Within every industry is the potential to create "Top #" lists. It seems that no matter how arcane the topic, that humans have a knack for listing things: the best, the worst, and the most unusual.
In the market research industry, we facilitate innumerable in-depth interviews and focus groups. So in the name of levity (and education), without further ado, Junicon proudly presents a respondent survival guide: four things you should never do in a focus group. To make things more entertaining, we've been sure to choose examples that actually happened.
Rule #1: Don't speak on your cell phone.
Have you ever been annoyed by the loud mouth on his cell phone in the Starbucks line who seems to think that the world is interested in his personal life, or the careless individual in the concert hall who neglected to set her phone to vibrate? In a focus group, most transgressions can be forgiven, but answering your cell phone, and having a conversation at the group table is not one of them.
"The physician's phone began to vibrate on the table. When he picked it up, we all thought that it was to extinguish the noise, but to our surprise, he proceeded to answer his phone and strike up what was quite obviously a non emergency-related conversation. This continued for a full 30 seconds until I managed to get his attention long enough to request that he take his conversation outside."
- Junicon Project Manager
Rule #2: Don't be late
All of us can be made late from time to time by forces outside of our control such as traffic or inclement weather. But when there is no excuse to be late to a focus group, then you probably shouldn't come at all.
Focus groups are timed events in which the moderator has been given the responsibility of pulling as much information out of the respondents' heads as possible. Generally, the first 10 minutes or so are spent on introductions and an explanation of the purpose of the focus group. Every time that a participant arrives late, the explanation must be repeated in an abbreviated manner, wasting precious time and increasing the likelihood that the latecomer will be confused at some point during the discussion.
Also, respondents are paid for their time. It's disrespectful to the other members of the group when an individual doesn't attend the entire session but still expects full compensation.
Rule #3: Don't talk about anything private as you leave the room
This one could save you some potential embarrassment if you ever take part in a live focus group. Most focus groups are audio and video recorded, meaning that the microphones are fairly sensitive and can easily pick up sounds from down the hallway when the door is open. So be careful what you say out loud!
"When reviewing a session video, I overheard some pretty comical remarks from one of the participants about another participant's attractiveness."
- Junicon Project Manager
Rule #4: Don't clean your teeth in the mirror
Even though respondents are informed that there may be people watching them from behind the one-way mirror, some seem to forget this fact and find no issue with using the mirror as they would in the privacy of their own bathroom. Remember, not only will the people behind the mirror chuckle at your antics; you may also be immortalized on the video recording.
If you follow these simple rules, then your focus group experience should be smooth sailing. Ignore them at your peril!