In part one, I spoke about some of the exciting technology we use to document our focus groups. In this part, I'm going to speak about those things that are easy to forget, but can make or break a focus group.
Power Strips and Power Cables
If you're using a computer in the group, then a power strip and extension cord can come in handy, especially when conducting groups off the beaten path. Plus, if you need to run your GoPros from the plug-point, then you NEED an extension. GoPro power cables (USB C these days) are short - you can't run the GoPro to the power, you've got to run the power to the GoPro!
In addition to the above, always take a SPARE computer power cable. I left my cord at home once, and I nearly had a come apart. I was hundreds of miles from the office, and I needed to use the computer to show animatics all day...and my computer battery would not hold out. I don't advise running to the Apple Store at the last minute (it results in a somewhat flustered moderator). Instead, I recommend always keeping a spare power cable in the Bag, and only removing it when using it at the facility. Do not remove the cord from the Bag when you get back from the gig. Ever.
Although not technically a power cable, batteries and spare batteries are a must if you're running audio recorders like our Zoom H6. We use high-powered Ni-MH batteries - they last for a long time and they are rechargeable.
My essential power strips and cables:
- Apple 87W USB C charger, and 5 foot USB C cable (computer)
- 6 foot USB C cables and USB C adapters (GoPros)
- Panasonic Eyeloop batteries and charger (audio recorders)
These guys are my favorite "let's do an improvised exercise" tool. I use them for a few reasons.
- Writing down keywords helps me organize my thoughts and my follow-up questions.
- They encourage engagement. When you start writing things down in notecards, respondents receive a subtle cue that you are listening to everything they say, which peaks their engagement level. I like to pepper this exercise a couple of times per group.
- If the focus group location does not have a whiteboard or a flip chart (which is a common occurrence in hotels), the notecards save the day!
If you're out of notecards, Post-It's work just as well.
Dongles, HDMI cables & Storage
I've learned the hard way. Please don't rely on the facility or hotel to have audiovisual equipment that works the way you want.
If you're testing videos like animatics, for example, you should use your computer to run the show, and not rely on the facilities' technology. Sometimes facilities have old televisions, DVD players (does anyone even use those anymore?), and cables that don't work. Eliminate the risk by taking your own cables (HDMI), and have all of your video and audio content on your computer. This is great for the client, too, because if they have last-minute changes, they don't have to spend time transferring the content to a DVD. Oh, if everything else fails, at the very least, you can get respondents to huddle around your laptop.
Of course, your going to need a plethora of dongles for your computer to ensure everything connects to the mothership. MacBook Pros are rotten SOBs since they only have USB C connections, which isn't going to help when you need to connect to HDMI or a traditional USB port.
Finally, here's another thing I learned from the Moderator's School of Hard Knocks - always bring external storage. Audio recorders, GoPros, laptop camera recordings - they all use a ton of memory. So, you need to bring an external device to download all that data. I love the SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD - it's small, very lightweight, and has 2TB storage. Take it from me, if you're on the road doing a series of focus groups, you're going to run out of memory card storage quickly!
My dongles and cables of choice are:
- A few HDMI cables - they break frequently, including the facility's own cables. Be prepared (connecting laptops to TVs)
- USB C dongles (connecting HDMI and USB A/B to MacBook Pros)
- External storage - SSD/flash drive/hard drive (storing giant video files)
Do you have any favorite must-haves for moderating? Leave a comment, let us know!
Posted by EvolveKev
Kevin is all about research. Qualitative, quantitative, UX, you name it. When he's not researching, he's to be found laying down beats in his studio and hanging out with his dogs (and wife). Woof.