If you’ve decided to conduct a focus group, you likely already have weighed several crucial factors, like which questions will garner meaningful insights, the most important attributes of potential participants, and how to find the right moderator.
But perhaps the most important component of a focus group is the facility itself. It is the ground from which you will build. At the very least, your facility (and its hosts) should alleviate logistical hiccups; at their best, well-run facilities leave researchers, marketers and participants feeling good about their experience with your organization or brand.
There are three key characteristics your facility should have to maximize your project’s success:
Sometimes, a jerry-rigged set-up in a hotel conference room is your only option in small markets for a focus group space. But in most mid-sized and larger markets, rooms specifically designed for optimal events are available.
These facilities typically offer two adjoining rooms: a focus group room and viewing room. The focus group room may look like (or even double as) a conference room, but should be customizable and enable you to adjust for different set-ups, including classroom-style, theater-style, around a conference table, or in a circle. It’s important to confirm the size and flexibility of the focus group room itself to ensure it doesn’t limit your ability to set it up the way you need it.
The second room, separated from the focus group room by a two-way mirror and sound-proof wall, is the viewing room. The viewing room allows you – or your research team – to watch what happens in the focus group room in real-time. Although participants know someone is behind the mirror, they aren’t distracted or influenced by note-taking or the facial expressions of their audience.
For large groups who want to watch a focus group in real-time, or viewers who may need to come in and out of the room during a session, the facility may offer satellite viewing rooms. Usually located in another part of the facility, satellite viewing rooms enable team members or researchers to watch the focus group live on a monitor or closed-circuit system. The room should be separated from the lobby and focus group room enough so participants and viewers don’t inadvertently run into each other.
For those conducting focus groups from afar, many facilities offer streaming capabilities so out-of-market audiences can watch in real-time.
Focus groups encourage real conversations, and the actual words participants use can inspire epiphanies and insights that make qualitative research so valuable. Instead of relying on the viewers’ memories, reliable digital recordings of focus groups enable you to revisit what and how participants reacted to different questions.
Your facility should have a number of options for recordings, including audio, video and transcription. You should also make sure you can get the final recordings in a reasonable timeframe to give your team enough time to revisit and prepare their reports.
Facilities should offer more than just a comfortable space with reliable technology. You’ll also appreciate responsive and friendly staff members who can help manage day-of logistics and ensure your project runs smoothly – especially someone who is warm and welcoming to your participants. The facility should also offer catering services and handle the minor details, such as participant sign-in sheets, tent cards and incentives. These are the small things that help keep your project organized but are often overlooked—not to mention, they can also make your participants feel more comfortable! For example, tent cards make it easier for your moderator to call participants by their first name, allowing them to establish better relationships with those in the room.
Most importantly, your facility should be inclusive and cater to all demographics, not just a particular population. Make sure your facility offers free parking, is easily accessible for those with a handicap, and is located on or near a public transportation route.
Thinking about planning your next focus group? Tipping Point can help! Email firstname.lastname@example.org.