A focus group Moderator is a master of conversational guidance and flow. She has a very short time to get raport with a bunch of strangers, and then get all of them to discuss their feelings, anxieties, frustrations and the depth of their convictions around a particular topic. For some people that takes years, but a good moderator get to the heart of it in under an hour!
Since business is heading in a more conversational direction (e.g. Web 2.0), I thought I'd share three of the moderator's conversational tactics with you (*):
- The Chain Reaction: Build a cumulative effect by encouraging each member of the focus group to comment on a prior idea suggested by someone else in the group by adding to or expanding on it.
- Devils Advocate: Express extreme viewpoints to provoke reactions from the group and keep the conversation moving forward in a lively manner.
- False Termination: Falsely conclude the discussion, thank the group for participating, and inquire whether there are any final comments. These "final comments" frequently lead to new discussion avenues and often result in the most useful data obtained.
Mark my words: As communication media proliferates, so does the need for people in businesswho can channel all that communication and put it to good use: Conversationalists! (e.g. Microsoft's Blogger, Scoble)
*From the textbook Marketing Research by Aaker, Kumar & Day