Focus groups are designed as a creative and engaging way to hear feedback from a collection of people.  Having participants discuss topics in a group setting often leads to a more productive exchange of ideas than a traditional survey or a one-on-one conversation such as an IDI (In-Depth Interview).  We always talk about better engagement with all of our market research studies here at RMS, and using participation packets in a focus group is just another way to develop that engagement.  A better engaged participant equals better market research findings. 

What are participation packets with regards to focus groups?  Participation packets are written exercises/activities that are completed by the respondent as the group moves along.  The moderator explains each exercise but each participant completes his/her own written activity.

Here are five benefits of using participation packets in focus groups:

  • Warm up participants.  First and foremost, participation packets are a good way to warm up participants.  The packet can act as a simple ice-breaker and/or warm the group up to the topic of discussion.  The warm-up activity can also be used to give participants something to do when they first arrive at the focus group rather than scouring the entire bowl of M&Ms.

A participant getting ready to fill out his participation packet.

  • Gather unbiased responses.  Focus groups are excellent at gathering a group’s overall opinion.  This can be considered both a positive and a negative.  The positive is simply that – quite often you are looking for the group’s overall decision/opinion and you want to know the consensus.  But on the other hand, the individual’s opinion is also very important too.  It will help give you a more exclusive picture of the research topic.  Through participant packets, individuals answer key questions before a section of the discussion begins.  The participant’s input is captured before they might be persuaded by the group.  On top of that, participants don’t have to worry about what the other participants might think of their input.   The responses to these questions can be very insightful (it is particularly interesting when you find differences between what a participant says to the group, and what they wrote on paper!)
  • Allow quiet respondents to voice their opinion.  This is a very straight-forward benefit of participation packets.  Some participants can be more timid than others about expressing their opinion vocally.  Aside from the moderator calling on them in the discussion, this is a way to hear their No. 2 pencil voice.  
  • Obtain clear-cut numerical data from participants.  Participants in a group discussion can sometimes be indecisive, and their final decisions may be unclear.  Participation packet questions force the participant to make a choice on a topic or select a numerical rating.  This data is very clear and can be displayed visually – which can add a little contrast to a qualitative report that usually explains most findings through writing.
  • Create a break in the discussion.  The short breaks created by having the participants fill out their packets can provide multiple benefits.  They help to create a sense of structure.  This is especially useful when there is a wide range of topics in the material that needs to be covered in a focus group.  The breaks can certainly help the moderator by serving as a way to move the group from one area of discussion to the next.  One of the most important things about this break is that it gives the moderator a chance to hop into the viewing room and hear what the clients and research team have to say.   The moderator will be able to get secondary feedback on how the discussion is going.  If a topic needs to be probed upon further, new ideas need to be presented, or something needs to be clarified – this is the time to establish that.

 Interested to see how focus group research can help your business?  Contact or call us at 315-635-9802.  Or maybe you are just looking to rent a focus group facility in Upstate NY?  For those inquiries contact