A power-tip to get productive conversations going during your focus groups

As the head of research and measurement for Crescenzo Communications, I’ve led hundreds (maybe thousands?) of employee focus groups, both virtual and in real life.
And while every group has its own personality and culture, they all have one thing in common: If you are not careful, they can go awry in a hurry. Namely, two things can happen:
  1. Nobody talks in the beginning. They are nervous, or scared, or shy, or introverted, or angry, or suspicious. All kinds of reasons not to speak up!
  2. One or two people immediately start to dominate the conversation. That’s as bad as nobody talking.

As the moderator, you can’t let either one of those things happen. So I have developed a simple little trick that I use to start all my focus groups. I give everyone an index card (or, if it’s virtual, ask them to get something to write on).

Then, I give them five minutes to write down three words or phrases that come to mind when I say a certain sentence. The sentence depends on the focus of the discussion. Some examples:

“What are the first three words or phrases that come to mind when you think about how this company communicates to you?”

“What are the first three words or phrases that comes to mind when you think of the recent merger with XYZ Corp.?”

What are the first three words or phrases that come to mind when you think of the new Mission/Vision/Values statements that were just rolled out?

Then, after giving them five minutes to think or write, I go around the table and ask everyone to read what they wrote. This serves three purposes:
  1. It draws out the wallflowers and gets them talking.
  2. It keeps the talkers in check, because it gives you a reason to cut them off in order to get to everyone.
  3. It gets people talking to each other. Invariably, people will start to weigh in on what other people said, and you can immediately start picking up trends.

Give it a try! This is one of many pro tips we’ll share at our new Communication Playbook workshop on April 28th. In three packed hours you’ll get a deep dive on how to carry out and use focus groups, executive interviews, content analysis, and surveys to reshape your communications for the hybrid workforce.

We hope to see you there!

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