Seven important habits of successful moderators for qualitative market research

Your guide to successful qualitative market research recruitment and moderation.

Moderation is an essential part of successful market research. Of course, to start things off you need to find the right participants for your initial qualitative market research recruitment. However, once you’ve found your respondents, it’s down to the moderator to bring out the best in them. Moderators peek into respondents’ minds and ask the right questions, at the right time, to generate the best possible results. Additionally, they are also responsible for the smooth running of research and will make sure everything happens as and when it should – so it’s easy to see why the role of the moderator is so important to market research! It takes a lot of skill and experience to be a good moderator, so read on to discover seven important habits of successful moderators.  

1. They will do their research 

A good moderator won’t rely on the client briefing alone. Instead, they will do their homework and make sure they are completely prepared. In order to successfully moderate research, they will need to know all the important information back to front and inside out. From thoroughly reading the discussion guide to reflecting on previous research in the same area, it all helps. Moderators also need to know and understand the objectives to ensure everyone stays focused on what’s important. What is the aim of the research? What do you need to find out from your respondents? How will their answers be used? All of this will impact how a moderator runs a session, so it’s essential that they are fully briefed and understand everything before the research begins.  

2. They will make sure the participants are prepared 

It’s not just the moderator who needs to be prepared though. Before the research begins, a good moderator will also make sure the participants are fully prepared and know exactly what to expect. By making sure the respondents know as much as possible from the qualitative market research recruitment stage right at the beginning of the project, they will be more comfortable and likely to open up. On the day of the research, the moderator should also go over basic housekeeping rules such as how long it will last as well as what will be included and why in order to help prevent any last-minute nerves. Not only will this ensure everything runs smoothly, but if participants know exactly what is expected of them and have the chance to ask any outstanding questions, they are likely to be more responsive. 

Moderation at the qualitative market research recruitment stage
Photo by Startup Stock Photos from Pexels

3. They will have a good icebreaker  

It’s always a good idea to kick things off with an icebreaker to warm everyone up and get things going. By starting the research session with something light and fun, moderators can help participants relax. Think of it as small talk at the beginning of a conversation and asking one or two light-hearted questions to start things off! This could be asking the participants what their favourite book or TV show is, asking them who they would invite to their dream dinner party, or asking them to tell the group something interesting about themselves. The more comfortable the respondents are, the better the insights – so a good icebreaker is an essential part of the moderator’s toolkit.

4. They’ll create a relaxed environment 

A good moderator will always create a warm atmosphere and make sure the respondents are comfortable, relaxed, and able to open up. Simple things such as considering everyone’s needs, personally greeting them and giving everyone a name badge make sure that all the participants are relaxed and feel as if their taking part really matters. Moderators should also watch their non-verbal cues and make sure they always appear engaged and interested. Basically, it’s about building a good rapport with participants so they will want to open up. Be clear, communicative, welcoming and friendly – and you really can’t go far wrong. After all, the more trust the participants have in the moderator, the more open they’ll be and the more likely they’ll be to speak their mind. 

5. They will ask the right questions  

Moderators are in the business of asking questions – but actually, the art of questioning is very delicate. Ask too many questions, not enough questions, or ask something at the wrong time and it could have a negative impact on the results. That’s why carefully phrasing questions to tease information out of the participants is one of the most important parts of moderation. A good moderator will typically start with more general questions and then get more specific as the session progresses – and they will always ask open-ended questions instead of yes/no questions. If in doubt, “how”, “why”, “where” and “what” are usually good phrases to start with. 

6. They will always stay neutral 

The number one rule of successful moderation is to always remain neutral. A moderator’s job is to be unbiased, guide the discussion and keep it focused – not dominate the discussion or ask leading questions. It’s a fine balance between giving enough positive reinforcement but not reacting to what the participants are saying. After all, if the respondents feel as if they are being judged, they’re unlikely to be open or honest. Likewise, if they sense the moderator has their own perspective, it might affect the way they answer. 

7. But they will always probe when necessary  

Everyone hates an awkward silence – and it’s human nature to try and fill it. Sometimes, in market research, participants might need a bit of extra encouragement to open up. A good moderator will understand and adapt to this, whilst making the respondents feel as comfortable as possible. Good probing questions include “tell me more about that…”; “what happened next?”, and “was there a reason for that?”. Also, a simple “why?” is also a great probe. A good moderator should never be afraid to seek clarification if needed. 

In conclusion, when it comes to generating high-quality results in qualitative fieldwork it’s not just about finding the right participants at the qualitative market research recruitment stage. Yes, recruiting the best possible people for research is essential, but good moderation will have a huge impact on the results, too. These seven habits of successful moderators are a great place to start, but for further advice and information don’t hesitate to contact Q2Q Global today.




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