In focus groups, the role of moderator is to ask questions or propose discussion topics and help participants to relax while explaining the purpose of the focus group and what are the expectations. Establish a schedule, the time frame of the discussion and ask everyone to follow it. One and half hour is the appropriate length for the focus group. You may find it useful to make available a code of ethics, assuring the participants about their anonymity while respecting others’ confidentiality.
1. Ask questions
How you ask questions actually shows up your abilities as moderator of the focus group. Easy to answer questions should be asked first. Listen to the participants, write down notes about the issues being discussed and make a good eye contact, acknowledging that you listen carefully. There are several ways you can organize the interview, but two main options are mainly used: to ask questions or to establish a list of topics. Under any of these methods, your purpose is a fluent discussion on the subject.
2. Seek answers
As moderator, you need to have as many opinions as possible. You will notice in some groups people need a kind of persuasion to make a contribution to the discussion while in other people will freely talk. You may encounter some situations when somebody doesn’t want to contribute or is unwilling to take part to the discussion; in such cases you need to make appeal to your discretion to keep the free-flow. On the other hand, there are people who are too much involved in the discussion so they want to continue and somehow capture auditorium’s attention. In such instances you have to make clear that every participant has the right of reply.
3. Finish the focus group
When the focus group ends, say thank you to the participants and leave a contact number if they want to address any other topics in the future, related to the issues that have been raised in the actual discussion. There is a nice practice to provide a copy of the summary report to each of the participants wanting one.
All in all, your role as moderator in conducting focus groups mainly depends on your capacities of managing the discussion according to a pre-established time frame.