Are you facilitating a focus group? If so, you’ve probably got a lot on your mind – greeting participants, making sure everyone feels comfortable, covering all the key questions… It’s a lot to remember!

As I was learning to facilitate focus groups, I started taking notes of all the good advice I received from experienced facilitators. I turned that advice into a checklist for myself. I  review my checklist before every focus group (to keep the advice fresh on my mind) and after every focus group (as a self-evaluation). You could also use this checklist to assess colleagues who are learning to facilitate focus groups (i.e., use the checklist as a conversation starter when you’re debriefing together after the focus group).

Here’s my checklist for focus group facilitators. Did the facilitator:

  • Introduce him or herself?
  • Explain the purpose of the focus group?
  • Explain the rules for the discussion?
  • Address issues of confidentiality?
  • Use verbal and non-verbal expressions to make participants feel comfortable during the focus group?
  • Facilitate real interaction among group members (not just a series of individual interviews)?
  • Draw everyone into the discussion?
  • Demonstrate genuine interest in the discussion?
  • If asked for their personal opinion on a topic during the group, deflect requests by participants to give an opinion?
  • Maintain a good pace during the discussion (kept things moving but don’t rush questions)?
  • Ask questions in a neutral way (not in a leading way)?
  • Link comments to previous comments or themes?
  • Address comments or behaviors that could take the discussion off course?
  • Address disruptive and disrespectful behavior?
  • Ask participants for validation if rewording or summarizing comments?
  • Courteously but firmly stop a chatty participant?
  • Demonstrate sensitivity to emotional reactions of participants?
  • Display awareness and respect for cultural issues that emerge in the discussion?
  • Re-explain or re-phrase questions as needed?
  • Sincerely thank participants for contributing?

Do you have additional tips to add to the checklist? Which tips have been most valuable to you when facilitating a focus group?