Since our founding over a decade ago, Vertigo Partners has been an early adopter of remote qualitative research technologies. Whether you are looking to interview participants face to face in real-time, engage them in longer term diary studies, or do a combination of the two, Vertigo’s researchers have you covered when it comes to remote qualitative solutions. If your project requires us to explore desktop or mobile user experiences, acquire an understanding of how people complete certain tasks, or bring a segment to life to inspire design thinking, we are happy to demonstrate how our remote qualitative solutions can meet your research challenges.

 One misconception we’ve come across recently is that, when it comes to face to face remote research, one on one interviews are the only viable option. We’ve found, though, that this is a false assumption. You can do webcam focus groups effectively if you follow these 5 guidelines:

  1. Less is more. Four is the magic number when it comes to doing webcam groups. Reducing the amount of time a participant has to wait to share their opinion ensures people stay more engaged with the session.
  2. Use gallery view instead of speaker view. While this is a personal preference for some researchers, we’ve found that gallery view, or what we call the Brady Bunch view, lets the moderator keep an eye on who in the session should speak next, either because they seem to jive with something the speaker is saying, look eager to share their opinion, or seem unengaged and need a little “air time” to energize them. Which leads to our next point…
  3. Calling on people. While in the same physical space with someone a talented moderator can use their body language to get a participant talking without having to say their name, this is less possible to do online since all participants assume the researcher is looking directly at them. Instead, when moderating webcam groups, the moderator should invite a specific person to begin speaking about a topic to avoid the awkwardness that eventually arises when people start talking over each other. 
  4. Use breakout rooms for divergent exercises. The meeting host can put participants into different breakout rooms where they can have one-on-one conversations about a topic. The moderator can then pop-in to see how they are doing with a particular exercise. After a set time period, the participants can rejoin the group session and discuss what they talked about. Note, this is also a great way for the moderator to check-in with observers instead of relying on chat. We’ve found it’s easier for client observers to give their feedback verbally vs. type it out.
  5. Limit discussion to 90 minutes. Whereas two hours is the standard for in-person focus groups, people tend to tune out past the 90-minute mark online. Keeping your discussion guide to 90 minutes will help keep everyone engaged.

There’s one final point, and it’s an important one—don’t forget to have fun! At Vertigo Partners, we are still big believers in group interviews, especially for concept development, communications reviews, and ideation. Not only are group activities best for those types of projects, but they are also a lot of fun due to the energy created when people interact. So, follow these five pointers and have some fun with your online focus group. If you’d like to see a demonstration of how we do them, don’t hesitate to reach out.

Mike Carlon is the founder of Vertigo Partners and is considered a pioneer in online qualitative research. Reach out to him at michael.carlon@vertigopartners.com.