Blog, Moderation

Warming Up Focus Group Participants

Techniques for Warming Up Respondents

The purpose of the warm-up period for any research study is to co-create with respondents an atmosphere where everyone can relax, feel less self-conscious and begin to form relationships with each other and the moderator. When successful, the groundwork has been laid to build energy and momentum.


    Assigning homework provides material for the moderator and respondents to draw upon during the warm-up and, at the same time, shows gratitude towards the respondents for the time and effort that went into the work.
    One way to handle introductions in a focus group that can jumpstart group synergy, is to have respondents interview each other and then present their partner’s story to the rest of the group. This is particularly useful in helping respondents come together as a group and encourage interaction without the moderator always asking questions.
    This exercise is very versatile and can apply to many things…favorite toy, item of clothing, advertising, food, things in your closet or items in your makeup bag. It doesn’t take a lot of time and, yet, it can be a great springboard for additional probing questions.
    Asking respondents to look 5-10 years in the past and compare what was important then to now can show you their values, priorities and how their life stage impacts these things. This is great for studies where you need to understand your target audiences’ values more deeply.
    Bring a family recipe or secret ingredient for a food/dish you grew up with works especially well for groups or interviews about a food product, of course, although it’s also great for understanding cultural, usage and attitudinal differences within subgroups.
  • Throw a ball into the room and ask respondents to throw it to each other and ask the questions they want to know of each other when the ball lands in someone's hands.

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