Are you facilitating a focus group? If so, you’ve probably got a lot on your mind – greeting participants, making sure everyone feels comfortable, covering all the key questions… It’s a lot to remember!
As I was learning to facilitate focus groups, I started taking notes of all the good advice I received from experienced facilitators. I turned that advice into a checklist for myself. I review my checklist before every focus group (to keep the advice fresh on my mind) and after every focus group (as a self-evaluation). You could also use this checklist to assess colleagues who are learning to facilitate focus groups (i.e., use the checklist as a conversation starter when you’re debriefing together after the focus group).
Here’s my checklist for focus group facilitators. Did the facilitator:
- Introduce him or herself?
- Explain the purpose of the focus group?
- Explain the rules for the discussion?
- Address issues of confidentiality?
- Use verbal and non-verbal expressions to make participants feel comfortable during the focus group?
- Facilitate real interaction among group members (not just a series of individual interviews)?
- Draw everyone into the discussion?
- Demonstrate genuine interest in the discussion?
- If asked for their personal opinion on a topic during the group, deflect requests by participants to give an opinion?
- Maintain a good pace during the discussion (kept things moving but don’t rush questions)?
- Ask questions in a neutral way (not in a leading way)?
- Link comments to previous comments or themes?
- Address comments or behaviors that could take the discussion off course?
- Address disruptive and disrespectful behavior?
- Ask participants for validation if rewording or summarizing comments?
- Courteously but firmly stop a chatty participant?
- Demonstrate sensitivity to emotional reactions of participants?
- Display awareness and respect for cultural issues that emerge in the discussion?
- Re-explain or re-phrase questions as needed?
- Sincerely thank participants for contributing?
Do you have additional tips to add to the checklist? Which tips have been most valuable to you when facilitating a focus group?