A focus group moderator helps organize and run focus groups. She guides discussions, encouraging group participants to share their thoughts and opinions about the topics at hand. A focus group moderator also helps create discussion guides and scripts intended to ensure the discussion runs smoothly, stays on track, and delivers the type of information the focus group client, usually a business, needs.
Focus groups bring a group of consumers together to discuss a topic in depth. Often, these groups are used to obtain consumer opinions about a company's products and services. The topics that may be covered in a focus group include the participants' opinions of the company's brand and current products, new products and services, advertising campaigns, and product improvement ideas. A focus group can also help a company learn about its customers' habits when it comes to making purchases or discover how its employees feel about the benefits it provides.
A focus group moderator's primary job is to lead a panel of participants in discussion. This typically means asking questions and providing information about a selection of topics. It may also involve allowing participants to view or listen to advertising campaigns the company has implemented or has evaluated for possible implementation. Sometimes the moderator also provides samples of products in order to gauge the group’s reaction to them.
When an individual acts as a focus group moderator, she has to stimulate discussions without interjecting her own opinion. She may ask pointed questions, but must do so without leading the group toward a particular answer. She must also try to draw more detailed answers out of group participants when necessary and encourage even the most timid panel members to participate fully. At times, she may also have to redirect a conversation that is moving to topics the client isn't interested in covering.
Before a focus group, a moderator often communicates with the client to plan the discussion and ensure it will meet the client's need for information. She may help create guides and scripts for the discussion that ensure the focus stays on the appropriate topics. During the discussion, she may leave the room and meet with the client to discuss adding questions to the list of topics or pursuing a particular discussion point. After the discussion, a focus group moderator may compile a report that summarizes the discussion session. This often includes the moderator’s perspective on the focus group.