If your Project Team uses focus groups to gather information from end users, you’re not alone—these interactive teams have been a popular feedback vehicle for years. But are you (and your participants) getting the most out of the experience? We have some suggestions to keep your focus groups effective, efficient, and enthused. Also see: (What Focus Groups Can’t Do) and (should-you-establish-a-focus-group).
Have an agenda. Especially when discussing projects that are politically sensitive or have already gone through several iterations, it’s too easy for a well-intentioned conversation to devolve into a gab or gripe session. If appropriate, it might be helpful to provide users with the full list of questions or topics up front. This shows folks just how much you need to cover within the allotted time, and it also gives them the opportunity to gather and organize their thoughts before the session starts.
Follow up. Users will quickly tire of offering their time and energy if it looks like their input is going into a black hole. Even when project timelines are long enough to make short-term feedback out of the question, your team should still strive to give them regular updates. Consider letting users know that their suggestions influenced the recent purchase of a piece of equipment, or that their comments were taken into account when the latest revision was made to a still-in-development software application.
Thank them. You’ll find users much more willing to participate when they know their feedback is appreciated. Be sure to mention the involvement of focus groups when unveiling completed projects or sharing milestone progress updates with stakeholders. Depending on your organization’s culture and the type of project involved, listing focus group participants as project contributors might also be an option. Of course, remember to be mindful of any potential privacy concerns when thinking about identifying them individually to a wider audience.