I’ve spent a few other blog posts discussing the book titled Secrets of a Master Moderator, written by Naomi Henderson from Riva Market Research & Training Institute. If you are just getting started with moderating qualitative research or you are well-experienced in the field, this book is worth a read as you are sure to pick up a few tips along the way. The initial chapter of the book discusses 25 qualities of a master moderator, which I will summarize in this blog post.

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Part 1 of this series will cover qualities one through 12 on the top 25 list.

  1. Understands the foundations/applications of market research. A good moderator understands the strengths and weaknesses of focus group research and knows the ins and outs of the process.
  2. Markets services appropriately. The moderator accurately markets his/her services, experiences and offers a fair and competitive price.
  3. Manages all project aspects. Who better to consult with the client and write the report on the focus group findings than the moderator himself/herself? In most cases, the moderator is the objective person in the actual focus group room so the moderator must play a key role in recruitment, guide design and reporting.
  4. Maintains research objectivity. It’s easy to fall in a trap and agree and/or disagree with participants and lead them to answers. A good moderator can separate his/her feelings from the process and garner unbiased feedback. A master moderator is not as interested in the ‘what’ or ‘when,’ but rather the ‘why’?
  5. Establishes research objectives. The moderator needs to understand the primary objectives of a study and the secondary objectives so that he/she can guide the group to the appropriate and most critical topics.
  6. Recommends appropriate methodologies. How can you tell if a market research consultant or moderator is working in your best interest? They are willing to recommend the best methodology to your team even if that means your objectives are more well-aligned with quantitative work (surveys, etc.) In most cases, that means moderator services are no longer needed.
  7. Creates custom questions and custom guides. Each market research project and client is unique so the qualitative process to support that project should be as well. Master moderators do not use cookie-cutter guides and questions to answer objectives; they continually evolve their process and questions to generate the best feedback.
  8. Practice unconditional positive regard (UPR). This points to the moderator having good skills in responding to all comments no matter how logical or rational the feedback is. Oftentimes you get “golden nuggets” of information from the most unlikely sources in a focus group. If the participants gets shy or thinks you are not listening to him/her, they may not be willing to offer additional feedback later in the group.
  9. Maintains good listening skills. A skilled moderator has a good understanding of both verbal and non-verbal clues during the focus group and determines which comments/actions warrant additional follow-up questions.
  10. Remains observant. A master moderator has complete control of the room. The moderator understands when the room needs to liven up, participants need to change topics or a question needs to be asked in a different way.
  11. Practices invisible leaderships skills. This points to the moderator being able to lead the room and be in charge without ruining the rapport between moderator and participant and participant to participant.
  12. Moderates effectively. Okay, this one is a bit broad and could probably be useful as its own separate blog post but the gist of this is being able to set the tone, describe the purpose of the session and work with participants to get to deeper levels of thinking through discussion.

Are you looking for a moderator in NY? Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS) is a market research firm in NY that has qualitative moderators (focus groups, shopalongs, in-depth interviews) on staff for your research needs. We also have QualiSight, an on-site focus group facility, if your business would like to conduct qualitative research right in Syracuse, NY. If you have any questions about our services, contact our Business Development Director, Sandy Baker at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling (315) 635-9802.