My teammate and I are running a focus group in a couple weeks. The group will be large (about 17 people) and will be with working professionals (mid-20s through mid-40s). We’d like to add a few interactive elements to this focus group so that people have a variety of ways to express themselves, move around, and have some fun. Here’s our running list for activities to use during interactive focus groups.
Build a Collage
Read more and watch video examples here.
Hold Small Group Discussions
Give each small group a discussion prompt, give them time to discuss that question, and then ask the small groups to share a key observation or two back with the larger group.
Vote with Stickers
Ask focus group attendees to show where they stand on issues by putting a colored sticker on a large sheet of paper. We used this technique in a community forum and asked residents to vote and indicate their priority areas for the county’s next budget. For example, residents placed stickers beside their top areas, like early childhood, youth development, senior housing, transportation, and more.
Begin with a Survey
Start with a brief survey (read more here).
Begin with a Free-Writing Exercise
Start with a free-writing exercise “to help participants access relevant memory. Jumpstart a rich discussion by asking them to share what they wrote with one another.” Read more here.
Write on Index Cards
Write down how they feel on index cards (read more here).
Use Roundtable Ranking
Small groups rapidly brainstorm the strengths and weaknesses of the program on a single sheet of paper and rank-order (1, 2, 3) the strengths and weaknesses. Read more here.
Use an Interview Design Process
The Interview Design Process is a hybrid of a focus group and a speed dating session.
Run a Values Walk
The Values Walk, in which people physically walk to different corners of the room to indicate whether they agree or disagree with your questions. Read more ideas from Public Profit here.
This worked well as part of a community listening project in the youth center where I used to be an internal evaluator. Groups of 10-15 adults walked either to the far right of the room (agree) or far left (disagree), or anywhere in between on the spectrum. As the facilitator asked a series of questions, you got to watch the patterns in the group as well as each person’s individual variations in responses.
The only downside is that it’s very, very, very hard to take notes during this activity. Everyone’s walking around the room, and the notetaker is furiously typing on a laptop, trying to capture the physical movements as well as the conversation. Perhaps an audio recorder and camera would work better? I wish I had pictures of these Values Walks from the community listening projects.
Build a Community Map
I built a community map in the youth center where I used to be an internal evaluator. The youth collected data about tobacco retailers in their community and mapped the data using density maps and little pins and flags. The data was part of their needs assessment, and then the next step was to develop messaging for an anti-tobacco campaign.
Share Your Ideas for Interactive Focus Groups
Please share your own ideas in the comments section below. Have you tried any of these techniques yourself? Did any of these go particularly well (or poorly)? Nobody’s got time to reinvent the wheel, so let’s learn from each other’s successes and failures in running focus groups.