How Taking Part in Qualitative Market Research Makes You See The World Differently

If you have ever taken part in a market research focus group or group discussion, it’s possible that you might have come out of the process unclear as to exactly what was achieved. When we talk to people about their experience of research participation, they nearly always report having had a fun and interesting time -but sometimes they wonder exactly what the people commissioning the research can have learned from their contributions, and how exactly they earned their cash incentive payment (typically £30 to £50 at current UK rates)

Of course sometimes the exercises used in research are very direct and obvious: If the research facilitator asks the group to compare two images and discuss what they like about each of them, which is most effective, which they prefer and why… as a research participant you will surely listen to the question and consider it, then try to respond to it as honestly and fully as possible.

That is fine, when this kind of considered response is required. But sometimes researchers need to go deeper. We relate to the brands around us in a wide range of ways, some of them consciously (‘I love Brand X, but Brand Y has gone down hill lately’), but other relationships are much more subtle. You might have sentimental feelings for brands from your childhood, or unconscious connections and memories suggested by a logo or piece of packaging. An advert or theme tune might really grate on you for reasons you have never thought about, and probably don’t really care about… but the people marketing that brand do care, and that is why they are paying for these focus groups!

So the researcher might ask you to do some things that seem a little bizarre at face value. We have seen participants asked to close their eyes and imagine what a brand of detergent would be like if it were a country – what kind of climate it might have, what governance, what the national dish might be. Sometimes people have said afterwards that they felt they gave a silly answer, because they had no idea what they were supposed to say… but that ‘top of head’ response can often tell the market researchers a great deal about the impressions their products are making, especially when they compare the responses from a range of different research participants.

Other researchers might get you to draw a picture of how an event made you feel, or imagine two different makes of car were people you met at a party – and then think about how they might introduce themselves and what they’d be wearing, and so on.

It’s all about getting you to think about the familiar in new and different ways, and it’s fascinating to observe or be a part of. We all make hundreds of tiny decisions every day, to buy that kind of shampoo or visit that website over there… each of our individual decisions might seem inconsequential, but when we’re talking about brands used all over the world these decisions scale up staggeringly. Market Researchers seeking to understand and learn from this behaviour have evolved intriguing tools to explore how our minds make these decisions, and being part of this is great fun.

Presentation Skills: Be More Productive Using a Facilitator Mode

There are many definitions for presentations. When you present there are also many different modes you can focus on. Are you a facilitator or an educator? The mode of facilitator is often misused in the corporate world and interchanged with words like trainer and educator. Facilitation is an exceptional skill, once you learn this skill you can boost your productivity and it can make you a better presenter.

A true facilitator is all about creating an environment where people feel safe and able to share their ideas freely. I believe the facilitator’s role is to act as a conduit. The first process a facilitator will undertake is to create operating agreements with their audience. It is the facilitator’s role to remove any blockages and conflicts within the group. They allow the thought processes of the group to be processed and expressed. They are responsible for establishing an environment that does that.

If this is a mode you are interested in developing yourself, the main proficiencies for this mode include:

Removing personal agenda – a facilitator’s role is to set the agenda with the group, not be running their own personal agenda. It is more powerful to seek to fill the agenda of the team and you will be more engaging to your audience.

Creating trust – this can be established in many ways for a presenter. It can occur before the presentation with communications circulated to the attendees, it can be built into the introduction for the facilitator and it can also be established when the agenda is set.

Respecting diversity – valuing each person’s input and recognising the variety of expertise and experience within the audience is the sign of a great facilitator.

Having active listening skills – one of the most important skill for any facilitator is the need to be able to listen and process what the audience is saying … and quickly. Listening intently will assist this.

A good facilitator may take several hours or days to create an environment where all the work may finally come together in the last hour. Don’t be fooled … some may think a facilitator comes into a presentation or meeting unprepared but that is not the case. An exceptional facilitator spends time preparing by taking a comprehensive brief from the client, researching the group/audience they will be working with and determining the questions that need to be asked to facilitate the best environment.

A quick note: Many organisations choose to bring in external facilitators to work with teams to achieve objectives. An external facilitator is neutral, doesn’t participate in office politics and is not influenced by the management hierarchy. If you team is grid locked or not co-operating, an external facilitator can be a great solution for you.

In a true facilitation style you may not even have the first question for your audience! Every discussion is a question i.e. does this feel right for you? Every facilitator should have an arsenal of great questions in their tool kit. Those questions include:

How is that working for you?

How do you feel about that?

I’m having trouble understanding that?

Does anyone want to add anything to that?

What’s that a part of?

If you knew the answer to that, what would it be?

In your experience, is that correct?

Does that ring true for you?

What do you need to get more out of this?

So what else is coming up?

If you had more time, what would the answer be?

