Comfortable, accessible, safe spaces are required to conduct focus groups. Focus group organizers should consider the physical or digital environment for their focus group and check for barriers to participation including time the focus group is scheduled, technology required (web conferencing) to join the discussion, costs or other hindrances to physical meeting spaces (transportation, parking, wayfinding), and other signs or signals in the environment that send welcoming or unwelcoming messages. Appropriate seating should be available with good sight lines, etc. Focus groups often include refreshments (e.g. water, pizza, snacks) to put participants at ease and facilitate connections. Appropriate materials for refreshments as well as clearly marked restrooms should be provided.
Focus group participants should be instructed about any materials that the organizers might wish them to bring (e.g. screen shots, products of their work, writing utensils).
Focus group moderators need their scripts, questions, and any “props” necessary for leading the discussion. Prompts might include images or other materials for participants to focus on or react to (e.g. screen shots, card sorts).
Focus group notetakers may need video or audio recording equipment, technology (e.g., laptop, phone, tablet) or notepaper to record notes and impressions. In some cases, pre-prepared notes might be used (e.g. a checklist of common responses with space for new ideas or suggestions). Structured, fill-in responses for notes can speed up notetaking; however, notetakers should take care that prepared notetaking tools allow for departures from the expected and do not prematurely “route” participant feedback into expected channels or categories.
If video or audio recordings are made; you may wish to transcribe the conversation. Transcription is time-consuming and can be costly and is not always necessary for augmenting notes taken during a focus group. No tools are required to conduct focus groups. Focus groups can be conducted face-to-face or by video conference. Should you wish to code transcribed conversations, specialized software such as NVivo and MAXQDA are options; likewise transcriptions can be coded using colored highlighters on a printed or digital version of the transcript, and a spreadsheet. Specialized software can be pricey and can have a high barrier to entry for use.