5 Ways Focus Group Moderators Can Improve Transcripts

5 Ways Focus Group Moderators Can Improve Transcripts

A focus group moderator’s job is not easy, but neither is a transcriptionist’s. It can be very difficult to capture everything that is said in a long discussion with as many as a dozen people speaking. But, working together, here are some tips for moderators on how to help make their focus group transcripts as high quality as they can be.

1. Identify Group Participants

Many focus groups are built around a theme. For example, a company could want a focus group on breastfeeding, which means the participants would likely be women within a certain age range. Unfortunately that also means that it’s possible many of the group participants will have similar-sounding voices, and that can make speaker identification problematic.

A focus group moderator can help the transcriptionist be more accurate in their identification by simply using participants’ first names frequently. A “Thank you, [Participant],” or “[Participant], what do you think?” is all that’s necessary. And even if a moderator doesn’t identify a participant after every response, doing so frequently at least gives the transcriptionist lengths of audio they can use to compare non-identified portions with, which is incredibly helpful.

2. Test Background Noise

Before a group arrives, record a minute of audio in the room the group will take place in (and speaking while sitting in the seat farthest from the recorder is also advised). When you play it back, notice if there are any background noises that could be hindering the audio. There are sounds that may be quiet in person but loud on the recording, such as a running air conditioner or hallway chatter. A quick test run will help you figure out where best to position the recorder, or give you time to figure out if there is a way to lessen any background noise.

3. Cut Out Crosstalk

The whole point of a focus group is to get a discussion going, and moderators never want to discourage participants from speaking their honest thoughts. That said, sometimes a moderator has to take charge and stop side conversations or multiple people speaking at once in order to keep the audio intelligible.

But moderators can fall victim to crosstalk as well. It’s natural during a conversation to use filler words (“Okay,” “Mm-hmm,” “Yeah”) when a participant is speaking to let them know you’re listening. Instead, it’s best to nod if it’s possible so that nothing blocks out the respondent’s speech.


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4. Bring a Back-Up Recorder

There is not much worse than moderating a great focus group and then checking the recorder only to find it didn’t record or that the audio is damaged. That’s why we always recommend using at least two recorders in every group. Even if your facility offers to record your group, also use a second device (such as a free recording app on your phone) as well to ensure you have a back-up. Better safe than sorry!

5. Summarize Quiet Answers

Unfortunately some moderators learn the hard way that no matter what you do, some participants are just quiet or difficult to understand when the recording is played back. It’s a big help to a transcriptionist if the moderator quickly sums up what the hard-to-hear participant has just said. The moderator can do this by framing what has just been said as a question to the group. Example: “So, [Participant] thinks [Summarize Participant’s Answer]. What do you think?” It also gives participants something directly to respond to.

We’re all here to help the end client get everything from a focus group that they can, which means we’re partners in this. So talk to your project manager. Give them a template, if you have one that you prefer. Don’t be shy about asking for changes. Just as a moderator needs honest feedback from group participants, so too does a transcription partner need to know any changes that need to be made to ensure the highest quality possible.

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    Atomic Scribe

    Atomic Scribe provides high-quality language services for all markets and sectors. Human-powered. Professional. Personal.

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