How To: Video Focus Groups

Below you will find some tips, tricks and best practices to consider when running a live session using Recollective. Some of these may seem very obvious, but others could be something that you may overlook. Here are a few of the most common ones!

What does it look and feel like to actually build, moderate, and analyze the data collected from a successful Video Focus Group session? During the initial release of live video interviews and our group chat beta, we received an incredible amount of useful user feedback on our video interview tools. Not only did our customers provide us with recommendations around functionality and usability improvements, they also provided great insight into best practices and tips when it comes to managing live focus groups.

Below you will find some tips, tricks and best practices to consider when running a live session using Recollective. Some of these may seem very obvious, but others could be something that you may overlook. Here are a few of the most common ones!

Plan the Objective and Format

Next you will want to plan out the scope of what you want to accomplish during each portion of the study, including the live interviews. By that, we mean focusing on your objectives and preparing how the questions will be phrased and delivered to participants.

First you should decide if you are only doing video interviews or if you plan to do interviews along with other activities inside Recollective. While Recollective provides pricing just for Video Interview-only projects, purchasing a full license that includes access to both our asynchronous and synchronous activities will provide you with more options when designing your research project. By including additional Activities to your design, you can help familiarize your participants with the Recollective environment, which should help put them at ease and ensure they feel comfortable going into the interview. You can also bring up and introduce the results from previously completed activities as part of your discussion topic during the actual interview.

Another thing to consider is giving some additional thought into the potential follow-up or probing questions that might come up based on the questions you’ll be asking. Anticipating and preparing for this ahead of time will ensure you don’t leave the session feeling like you missed an opportunity for further clarification.

You’ll also need to plan out and catalogue the types of stimulus material or content you want to use, and then decide when you want to display them during the meeting—whether that be photos, videos, or even screen sharing between you and your participants.

Interview Size

Here are some things to help determine what is the right approach for your study. Although it might be super enticing to hop right into managing a large focus group right off the bat, it might be worth taking a step back to think about the advantages of managing smaller groups or individual meetings depending on what kind of environment or responses you’re looking for.

1 on 1 sessions are significantly more intimate, with participants more likely to give unguarded responses to your questions. However, they can involve more work since you’ll be meeting with everyone individually and conversing around the same series of questions.

Group meetings on the other hand, can provide you with an entirely different element of insight through live collaboration and participant-to-participant engagement. Balancing the different voices and staying on track is something that will be a challenge you’ll want to take into account here if you opt to go with a larger group

While Recollective group video meetings can accommodate up to 25 participants, our clients have found that a reasonably manageable group size for an online live group chat is around 4 to 6 people. Of course, you can go beyond this if your research needs demand it, but we suggest in those cases ensuring that your team is well-equipped to fulfill their roles in supporting the main moderator.

Be Flexible with Meeting Times

Flexibility of when you as a moderator are available to handle multiple meetings is going to be critical to keeping engagement and participation levels high. The automated meeting calendar for 1-on-1 meetings does an excellent job of balancing the availabilities of both the participant and the researcher. Still, you’ll want to make sure that you’re not overbooking the number of meetings per day, or leaving minimal buffer times between meetings so that you can take a proper break before moving to the next engagement.

Always budget more time for each meeting then you think you will need - especially in the current climate of social distancing and limited communication. You will want to make sure that you allocate some time for simple introductions and initial icebreakers to make your participants comfortable and eager to share their thoughts and reactions on the subject material you have prepared. Starting off with something light goes a long way in putting everyone at ease and in the right frame of mind.

You may also find a particular participant group to be extra expressive or descriptive in their conversations; and while you’ll want to stay on pace to make sure you can cover all of your material, plan for some leeway to help capture all of those genuine reactions.

Communication with Participants

It’s safe to say that anyone coming on to an unfamiliar platform to have a video conversation with an unfamiliar person or people is going to be reluctant—at least at first—to open up and share their opinions. That’s why, especially in cases where these video meetings are the only component of your research, communicating with participants prior to the interview is essential to helping them feel more comfortable in the moment.

As part of our live video focus group activities, Recollective has a series of automated notifications to help ensure participants know where they are going and when, but its up to you as a the moderator to ensure they know what they’re doing when they get there, and who they are doing it with.

Ideally, before going into an interview, participants should know a few details. The topic of conversation, for instance, and a general idea of the kinds of questions you are going to go over to help them prepare. They should know who they are talking to—if its a one-on-one interview with a moderator, they should know who that moderator is, and maybe even a little bit about them. If its a group video chat, they should know who else is going to be on the call, or, at the very least, how many other people will be there.

You should also note tech requirements as well. Live video activities in Recollective are designed to be compatible on as many devices and operating systems as possible, but we can't account for everything. Of the tech support tickets that our team has received, a number of them are related to issues with compatibility, whether device or browser. These issues are often easily solved with a change or update, but experiencing a tech issue right at the start of a meeting can set the wrong tone for your session. That’s why its important to communicate these requirements to participants beforehand, so they can prepare accordingly.

Tech Check

Another feature you will want to leverage prior to conducting your sessions is Recollective's Video Tech Check. All Live video activities include a meeting test button at the top of the screen to ensure your equipment is connected and working, and also to address any browser permissions on the site. We encourage moderators to use this before they start their meetings.

We also encourage you to let your participants know that it's there, and ask them to log in a few minutes early to conduct the test before the meeting start time.

Team and Client Observer Involvement

How many people are going to be involved in the meetings on your research team, and who is going to be responsible for what? Secondary moderators can help by taking additional notes while you focus on the direct engagements, and can also work in the background to privately probe participants via text to clarify or expand on anything that was unclear.

In larger group chats, additional moderators can keep an eye on participation from each member to ensure that everyone is getting time to speak, using the Backroom to let the main moderator know whether one person has been a little shy about speaking up, or hasn’t gotten a chance to contribute among some more talkative group members.

Private Space

This next tip may seem obvious: conduct your meetings in a private space. Of course, that’s a little more difficult these days as we’re all isolated at home, many of us with partners or families and children to distract us, but that’s even more of a reason to consider this.

For both moderator and participants alike, having a distraction-free space to focus on the meeting and delve into the discussion is essential for gathering the most in-depth qualitative data possible.

Going off Script

Finally, feel free to go off script. If we’ve learned anything running a qual platform, its that the most valuable insights come from questions we didn’t think about beforehand, or that came up in the middle of spontaneous conversations where people get to bounce ideas off of each other.

While you certainly are going to have a defined list of material to get through in both one-on-one and group interviews, affording the time for spontaneity and creativity is one of the best ways to get data you didn’t even know you needed.

Jared Nguyen
Vice President Strategic Projects

Let's research happy together