If you knew the answer, what would it look like?

What is the biggest problem with the world?

What is the biggest issue with the world?

Facilitators are able to hold the space in tension to understand. They don’t try to fill the silence. They are able to capture conversations, check people’s understanding and expose all opinions. Learning questioning techniques will increase your mastery of this mode.

Here is a Facilitation checklist for you to help build your skills in this mode ask yourself the following questions:

Do you have an arsenal of questions?

Are you an active listener?

Can you “hold the space” in the tension?

Can you continually ask questions rather than try and find solutions to the discussions?

When you master this facilitation mode you will become a more powerful and engaging presenter. This skill can assist you when you have a tough audience, when you need to change the environment and when you are helping a client find a solution.

What Exactly Is a Facilitator and How Can They Help You?

If you are a business owner, you know how important communication is in being successful. If you are unable to effectively speak with your employees, the results can be disastrous for overall company productivity and performance. If you need help getting messages across more efficiently in monthly staff meetings or if you require a complete overhaul of your firms existing practices, professional assistance is available. There is a wealth of experts (independent contractors and large-scale corporations) that specialize in the niche of facilitation. Known simply as facilitators, these people are skilled in the art of corporate communication. They have a unique skill-set that can address and fix many common workplace issues, including dispute resolution, leadership enhancement, lack of member participation, action planning and strategy development.

What does a Facilitator do and Why do you need One?

The field of facilitation is so diverse that most professionals tend to specialize in a specific area, although many are qualified to teach and train clients across the board. No matter what industry you work in, the benefits of hiring a corporate facilitator are too great to pass up. In this economy, there is very little room for miscommunication errors; one wrong move and a project can be set back, resulting in lost profits and lost customers. Thus, when you hire a facilitator to reorganize your company’s practices, you are making a solid long-term investment. The great thing about facilitation methods is that they can easily be learned and applied by business owners and designated team-lead employees. There are many corporate facilitation firms that offer training seminars and hands-on sessions in this regard, so be sure to research your options. Here are just a few of the benefits that hiring a facilitator can bring to your firm!

The Benefits of Hiring a Facilitator

  • They can help find solutions to problems when you have run out of ideas
  • They can a fresh perspective and unbiased third-party insight into your company’s existing organizational methods
  • They can mobilize employees and make them want to participate; uninterested or unruly staff is a problem many business owners face, and it is not always easy to resolve these issues
  • A facilitator will help increase your bottom line; when productivity and profit are at stake, expert help is a must-have resource
  • Most facilitators offer training sessions or courses that can give owners and key employees the skills they need to employ effective facilitation methods long after the contractor is gone

Facilitators Maximize Discussion Productivity

Corporate retreats, often situated in exotic locales, can be a lot of fun for employees. Yet corporations should also make sure to maximize the benefits that are available when so many members of the organization are together in one place. Whether meeting to address a specific problem and brainstorm a solution, or simply to work on team building and group facilitation, a lot of good can come from a corporate gathering. Yet businesses should be careful. Having too many people together in one place, all with varying interests and views can sometimes hinder the flow of ideas. For a company to get the most out of the gathering, it should strongly consider bringing in an outsider to help with company discussions. Doing so will boost the productivity of any kind of meeting, as the professional hired will usually possess unique skills, experience and training that allow them to do more than someone within the organization could. So, what kinds of services can a facilitator provide?

Team Building Services

One great offering is team-building services, which target unseen issues related to the group’s dynamics. Using the three-level approach by Leadership Strategies, these professionals will work to uncover dysfunctional behavior and a lack of trust among employees. Additionally, they will be on the lookout for poor communication and an inability to address disagreements. These certified professionals will not only diagnose these issues but will also help to remedy them, by giving everyone a chance to speak and by mediating and resolving conflicts without allowing them to take over the event.

Strategic Planning

Events devoted to strategic planning will also benefit from the addition of an outside professional. These experts will do research prior to the event to diagnose the problem and gain a better understanding of each participant’s interests. During the event, they will make sure that each participant has the opportunity to speak so that a genuine consensus is reached. Then the discussion will shift to defining achievable objectives and writing down a detailed plan for how these objectives will be reached. Since this individual comes from outside of the company, they will bring no personal bias or interests to the table.

Conference Planning

These experts will not only be helpful during an event, but can also aid in conference planning. Their experience means that they have attended a number of these events in the past, and thus understand what elements allow these events to be successful. They will focus on balancing the amount of time devoted to discussions, guest speakers and audience engagement to make sure that everyone benefits from the event.

These are just some of the many meeting facilitation options that a company will have. For more information, executives should find a service that matches these professionals with interested companies. These types of services will typically offer many options for type of service, and can customize a solution based on pricing concerns or the level of experience desired.