Video Conferencing Focus Groups

A Good Option If Utilized Effectively
Published in Quirk's Marketing Research Review

October, 2008

While most market research professionals will agree that watching focus groups via videoconferencing is not as effective am experience as observing from behind the one-way mirror, it definitely is far better than listening to audio or videotapes after the fact. Videoconferencing does enable the client personnel to observe the proceedings in real time, and therefore have the opportunity to provide input to the moderator.  However, many users of focus group video conferencing do not get as much benefit from this technique as they could, because they do not follow some basic guidelines which would enable them to maximize the use of this very effective new technology.

The following will summarize the most important actions that a client organization can take to leverage the benefits associated with using the video conferencing technology when conducting focus groups in remote locations.

At The Focus Group Facility

The optimal solution would be for a very senior person on the project team from the client organization to attend the focus group.  This person is charged with the responsibility of being the conduit between the people at the remote location and the moderator.  Their job is to ensure that any information that the people want to communicate to the moderator can be easily understood in a quick interaction when the moderator comes to the back room for a brief time during the group.  This makes the moderator's job of receiving client input both more effective and much more efficient.

At The Remote Location/Client Observation Room

The local chairperson should serve as the conduit between the people in the remote observation area and the client contact at the focus group facility.  Therefore, if someone has an important question that must get to the moderator, this should go through the chairperson to get to the facility.  This provides some degree of control on the quantity and nature of the material that ultimately gets asked of the moderator during the group.

Here to stay

Video conferencing of focus groups is a trend that is here to stay.  There are many benefits of using this technology, not the least of which is the very significant cost savings that companies can realize from the reduced travel expenses.  However, if the technology is not utilized properly, the benefits will not be worthwhile, as the value organizations get from their focus groups will be significantly reduced.  Hopefully, the information in this article will help users of video conferencing make the technique work more effectively for them, and encourage non-users to try video conferencing, now that they know how to get the most out of the technique.