Researchers’ Voice: Dual Moderation – Twice as Good!

The FocusVision Researchers’ Voice blog series highlights first-person stories from researchers from around the globe. Each account offers unique perspectives on collecting insights across disparate environments.

Dual Moderation is More than Twice as Good!

By Janet Standen

Quick question: Which is more important – the front room moderator (FRM), working with the participants, or the backroom moderator (BRM), working with the stakeholders? Answer: Both! These professionals are equally vital to a successful project, particularly when time is of the essence.

When running a synchronous project, whether via webcams on an online platform, or in-person in a facility, don’t miss the opportunity for a double-header. It doesn’t matter whether there’s just one interviewee or multiple groups – the dual moderator approach provides significant added value.

What Does the BRM Actually Do?

We are all familiar with the role of the FRM but the BRM can have multiple roles depending on the nature of the project.

Primarily, the BRM allows the FRM to focus solely on doing a great job with respondents. The BRM handles everything else. Below are a few examples of what the BRM can do to make the value of research “twice as good.”

1. Meet and Greet Respondents

This is a chance to check that everyone seems “suitable” for the project. The BRM can help participants relax through friendly and informal conversation. They can also brief participants on a small warm-up task, which they can share as part of their focus group introductions. Critically, the BRM allows the FRM to focus on their task of moderating the interview or group. And, when the FRM says “my colleague” is behind the mirror, or listening in, that colleague has a face.

2. Brief the Stakeholders

During those critical few minutes before each first session starts, the BRM can brief the stakeholders, go over the discussion guide and explain the importance of the interactive debrief at the end of the sessions. The BRM can also gather key points of input to learning throughout the sessions.

The BRM should make suggestions on what the stakeholders should listen and watch for – facial expressions, body language, etc. They can also assign roles – for instance, each stakeholder can focus on a different participant, or look out for key quotes, “positives,” “negatives,” or “new ideas” from across the respondents.

3. Be the Conduit for Further Probes to the FRM

The BRM can invite stakeholders to suggest additional probes or questions, either to be fed to the FRM during the current session or to be added to future sessions. This is more efficient than everyone talking to the FRM at once when they pop behind the mirror between sessions, or multiple people typing messages to the moderator via chat.

4. Iterate Stimuli

If something truly isn’t working in a written concept, or a new idea is sparked during the sessions, the BRM can step in. They can help evolve written concepts, add new thoughts or make suggestions to change up the presentation of stimuli. These real-time adjustments can make a long day of focus groups much more efficient.

5. Capture Key Learnings in Real Time

This ensures that interactive debrief discussions reflect learning from across all sessions and respondents – not just the participants with the strongest opinion, the funniest delivery or those whose views come closest to the stakeholders’. The BRM can have stakeholders write key points on post-its, which can be collected during the course of the day. The BRM can also capture key learning points directly onto flip charts or in Google Sheets. The latter ensures a shareable format for all to see and add to between sessions.

The BRM can also facilitate mini-breaks between sessions to make sure everyone has a chance to add any key points and insights. When doing so, it is best to prepare learning category headings in advance; headings can always be evolved during the course of the day.

6. Lead the Interactive Debrief at the end of the Sessions

Let the FRM be a participant in the debrief “focus group.” Even if everyone has been listening intently, only the FRM has experienced key nuances or asides, and they can represent all participants. The back room “learning wall” of flipcharts, or Google Sheets, will provide valuable references to keep everyone “honest” about what participants really thought and said. Merging the FRM perspective and “learning wall” data with the stakeholders’ expertise ensures an important reality check during insights gathering. It also ensures that the stakeholders fully grasp each other’s perspectives and that everyone is on the same page by the end of the debrief.

7. Capture Key Discussion Points for Reporting Purposes

The key points of discussion and agreement that come about during the interactive debrief(s) will become the foundation for the Topline Report, Executive Summary, and Full Report. The Topline can be turned around by the end of the next day so that everyone has the same information. This helps to avoid the proliferation of personal perspectives, which can derail the research.

8. Collaborate on the Report

Two brains are always better than one. The FRM and BRM can work together to create the most comprehensive and sound output, highlighting key insights, decisions, and recommendations.

In closing, the dual moderation approach ensures that nothing is left to chance. It consists of two experienced research professionals tag-teaming to guarantee that everything runs without a hitch, and the best insights come forth. Double-up on your next research project!

About the Author

Janet Standen is Co-Founder of Scoot Insights, a fast turnaround qualitative research company specializing in accelerated approaches. Her background in Strategic Marketing and Innovation, both in Europe and in the US before turning to qualitative research full time ensures a learning that is focused on helping clients make better business decisions, faster!

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