Hello fellow evaluators,

My teammate and I are running a focus group in a couple weeks. The group will be large (about 17 people) and will be with working professionals (mid-20s through mid-40s).

We’d like to add a few interactive elements to this focus group so that people have a variety of ways to express themselves, move around, and have some fun.

Here are some ideas for interactive focus groups so far:

  • Build a collage (read more and watch video examples here)
  • Hold small group discussions
  • Vote with stickers, i.e. showing where they stand on issues by putting a colored sticker on a large sheet of paper
  • Start with a brief survey (read more here)
  • Start with a free-writing exercise “to help participants access relevant memory. Jumpstart a rich discussion by asking them to share what they wrote with one another.” (read more here)
  • Write down how they feel on index cards (read more here)
  • Roundtable Ranking, i.e. small groups rapidly brainstorm the strengths and weaknesses of the program on a single sheet of paper and rank-order (1, 2, 3) the strengths and weaknesses (read more here)
  • The Interview Design Process, a hybrid of a focus group and a speed dating session (read more here)
  • The Values Walk, in which people physically walk to different corners of the room to indicate whether they agree or disagree with your questions (read more ideas from Public Profit here)
    • This worked well as part of a community listening project in the youth center where I used to be an internal evaluator. Groups of 10-15 adults walked either to the far right of the room (agree) or far left (disagree), or anywhere in between on the spectrum. As the facilitator asked a series of questions, you got to watch the patterns in the group as well as each person’s individual variations in responses.
    • The only downside is that it’s very, very, very hard to take notes during this activity. Everyone’s walking around the room, and the notetaker is furiously typing on a laptop, trying to capture the physical movements as well as the conversation. Perhaps an audio recorder and camera would work better? I wish I had pictures of these Values Walks from the community listening projects.
  • Build a community map (read more ideas from Public Profit here)
    • This also worked really well in the youth center where I used to be an internal evaluator. The youth collected data about tobacco retailers in their community and mapped the data using density maps and little pins and flags. The data was part of their needs assessment, and then the next step was to develop messaging for an anti-tobacco campaign.

Please share your own ideas in the comments section below. Have you tried any of these techniques yourself? Did any of these go particularly well (or poorly)?

Thanks, Ann Emery