Moderation Techniques

Our techniques for successful moderation

As a trained moderator, Nancy prefers to guide the discussion rather than lead it. She is a skilled listener and communicator. Nancy refrains from sharing personal opinions so as not to bias the group and uses the technique of “playing dumb” in order to elicit additional information or more detailed explanations from participants. She encourages participants to share their thoughts while keeping them on topic and ensures participation from all individuals without methodically circling the table for responses.

Moderation with Nancy Hardwick

Nancy is well versed in discussion elicitation and management techniques. She incorporates a variety of approaches including individual exercises (to gather opinions without participants being biased by others’ responses), group exercises (to capitalize on group think), and projective techniques (to elicit subconscious, unrestricted thoughts). Nancy also employs various methods to control group dynamics (preventing one individual from dominating the discussion).

Debriefing with clients

Immediately following the first set focus groups a debrief will be held.  This meeting allows for those on the client’s team who viewed the groups to come together to discuss what they heard and confirm if others heard the same thing or something different.  If applicable, based on feedback from this discussion, adjustments can be made to the discussion guide to be used with the remainder of the focus groups.  A debrief will also be conducted immediately following the subsequent focus groups, in order to discuss any aha moments and similarities and differences between groups.

Helping participants feel comfortable

There are a number of ways we put participants at ease, beginning with the recruit. When participants are screened we are immediately up front about the reason we are calling and share with them the sponsor of the research, if appropriate. Once recruited, they are sent a confirmation letter with a map and directions to the facility so they can find it more easily.

During a focus group, our goal is to ensure that participants are comfortable in talking openly and honestly. The participants are engaged at the meeting facility in many ways that the moderator impacts:

  • Being greeted in the lobby as well as when they enter the focus group/meeting room.
  • Each person is asked to make their own name tag, rather than having them premade.  This allows them to use the first name they are most comfortable with, and forces them to get involved right away by completing a task.
  • Papers, pens, markers and other materials are on the meeting room table as they arrive to help pique their interest.
  • The moderator wears clothing that is similar to that expected to be worn by the participants.  For example, when conducting focus groups with members of the general public, a more casual style of dress helps the participants to feel like the moderator is like them.
  • The focus group starts with an introduction from the moderator explaining what to expect for the evening, and that the goal is to learn what they think.
  • Participants are told their honest feedback is being sought in the discussion.
  • Participants are asked to introduce themselves to the group to help them feel comfortable talking.
  • The first few questions of the evening are designed to be “safe” (easy to answer and non-controversial) so participants are eased into the discussion.
  • Projective techniques or interesting exercises are incorporated into the discussion.
  • Throughout the evening detailed instructions are provided by the moderator to make sure everyone knows what is happening.