Coming soon. Record, order and view transcripts right from your mobile device. Learn More

Perform a Better Focus Group Interview

Leading a focus group interview can be challenging, but with the right moderator, the conversations that result from these group discussions can be informative, exciting and useful for a wide range of research purposes. When conducting a focus group, you should keep these tips in mind:

Develop an Open and Permissive Environment

In order to have a successful focus group interview, the interviewer needs to put the interviewees at ease by creating a warm and friendly environment. As the interviewees enter the room, make them comfortable with a warm greeting and some small talk. Invite them to sit in a circle to facilitate group discussion more easily.

Before starting the interview, provide an overview of the conversation to eliminate confusion or apprehension. Then, set some ground rules, and finally, throw out the first question.

Prepare the questions in advance so you don’t miss any important points. Ideally, questions should be open ended, rather than dichotomous yes-no questions, and they should transition seamlessly from one topic to the next, starting with general points and moving toward specific examples.

Keep Interviewees Talking

To keep interviewees talking, moderators should allow purposeful pauses and silences, but after about five seconds, the interviewer or moderator should jump in with a follow up question or comment such as, “Please explain more,” or “Can you share an example?”

Interviewers should have experience moderating conversations in a productive and subtle way. This includes dealing with dominant talkers, encouraging shy participants and curtailing ramblers.

Conclude the Group Carefully

When it is time to wrap up the interview, summarize what has been covered in the interview. Revisit the purpose of the interview, and ask the participants if any thoughts or points have been missed. Finally, thank everyone for coming and formally dismiss them.

Use an Assistant

When doing a focus group interview, consider finding an assistant. He can set up recording equipment, help to welcome participants and take notes throughout the discussion. After the focus group, he can help you debrief, transcribe the interview and analyze what was said. As a result, you can stay focused on the moderation portion of the conversation.

Want to learn more about running successful focus groups or creating a transcript of what was said? Check out or follow @Transcribe on Twitter.