A focus group moderator plays an important role in focus group discussions. To perform the role of moderator successfully, you should have specific personality traits, academic degrees and professional training. According to Thomas L. GreenBaum in “Moderating Focus Groups: A Practical Guide for Group Facilitation,” a focus group moderator has these five characteristics:
1. Organization skills – The moderator ought to be well-organized. He must stay on top of a lot of things, including planning, execution and report writing. Organization skills help the moderator in preparing a thorough report without leaving important points out.
2. Interpersonal skills – A good focus group moderator is a master of verbal and nonverbal techniques. Nonverbal techniques include looking at participants when they are responding to questions, listening and empathizing. He will facilitate an open and honest discussion. An experienced moderator makes the respondents feel comfortable sharing their thoughts without any hesitation and will tweak his style to match the personalities of the group members.
3. Neutrality – An effective moderator doesn’t show bias for or against the issue being discussed. He maintains neutrality at all times, is nonjudgmental and always be warm and courteous.
4. A quick learner – A good focus group moderator has complete understanding of the subject being discussed. This helps him to steer the discussion in the right direction, ask the right questions at the right time and evaluate the comments made in the right perspective. As moderators are exposed to a wide array of issues and different types of respondents, they should be able to quickly learn the topics. Furthermore, they should learn to identify important points in a discussion and focus on these focus areas.
5. Good report-writing skills – At the end of each discussion, a good moderator provides complete analysis and insightful interpretation of what was discussed. He presents a report containing questions asked, comments made by the respondents, analysis and conclusions.
In addition, a focus group moderator should have good time management skills, too.