This is a follow up post to our first blog about remembering the basics when moderating. I want to cover up on some exercises, tips and tricks that can help you extract all the best quality insights when moderating an interview. These are more focused on creating an environment in which a respondent fully understands what is going on within the interview and thus can answer questions, perform exercises, and sustain conversation in the most actionable way possible.

  1. Research discussion and objectives: The beginning of the interview is probably the most important. This is where you have the opportunity to excite the respondent and provide them a platform where they feel comfortable to have a discussion. They are many ways to do this and however, one that is extremely necessary is setting up the interview so the respondent understands what the research is about and what it is trying to accomplish. Not only should you tell them what the research is covering but also why they are interview people like themselves and where they can add value. There is always a certain point where you don’t want to keep information from the respondent, but setting up the interview with a relationship of understanding will help the respondent feel comfortable to have that conversation with the most insight.
  2. Setting up the hypothetical: There are many cases where we ask respondents to put themselves in a hypothetical situations and imagine themselves making a choice within those imaginary parameters. Being very detailed about the hypothetical situations can really help their minds switch gears from an interview to actually imagining themselves in a different state. For example, let’s say you are interviewing a doctor and you ask him to think of a time when he was treating a patient on a busy day. Don’t just stop there. Describe how the office would be extremely busy –  there would be other patients impatiently waiting, people coming in and out of the office, overdue paperwork on your desk, potential emergencies … etc etc. Sometimes being overly descriptive really helps ground respondents’ minds into the actual situation.
  3. Setting up the exercise: This tip is a little more practical but sometimes hard to accomplish as all respondents are different and respond differently to how you moderate. In almost every interview, you will have exercises for the respondents to accomplish that will be attached to a specific learning objective in the research. The exercises are often very important to the research, and it is vital that the respondent correctly understands how to perform the exercise. Typically, when you have multiple interviews in a day/week, your setup can become automatic and monotonous. It is very important to be consistent, but it is more important that each respondent understands what the exercise entails, even if it is a task as simple as choosing color A or color B. Don’t forget to focus on the respondent as well as the research objectives and exercises.
  4. Lead the way: Always make sure to be the director, the bull in the room, the person who leads the conversation. If respondents are highly qualified in their fields, they can often take tangents that aren’t important to the research, but that they feel they need to say. You shouldn’t interrupt the respondent per se, but you should steer the conversation while being direct and succinct. As soon as respondents start to dictate the interview, it becomes very easy to get off topic.
  5. Clear up confusion: During interviews there will be times where you recognize that the respondent is very clearly confused. This will happen often and will manifest itself in many different ways. Sometimes the respondents will try to rush through the interview, sometimes they will just give you answers they think you want to hear, and sometimes they will be nervous and not give good insights. Once you see and identify confusion, it is important to clear it up so it doesn’t distract from the rest of the interview. Always be open to taking a moment to explain exercises, objectives, and instructions even if it takes time out of the interview.

Photo courtesy of Frederik Magle Music on Flickr Creative Commons

Patrick Brunell is an Associate Consultant at Vivisum Partners.

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