The Research Group: Characteristics of a great moderator?

In the ever-increasingly important world of market research, focus groups continue to dominate the field of qualitative research. These focus groups reach out to potential clients/users for feedback and comment. Organizations generally use focus groups in planning, marketing, or evaluation, either to improve some specific product or service.

In order to guide the discussion in the proper direction, focus groups are typically led by at least one moderator. Besides facilitating the discussion, a moderator also keeps time, delivers the script, and establishes a trusting relationship with focus group participants.

Having a successful moderator can make a real difference in the effectiveness of a focus group. But what makes a great moderator? This article from outlines the 7 most important qualities inherent any every great moderator.

  1. Natural curiosity. Phrases like “I don’t know,” “I guess so” and “I’m not sure” create great opportunities to any true moderator. No accomplished moderator will allow any of these responses to be the final word – they need to know more, they need to understand the whys, and they have the skill to help respondents comfortably articulate their thoughts.
  2. Ease in interacting with people. Wallflowers need not apply for the job of moderating. Nor, for that matter, should someone who has to be the center of attention enter the ring. Neither is well qualified to sit at the head of the table.
  3. Ability to remain impartial, open, and unbiased. Check your opinions at the door. More important, perhaps, than being able to interact with people is not letting your biases show. Regardless of the topic or what respondents say, the moderator acts only as a sounding board.
  4. Flexibility. No matter how well prepared the discussion guide is, or how familiar the moderator is with the topic, revelations coming from respondents create the need for additional or different question areas. Frequently, it is these bolts of brilliance that turn an ordinary group into an extraordinary group. However, it is up to the moderator to handle what pops up and work with it.
  5. Strong verbal skills. Moderators should use language that is direct without being confrontational, and clear without being biased. However, less attention is given to the importance of being able to speak the language of everyday consumers who frequently use jargon, colloquialisms and figures of speech to convey their points. Being familiar with the latest catchphrases is especially helpful, but familiarity does have a caveat. It can sometimes be useful to pretend not to know what a phrase means, thereby forcing respondents to put their own spin on it, thus providing even greater insight.
  6. Excited about the process of discovery. The immediacy of focus groups makes them particularly satisfying for market researchers who like being close to their subjects. For moderators who are hooked on the process, there are few things more exciting than beginning a focus group with a group of respondents and walking away with knowledge to influence a client’s success.
  7. Creating comfort and trust. When respondents feel comfortable, signs that a group is working are their body language, interest, involvement, and the number of times they laugh. Laughter can also be a sign of nervousness, something a skilled moderator learns to listen for.

So what are you waiting for? Wouldn’t your company, large or small, benefit from market research? For more information, contact The Research Group at 410-332-0400 or click here today!

The Research Group’s engaging team of Master Moderators is marketing savvy, and possess intelligence in the disciplines of psychology, sociology, anthropology, and neuroscience.

With a breadth of intellect, our moderators are expert in the following industries:

  • Healthcare
  • Consumer Products
  • Technology
  • Finance
  • Tourism

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This entry was posted on Friday, September 16th, 2011 at 4:30 pm. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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