Creating a Focus Group


Not so much a specific technique, but I am hoping to set up a focus group to help guide the development of a SaaS product.

The idea is to have a panel of 4-6 industry specific experts who can use our product and essentially provide detailed feedback.

Does any one have experience of creating or steering a group like this?

[SIZE=10px]I realise this is very vague, and I have a lot more specific questions, but was hoping to hear some ‘war stories’ from people who’ve done similar things.[/SIZE]




Hi Ben,

I haven’t run one myself, but I have been part of them, and have also been a helper.

Some things I would suggest:

  • Keep the sessions fun, there is a wonderful book called “Game Storming” that has some really good ice breakers
  • Having more than one group, as generally you try and have a larger number for ideation or even just feedback
  • See if you can get a wide range of people that cover different ethnicity, gender, roles within your industry so that you have multiple voices
  • Try not to get managers in the same group as the people they manage (have seen this and it can shut down ideas pretty quick as people are more nervous)
  • You need to manage the different personalities within the group as some may be quiet and others quite outspoken, you need to draw all of them into the discussion and make sure that everyone’s ideas and feedback are heard


+1 to all of Natalie’s feedback. That’s great advice. =)

Given the participants are all experts, you’ll probably want to be very clear in your expectations for the purpose of the discussions. If the GameStorming book works for what you’re after, it will be excellent in framing the activities. In addition to being a very helpful book, the authors are lovely people. Here’s the blog (moderated by Dave Gray) that goes with the book:

Having more than one group lets you split people into different groups if they work at the same company, A/B test the stimulus material you give the groups, get more/varied feedback, and also swap the feedback from each group to the other to build on it. If it was all just one big group, some of the details wouldn’t have a chance to surface. A balance between:
o Being somewhat homogeneous - if people have similar opinions/experience/perspective, they feel less judged and are more able to open up and share
o Being somewhat diverse - if people are too similar then you’re not going to get enough breadth of discussion

Expert panels also do better as smaller groups, so if you did get 6 or 7 participants, you could have two groups of 3 or 4. Too many cooks spoil the broth. =)

Record all the audio for later, and have a go with recording the discussion visually on a whiteboard as you go too, so participants have stuff to refer back to as they talk.

And yep, managing dynamics of the group is pretty key! To make sure the more cautious or less vocal members are not only able to participate, but also are given space to contribute.

For expert panels, the only other thing I’d add is to make sure you stay focussed on information generation, not problem solving (which is easy to devolve into when you get a group of experts in a room and they get a whiff of the problem space you’re working on).


Thats really useful advice - thanks both.

I really like the idea of A/B testing the material, and using feedback from one group to seed conversations in another.

My participants are likely to be quite diverse, both geographically across the UK and globally, and in terms of business type - convenience stores to high end restaurants.

I’ll take a look at gamestorming, and try to come back to this thread as I make progress.