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Active Listening for Insights

If a focus group takes place and no one in the back room is listening, did it really occur? Yes, but it may as well have not taken place because the client most likely missed an insight that could have been gained. Insights are missed for many reasons - researchers talking, sleeping or not being skilled in listening effectively. Here are a few tips to help you get more out of the next round of qualitative research:

  1. Evaluate panelist comments in the context of everything they have shared.
    All too often I have seen people tune out the first fifteen minutes of a focus group when panelists are introducing themselves. Tune in at the very beginning because their "history" provides the backdrop for all of their comments.

  2. Panelists' body language can reveal what they really think.
    I once saw a group where a woman said unemotionally, "I would buy this product," then proceeded to push the product away from her. Further probing indicated she really wasn't interesting in purchasing the product, but she did not want to say something negative.

  3. Come with a mindset to learn from the experts.
    Thinking of the panelists as a part of the team will increase receptivity to what they have to say.

  4. Save the M&M's until after the group.
    One of the best things about focus groups is the M&M's. However, if you have a full day of research, the boost you get early may leave you flat later. It's hard to listen when you're feeling sleepy.

  5. Establish a habit of briefing and debriefing sessions before and after focus groups.
    All too often these sessions are neglected because of people running late to the groups or wanting to leave early. Briefing sessions ensure everyone understands the objectives of the research and key people in to what to listen for. Since there are different styles of listening, debriefing sessions help to capture all that has been heard and allows the team to leave on the same page.

  6. Take notes during the research.
    Taking written notes allows you to be an active participant during the research. They provide a record of what you thought was important. Later, they serve as a reference during the debriefing session and after the group.

  7. Consider sitting in the room with the panelists.
    Sitting on the other side of the mirror puts you in the middle of the discussion. The panelists will seem more real as they tell their experiences. As a result you will be more attentive.

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