Can Anyone Moderate?

I recently attended a conference on the front end of innovation. Although I found much of the information presented to be quite interesting, I was shocked and horrified to hear a presenter state “Focus groups are a technique of the 60’s and 70’s”. This woman went on to say that she “trains” clients all the time to conduct interviews with their customers to understand the voice of the customer. Then, she showcased her technique and style in front of the group asking leading questions, telling the mock respondent the end purpose/goal of her research adding incredible bias, and kept asking “Why, Why, Why” (which typically gets a one line “because” type of answer.) Let’s be real – everyone can’t be a great moderator.

It is clearly worth your time and money to find a talented and well-trained moderator. Letting price be the only determinant of your decision is selling yourself and your market research needs short. A professional really adds value in 5 key areas:

1. Probes beyond the obvious without biasing respondents – She can quickly establish a rapport with respondents and quickly interpret what she hears to flexibly guide the discussion to meet the objectives. She can adapt her approach based on the energy and dynamics in the room.
2. Capably deals with challenging situations – She can quickly and effectively manage different behaviors – defensiveness, non-talkers, chatterboxes. In addition, she hears contradictions and questions appropriately as well as handling sensitive issues with tact.
3. Brings diverse experience and mastery – She has training and understanding of different techniques and approaches to get beyond the obvious answers. Effective moderating is not just asking questions – this belief is what gives Focus Groups bad press.
4. Offers more than moderating – She can help focus a team on clear objectives and ensure the research design creatively meets those objectives. Many moderators, like myself, bring specific business skills such as knowledge of concept development and/or had been a marketing professional in a past life.
5. Maintains high standards – She protects client confidentiality and ensures that all respondents are treated with respect and are not discriminated against in any way.

So the next time, you are looking for a moderator don’t think you can do it yourself and don’t use low cost as the key criteria.

Copyright 2007 The Rite Concept – May not be reproduced without expressed permission

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