Focus Groups are a means of gathering qualitative data and insight through exploring ideas in a small group setting where everyone is equal and can have a say. When planning marketing, behaviour change and solution design projects they allow time to explore capability, opportunity, motivations, barriers, values, and incentives of a target audience. They usually include 6-8 people, which allows session leaders to hear from each attendee on each question, probe, and keep the group from wandering too much from the discussion focus. Sessions last between 1-2 hours and can involve breaks. Attendees should feel comfortable enough to engage in discussion. You should aim to run more than one group to ensure you hear the voices of a representative sample.
You should identify the purpose of the session and the research question/s you would like to answer and then agree a sampling/targeting framework (who you would like to take part) – do all participants at the group need to have something in common? E.g., drive a car, live in Cleethorpes, have a child under 5. Or would you like to invite people across different categories e.g, people who go to the gym four times a week, and then people who are never physically active. Respondents should be aware that anonymous qualitative quotes may be used in reporting, and they should be comfortable with that. People’s consent to take part should be based on adequate information. You should make it clear that they are free to withdraw or modify their consent and ask for the destruction of all or part of their data until the end of the project or final report.
You then need to consider how and where you will hold the focus groups (community venue, online, your offices). You should invite participants formally, giving a brief outline of what will be discussed. Develop your discussion/topic guide with open questions about a topic and decide who will attend and moderate the session. You should have a core list of questions but the order in which you ask them can vary. You can deviate from the guide to pursue an idea in more detail. You can take notes during the group, afterwards, or audio record (if your attendees are comfortable with this and you have their consent). Writing notes can interfere with the process but having two individuals present during the focus group so that one individual can take notes whilst the other asks questions can be helpful. If you are audio recording a focus group, the audio recording should be deleted once the session has been transcribed.