization, etc.)
- Prepare the meeting sequence as well as the core questions you will ask the participants.
- Get the necessary material ready in advance.
- Set up the space in a way that fosters participation:
- Place tables in a ʺUʺ shape so that participants can see each other.
- Or set-up tables of 5-6 people if you have a larger group.
- Prepare a ʺparkingʺ flipchart page to note all the points that will need to be addressed at a later time.
TO LEARN MORE
- Bens, Ingrid. (2012) Facilitating with Ease! Core Skills for Facilitators, Team Leaders and Members, Managers, Consultants, and Trainers, 3rd Edition. The Jossey-Bass Business and management series.