Focus group: meetings, a source of qualitative information
A focus group (or discussion group) is a method designed to collect the views of a set of individuals representative of a segment of the population, on a specific issue. A focus group is hosted by a moderator under the watchful eye of an observer. It takes the shape of a discussion involving 6 to 12 people who exchange their points of view.
Before the session, the moderator prepares the interview guide. It comprises a series of questions sorted by topic, in order to collect answers relating to the issue in question. Spontaneous questions can also be asked during the discussion, depending on how it develops.
Pep up your meeting with Board to post documents, Questions and Likes. The comments made by members of the group are materialized as “ideas” that you can readily use at the end of the meeting. Group them into categories and analyze the data, using the column view to single out key information.
Did you suddenly wake up in the middle of the night with this awesome, world-changing idea that’s made you feel on top of the world?
Wake up and smell the coffee... As fantastic as your idea may be, don’t get too excited. We sometimes get carried away, only to realize we’re missing the point.
Why not check what your idea’s actually worth by organizing a qualitative survey with a small group of individuals representative of your target? It’s a frequently used marketing procedure to assess the potential of a new concept. Let’s start a focus group!
What’s a focus group?
A method designed to collect the views of 6 to 12 individuals representative of a segment of the population, on a specific issue, via a conversation.
This form of qualitative survey has many fields of application, such as social sciences, politics, usability engineering, and of course, marketing.
It dates back to WWII. At the time, US sociologists Robert Merton and Paul Lazarsfeld wanted to investigate the impact of war propaganda on the population, conducting interviews, sometimes in small groups. The advertising industry soon called on consultants, such as psychologist Ernest Dichter, the inventor of the term ‘focus group’, to better identify consumers’ expectations. This methodology was actually used by Mattel for their famous Barbie doll!
Compared to traditional survey methods, focus groups have a true advantage as they lead to more complex, subtler and more diversified answers. People feel driven by the group, and are therefore more open to elaborate, explain and justify their opinions during the discussion.
However, you might guess the flipside of the coin: some people will tend to be influenced by the group effect and bias their answers. More introvert personalities will struggle to get their point across. On the other hand, highly confident sorts will try to impose their point of view.
But a good moderator will no doubt overcome these minor issues and steer the discussion in the right direction! Their role is to present the topics, ask questions and get the group to participate, while remaining neutral. The observer doesn't take part in the process: he or she keeps a record of the session, taking note of the members’ non verbal communication, which can be as telling as their speech.
What happens during a focus group session?
Focus group stages
A carefully prepared meeting
- Select a sample of 6 to 12 people representative of the target.
They share common ground within a certain category of individuals, but they don’t necessarily know one another. These criteria are determined in advance in line with the survey's objective.
The issue mustn’t be made known to group members in advance, so as not to influence their answers during the meeting.
- Prepare a short anonymous qualitative questionnaire with Klaxoon’s Poll tool.
Hand it out at the beginning of the focus group session to collect information about the members and to check that they fit the bill in terms of age, gender, social and
professional group, and any other useful information.
- Prepare the qualitative interview guide.
This is the focus group’s scenario, with details about the roll-out and sequence of questions: a roadmap that the moderator will follow to a T, yet with room for spontaneity. The moderator can adapt the questions depending on the group’s response. Questions must be short, simple and preferably open-ended. Ideally, open the session with questions that lead to a discussion, covering familiar subjects. They must primarily cover life experiences, behaviors, activities, values, intentions and emotions.
Boost your meetings with Klaxoon’s Board
Board is Klaxoon’s unlimited digital whiteboard, which will help you during your focus group, both in the classroom and remotely. When working remotely, just enable the built-in videoconferencing tool: Live. As group members are in a familiar setting, i.e. at home, they will feel more relaxed and at ease to start a discussion with strangers.
Everybody is there, so let the focus group begin!
- Get to know one another
As a moderator, introduce yourself (and the person acting as the outside observer, even if they won’t be joining the discussion), then explain the purpose and roll-out of the meeting. It is important to stress that there are no right or wrong answers. Ask everyone to add their first name and picture (or a drawing of themselves) in the presentation area, then share the link to the short survey that was prepared in advance.
Then, to break the ice and make everyone feel comfortable, run a short activity, called an ‘ice breaker’.
- Explain what the group will be discussing
Describe the issue in the dedicated area. Whether you’re covering a product, service or concept, add any useful information using text, a drawing, a photo, a video, etc.
- Start the discussion
Following your previously prepared interview guide, ask the group several questions for each topic. A useful tip for the analytical phase: ask everyone to use the color for the topic being addressed for their related ideas. A fun way to launch the issues is to use the features of Board’s Question tool: polling, evaluation and storm.
Also ask everyone to use the ‘Like’ button to highlight their preferred ideas.
To get people to pick their brains further, asking ‘Can you think of anything else?’ often generates even more answers.
To close the debate, ask the group what particularly struck them during the discussion, e.g. with a Storm Question.
Board is also a data analysis tool
Group members have left Board, so now move on to the analytical stage! You have a host of partly organized information to hand, as all the ideas pertaining to a specific topic appear in the same color. Count their frequency (the more an idea was mentioned, the more it will be present in a real case scenario). To analyze the data from a different perspective, switch to column view. Create categories for the ideas, simply dragging and dropping them into the columns. The analysis can be done in two ways: either by gathering your own categories, or by gathering colors related to the topics covered. Within each column, you can even sort the data to fine tune your analysis, in particular by highlighting the most liked ideas.
You’re now all set for your focus group: use Klaxoon’s ready-to-use template!