Marrying Focus Groups and Zoom: Tips, Ideas, and Ruminations on Research

Back in the day, when I was watching focus groups from behind the mirror, and not moderating, the biggest innovation in focus groupery was the introduction of a pretzel bowl next to the bowl of M&Ms. This led to the delicious innovation of placing two M&Ms on a small pretzel--I believe it as the forerunner of the chocolate dipped pretzel.

Actual video from a recent focus group.  Just kidding. This is just a photo of birds taking part in a really small outdoor focus group, courtesy of Srivatsa Sreenivasarao on Unsplash

Facilities have made some steps forward with technology and other ways over the years, but for the most part I feel many facilities are still stuck in the ‘80s. And one place they have failed to make much progress is the quality of the video recording. It never fails that the video is blurry, dark and fails to capture the participant making their insightful comment in a way that makes a compelling case embedded in a report.

Here's a screenshot from a recent focus group from the facility video.

A couple years ago I stumbled on a better way to record the video--one that has some added side benefits and is pretty low cost. Meet the iPad and Zoom. (A phone and Zoom works too.)

Placing my iPad in a corner of the room where it captures everyone participating and starting a Zoom video meeting captures the video at a much higher quality than the typical facility camera, as well as up closer than the stationary camera.

Here is a screenshot from the Zoom video from the iPad from the same focus group. Note the crisper picture and how much closer it is.

I have tried also just holding the iPad and being the cameraman, but the resulting video is tough to watch without taking motion sickness medication.

The added benefit? Observers have the option of being there behind the mirror, or simply logging into the Zoom meeting and watching remotely. Yes, there are products designed for this, but Zoom costs significantly less while delivering the equivalent benefit.

Just another idea to make your research better.