Focus groups provide the opportunity to understand how consumers perceive a certain brand, product, or service. In order to fully understand respondents’ thoughts and opinions, focus group researchers need to not only understand what respondents think, but also the underlying motivations and causes that make them feel a certain way. It is equally important for focus group observers to pay attention to what respondents say as well as how they say it. Body language and other forms of nonverbal communication often give away much about participants’ opinions, so it plays an important role in focus group research. In this week’s blog, we’ll discuss the most important body language signals to watch out for and what they mean.
Posture is one of the first signals to keep an eye on during your focus group. Respondents who slouch down in their seats may be indicating that they are disinterested or bored. To help combat this, try to engage them with direct, participatory questions and see whether their posture changes. Do they perk up when addressed directly? If they continue to hunch over or still seem physically withdrawn, it could be a signal that they are uncomfortable with the topic at hand.
If you notice that participants look down or away when they respond to a question, this is an indication that they are unsure of their answer. Strong, direct eye contact generally means that they are engaged, focused, and confident in their response.
If you notice a participant cross their arms during your group, this often indicates a sense of discomfort. It could simply be that the temperature in the room is too chilly and is becoming uncomfortable, or the respondent may be expressing discomfort with the topic or question at hand.
If you notice your focus group participants becoming physically closer–including leaning in toward each other when they speak or shifting their seats closer–this is a sign that the group is building trust. If the opposite begins to occur and participants lean away from each other or the speaker, this can mean that the current topic has struck an unpleasant nerve.
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