Focus groups are the ideal way to generate discussion and get insightful answers from targeted respondents, making them one of the most popular types of research methodologies.

But while focus groups can be very effective, it’s also easy to get your strategy wrong, preventing you from taking full advantage of the benefits.

Here we’ll look at five common mistakes that can prevent you from taking full advantage of your focus groups.

1) Not being flexible enough

One of the key benefits of focus groups is that they are unpredictable. You don’t know what the participants are going to come up with, which helps you to discover new insights.

But if you set a rigid script to stick to, this puts limits on having an open discussion and can get in the way of new ideas.

Instead, try to hold an open discussion while retaining a basic structure. Avoid reading out a script, but use a basic outline that provides you with the structure you need but also allows room for the conversation to flow.

2) Using the wrong interviewer

The interviewer plays a crucial role in focus groups. Moderating is a challenge, and some people are more effective in the role than others.

Sessions are dynamic by nature, and they include multiple participants. The right moderator should be someone with prior experience who is comfortable in the role. They should be confident and organised so they can keep track of the time and maintain the structure, but they should also able to step back and allow for open discussion.

3) Too many people involved

You want to hear insights from different people on various topics. But if you get too many people involved, it will be difficult to capture the information properly because you’ll have too many people speaking at the same time and interrupting each other.

Instead, stick to a maximum of about six or eight people. This number works best because it allows you to get insights from everyone while still keeping control over the group.

Focus Groups

4) Not using over-recruits

It’s always the case that some participants will drop out before the focus group. But researchers often fail to have a backup plan in place.

You should, therefore, make sure you have over-recruits for your focus groups. If not, you’ll spend time searching for participants at the last minute.

Choose a sensible limit for your over-recruits. We’ve found that it’s a good idea to choose either one or two more people than you actually want to attend. So, if you want six participants to attend, recruit eight.

On top of that, to encourage attendance, explain the details of the study in advance so they know what to expect. Make sure they know it is an interesting topic, and ensure they feel genuinely valued by letting them know their importance.

Also, make sure they know you won’t waste their time. Offering them an incentive (especially if they are there all day) will make them more likely to show up on the day.

5) Being too strict with recruiting

Researchers are often too strict when it comes to recruiting participants, and this makes it can make it more difficult to find enough people.

Of course, you don’t want to be too flexible with your requirements either or participants won’t be a match and they won’t be able to provide you with the insights you need.

So accept there will be a trade-off and that you will not be able to get a group full of the exact people you want every time. Sometimes you have to be more strict because of the nature of the research. In this case, give yourself more time to recruit.