If you are wondering how to write a focus group moderator’s guide, you found the right blog post. With that being said, the thing is…there is no right or wrong way to write a guide for focus groups. Each market research consultant or market research firm probably has their own unique way of writing a guide and walking participants through a focus group. The purpose of this blog post today is to walk you through some of the techniques/standards Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS) employs in our focus groups. Here are our tips for writing a focus group moderator’s guide:

  • Start the guide with an introduction section. This is the table-setter for the focus group participants. Many of them, if not all of them, will be attending a focus group for the first time so they will be anxious to see how things progress from the first minute. By laying out the groundwork and rules up front, it gives them a chance to listen, get settled and put their anxiety aside. In the introduction, you should cover such things as the reason for the market research, how you recruited them, honoraria/payment, A/V recording, length of time, confidentiality, anonymity and other logistical items. This can take anywhere from five to 10 minutes and will get everyone off on the right foot.
  • Next, start with a simple or fun activity. This would serve as the ice-breaker following the introduction. Many focus group moderators’ guides are accompanied with a participation packet. What is a participation packet in a focus group? Click here. For instance, if you are doing a focus group to test some new television commercials for your client, you may want to set the tone by talking a little bit about television usage in general including favorite movies or TV shows. You can also do this through a written exercise.
  • After the ice-breaker, ease the participants into the topic of research. This is not where you would tackle the main objective of the market research but rather address your secondary objectives. For instance, if a hospital is coming to you as a market research consultant to help them get feedback from consumers on new print advertisements for cancer care at the hospital, you wouldn’t want to jump right into that here. It’s too early, and participants are not fully warmed-up. Using that example, you would use this section of the market research guide to talk about hospital usage, awareness of hospitals, decision-making criteria used for choosing hospitals, etc. Therefore you are still generating good discussion about the topic, but at a higher level before you reveal the objective of the focus groups.
  • Following the general research section, get into the “meat” of the research. This would be the largest and most detailed section(s) of the focus group moderator’s guide. Here is where you would list questions and introduce concepts that directly relate to the main objective of the market research. If you are moderating a focus group to get feedback about TV commercials, you would show the commercials now. If you are moderating a focus group about hospital print advertisements, you would show the participants those ads now or conduct an exercise where they build an ad that is appealing to them. This is the section that needs the most attention for your client.
  • Finally, close with a general wrap-up using key takeaways and a conclusion. Here, you can use the last 15 minutes or so to re-address key findings that participants brought up earlier or use it to obtain summary data. In many of our focus groups, we’ll use the last section to tackle customer satisfaction or customer loyalty. We’ll ask how satisfied participants are with our client or its competitors and find out why. It’s a nice way to gain some valuable feedback and wind things down. Use the last few minutes to ensure the participants do not want to offer anything else and then thank them for attending.

how to write a focus group moderator's guide

Oftentimes focus groups will veer off topic a bit and explore ideas that you were not prepared for, which is okay too. The direction/findings may evolve as the group moves along so you may need to be prepared to veer from the script a bit.

Are you interesting in using focus groups to help answer questions facing your business? Qualitative research and focus groups are a great way to obtain exploratory data from customers and non-customers. Contact our Business Development Director Sandy Baker at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling 315-635-9802.