Focus group logistics

A structured time to gather stakeholder perceptions.
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Tips for Facilitating a Focus Group

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Focus groups are intentional and well-planned feedback experiences. Organizations ask stakeholders to participate in a focus group when input or information is needed about a specific topic. Focus groups take advantage of group interactions and thoughts. They consist of representative samples of larger stakeholder populations. The tips below are intended to provide guidance for planning and facilitating a focus group session.

GETTING THE RIGHT PEOPLE TO PARTICIPATE

Focus group sessions are typically scheduled for an hour. It is important to consider the time of day that works for the target group of attendees. Offering multiple sessions is one way to maximize the opportunity for stakeholders to provide feedback.

Advertising the sessions with a clear message about the purpose and goal for the focus group will encourage participation. Consider the sample message from a strategic planning scenario. This message can be adjusted and used to invite employees to a focus group:

Our organization is building a new strategic plan to guide our work together over the next 5 years. The creation of this plan is part of our continuous improvement journey and goal of achieving excellent results. As an employee of the organization, your voice and perspective are very important. If you would like to be a focus group participant, please notify me by Friday, and thank you for your willingness to help us plan our future.

ROLE OF LEADERSHIP

An invitation does not guarantee participation. Leaders play a key role in making sure the right people participate in the focus group. Leaders are encouraged to think of 3-4 stakeholders who would be excellent representatives in a focus group session. Then, personally reach out to these stakeholders and invite them to participate. 

Key words for this outreach:

  • You are a great representative of the perspective we are looking to gain. I am confident you would provide valuable insight during the focus group session.
  • This is a one-time focus group and would only take an hour. Your input would be invaluable. I would be excited to see your ideas included in our new strategic plan.

As leaders invite participants and collect names, make a plan to send out a reminder to those individuals the week of the focus group.

SESSION LOGISTICS

  • Each focus group only meets one time to give input and ideas.
  • It is important to have representation across stakeholder groups. Personal outreach from leadership is one way to ensure the representation appropriately reflects the purpose of the focus group and the feedback needed.
  • An ideal number of participants for a focus group is 15-20, but as many as 40 in a session is manageable. It is best to not limit or exclude volunteers, unless there are concerns related to available space.
  • The focus group facilitator will need chart paper, a board, or a screen, to record all participant responses.

FOLLOW UP

An important consideration after a focus group session or series of sessions is to share the feedback provided with all focus group participants. Themes from the sessions, as well as next steps for using the data, may be shared in an email or newsletter. This validates the feedback experience and establishes transparency and trust within the organization.  

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