This is the text as it appeared in FocusVision News, Volume 1 - Number 3

Is Your Moderator Ready for Videoconferencing?

by Tom Greenbaum

One of the most significant new trends in the focus group research industry in the mid-1990's is the emergence of videoconferencing as an integral part of the focus group research process. This technology initially became available early in the 1990's and has grown at very accelerated rates ever since. This ability to broadcast focus groups to remote locations makes so much sense (if used appropriately) that it is really a "no-brainer" for most organizations. Not only will they save considerable money on the total focus group project, but they will be able to use markets that normally would be eliminated and can involve many more people in the overall research process by using remote videoconferencing.

One of the key questions I have relative to this new trend is whether the existing moderator community is ready and able to make the transition necessary to meet the challenges associated with conducting videoconferencing groups. Specifically, to execute an effective focus group assignment using remote videoconferencing requires some different skills and capabilities than are needed to implement groups using traditional audio and videotape technologies. This is because in the video conference focus group environment the key client personnel are often observing the groups on a monitor from a remote location, rather than watching from behind the one-way mirror as they typically have been in the traditional focus group environment. This new environment places different demands on moderators which will require some to modify their activities to meet the needs of their clients. For example:

In summary, as the focus group methodology gets more sophisticated, clients will demand more from the moderators. The rapid emergence of videoconferencing of groups is only one example of how moderators are going to have to grow and adapt to the changing environment if they are to succeed in this industry long term.

Thomas Greenbaum is author of "The Handbook for Focus Group Research" and president of Groups Plus.

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