As part of our cross-country travel this week to both Chicago and Los Angeles for focus groups, it’s given me some time to catch up on some reading while in-flight. One book, that was purchased recently on behalf of RMS, was titled Secrets of a Master Moderator, written by Naomi Henderson from RIVA Market Research & Training Institute. A link for more information about the book can be viewed by clicking here. I have moderated many groups over the past few years at RMS, but I am always looking for fresh information and fresh articles on polishing my skills for both in-depth interviews (IDIs) and focus groups.

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One of the more relevant sections that I read in the book was just a quick overview about trends with focus groups. I plan on recapping a few other portions of this good book in future blog posts but I figured some focus group trend overviews would be a good start to introducing this book and its concepts. Here are the top 12 focus group trends as listed in the Secrets of a Master Moderator:

  1. Group size is dropping from 10 to eight respondents as clients discover that more is not better and six is fast becoming the new eight. RMS Note: We have also found this to be true. In addition to smaller groups, we have also found that 90-minute sessions can be more appropriate than the standard 2-hour sessions. 90-minute sessions force a moderator to condense information, focus only on the important information and it also helps eliminate participant fatigue in market research.
  2. Mini-groups (four to six respondents) are on the increase for some types of studies.
  3. Dyiads (two respondents) and triads  (three respondents) are replacing one-on-ones and in-depth interviews (IDIs) to maximize research schedules for observers.
  4. Moderators who work for the client company are on the rise to save the client money spent on renting third-party moderators or freelance moderators.
  5. Requests for PowerPoint presentations have been on the rise. RMS Note: We have covered this quite a bit on our blog. The days of long-winded and overly worded reports are over. Enter the new age of dashboards, story-telling and brief PowerPoint overviews in market research.
  6. Clients are asking moderators to not just accept top-of-mind responses and instead are asking moderators to dig deeper into second and third-level decision-making factors.
  7. Clients are becoming more savvy with focus group research and are asking for more creative activities in focus groups.
  8. More and more organizations are adding focus group research to research requirements to fully meet the needs of their targeted audience.
  9. Timing for focus groups and IDIs are no longer limited to evenings. Breakfast groups at 7:30 AM are common and Saturday groups with adults and kids are on the rise. Groups at conferences are also increasing in popularity.
  10. Payments to respondents are increasing and overall costs to conduct qualitative research are increasing. RMS Note: Need a reason to offer more for focus group incentives? Read this.
  11. Clients expect reports that are less of “what happened in the groups” and more of “what does it mean” insights.
  12. Demands for “master moderators” are on the increase. Clients want a wide variety of skills, experience and research on different types of products and services.

The author actually offered 16 trends, but I think these 12 were the most relevant so I eliminated four. Are you interested in conducting qualitative research with a market research company in Upstate NY? Contact our Business Development Director, Sandy Baker at or by calling (315) 635-9802.