Interview with Naomi Henderson

Later this month Observation Baltimore will be hosting Naomi Henderson for this June’s QRCA event. The focus of the June 22nd event is to open the dialogue around the concept of Mastery. It will be a day full of discussion, sharing tools and interviewing exercises, and learning from each other how to improve our craft all around.

Naomi Henderson is one of our industries top moderators. As founder and CEO of RIVA Moderator Training Naomi has been training, sharing and encouraging collaboration throughout the industry for over 30 years. Naomi is also the author of Secrets of a Master Moderator, a great book full of practical information about qualitative research for both novice and seasoned market researchers.

We recently had the opportunity to catch up with Naomi for an interview. Check out what she had to say below.

Q: Naomi, how do you define “Mastery”?

A: Mastery is visibly proficiency that can be replicated.

I believe that mastery can be learned, but also must be maintained. Everyone is probably already a master at some part of what they do. For example, some of us are masters at interviewing doctors, some at interviewing consumers. A Masterful Moderator should be a master at talking to people – any and every person – not just one type or group of people. In my workshop on June 22nd at Observation Baltimore I will share some ideas and strategies for extending into new areas of mastery, or re-purposing what we are already great at.

Q: How do we demonstrate our Mastery to a potential client?


Before the project:

A Masterful Moderator puts everything in writing – study purpose, recruiting specs, etc. Since most of our industry is verbal, we need to put everything in writing so that our clients aren’t making any assumptions. Be very clear and show and share with your client what you plan to do in the groups.

During the research:

It is all about how quickly and easily you can build rapport with respondents. Be sure to clearly state the purpose for the session up front. Be confident. Be certain. Include and invite respondents to share while remaining in full control of the group or interview. When probing, ensure you are probing where and when appropriate to stay in line with the objectives of the research and not let respondent’s tangent.

Q: Naomi, it is interesting that you titled your book the Secrets of a Master Moderator. Do you feel moderators typically keep their skill sets and strategies for success a secret? Why are you so open with yours? And what is the importance of sharing and collaboration for our industry?

A: “Raise the water and all of the boats will float.”

We all win if we are collaborative versus working in silos. No ones secrets are the way, but they are a way that might be helpful to add to your toolbox. For example, if you have 4 great projective tools and someone else has 2 great tools, sharing gives you each 6 so both of you are better off. When QRCA started 27 years ago no one would share anything, so no one would grow. We have seen a drastic change in openness to share over the years. If more people conduct excellent research, more clients will trust it and as a result there will be more work for everyone. Qualitative research is currently growing each year with more room for growth in the coming years, but we won’t get better alone.

What would have happened if Madame Curie hadn’t shared her secrets about radiation?

Q: Where do you think the market research industry is going?

A: I have some ideas of where the market may expand to but overall I am not certain. Some directions that I feel will become more prevalent moving forward include:

  • Co-moderating – using moderators with different expertise to ensure the most informed level of probing
  • E-tools – twitter, email, facebook, and other social media tools will expand our ability to interview respondents in various geographic areas
  • Team questioning – this will probably be used more in ethnographies where everyone from the team is able to ask questions (i.e. brand managers, R&D, etc.)

It is hard to tell where technology will take us.

Q: What is one piece of advice you have for all moderators?

A: Get over yourself.

By the very act of moderating you are at the head of the table and so it looks like you are in charge. You are only in charge of process and content. You are not the star of the event. The star is the respondents. Great moderators make the stars or respondents full contributors to the process.

Moderators are the male dancers in the ballroom event. They are showing off and presenting the female dancers in their best light. If done properly, the audience’s eyes should always be on the woman, she is the star, not him.

How do I sign up?

To sign up for the June 22nd workshop with Naomi, please email Barbara Gassaway at We will also be broadcasting live over FocusVision. We look forward to seeing you there!

This entry was posted on Wednesday, June 6th, 2012 at 2:33 pm. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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