Tips for conducting virtual focus groups

Focus groups are a great way for startups to conduct market research and understand the needs and challenges of their target market. Traditionally, focus groups are conducted as in-person sessions; however, COVID-19 has changed the way we currently interact. Remote work has become the new normal, and virtual focus groups can be a great way to engage with participants and gain deep insights for your company.

The following tips and templates will help you successfully conduct a virtual focus group.

Screen for the right sample, and limit the time and number of participants

To ensure you’re collecting data from the sample you are looking for, it is key to build a screener. This is a questionnaire that helps you understand the criteria you need to identify the right participants. Tip: Work with a recruiting agency to identify and find the right participants for your focus group. They can help develop a screener, or you can create one using these guidelines (click on the header below).

The number of participants included in the focus group should be limited to four to six, and virtual focus groups should be 60 to 90 minutes in total. The best time to conduct the session is after work hours or in the evening (based on the demographics and geographic location of participants). Tip: Provide participants with an incentive, such as a gift card or cash.

All participants should have access to a computer or laptop and must agree to audio and video recording of the discussion. Tip: Use this consent form and have it signed by each participant prior to the focus group.

Downloadable consent form for participation in virtual focus groups

From your discussion guide, create a presentation to share with participants

Create a PowerPoint deck that is to be shared onscreen with participants during the focus group. This will help keep the discussion focused and on topic, which is especially difficult in a virtual setting. The presentation should include a brief introduction to the research to set the stage, and the subsequent slides should contain the questions from your discussion guide. There should be one question per slide, and the question should remain on screen until every participant gets a chance to respond. Tip: Have a moderator to engage with participants, a note taker and someone who can manage and control the screen and presentation.

Conduct a mock focus group before the actual session

Using internal team members, do a mock run-through of the focus group with the discussion guide to ensure there is a natural flow to the conversation. Tip: Each member should assume the role of a potential participant attending your focus group.

When conducting the focus group, make sure each participant is engaged and has a chance to speak and share their thoughts. Tip: Create a speaking order with the participants, and alternate going top to bottom for one question and bottom to top for the next.

As the moderator, don’t feel the need to fill the silence. Ask the question, remain quiet and listen. Ask follow-up and probing questions based on responses. Tip: When creating the discussion guide, anticipate responses and ask follow-up questions based on potential answers.

Using these tips and templates to conduct a virtual focus group will provide you with lots of data and great insights about your target market. The next step is to analyze that data and use it to your advantage. You can use the data to craft your customer personas or guide strategic decisions related to your go-to-market strategy.