Generating Discussion in Bulletin Board Focus Groups

While it’s easy to get your participants to provide their initial response to each of your questions during a bulletin board focus group, it can be a challenge to get them to discuss the questions with each other.  Here’s why:

First, some participants simply don’t understand that they are expected to engage in a discussion with other respondents.  Rather, they think that their main task is to provide their initial response to each question, and that discussing responses with other respondents really isn’t very important.

Second, some participants think that providing their initial response is easy, whereas participating in a discussion is difficult.

Third, some participants may be very time-constrained when responding, and therefore skimp on the time they spend in discussion with other participants. 

And, finally, some simply may resist becoming engaged.

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to predict whether any of these challenges will emerge during any given board.  Therefore, you must proactively manage the board to prevent them from emerging.  Your strategy for doing this should be designed to achieve the following objectives:

(1)    to carefully manage participants’ expectations of what will be required of them;

(2)    to provide an incentive for engaging in quality discussion;

(3)    to vigilantly ensure that respondents aren’t overburdened with too many questions;

(4)    and to optimize the level of participant engagement.