Moderating in Moderation: Sometimes you have to go back to the basics


Market Research can often get monotonous and repetitive for moderators. Long hours of interviews, spanning over days and sometimes weeks gives opportunities for mistakes and mishaps. Sometimes you have to go back to the basics to produce consistent and high quality work. It is important to remember these 5 concepts when moderating for long periods of time.

  1. Preparation (Physical and Mental): It is usually pretty easy to prepare for your interviews by rereading discussion guides, creating pre-interview checklists, resetting stimuli etc etc. The hard part is to keep yourself mentally enthusiastic after many repetitive interviews. Mental fatigue can often lend itself to bad habits which disrupt your rhythm. During breaks, try to clear your mind and meditate for a couple of minutes and then go ahead and remind yourself of the research objectives.
  2. Relaxing the respondents: Depending on the research, some respondents can become emotionally inhibited, blocking good insights. Whether it be a nervous first respondent or a cocky respondent who has done multiple interviews in the past, it is important to make them feel comfortable in the interview. Be their friend but also their leader throughout the process and this aura of relaxation will lead respondents to answer truthfully and fruitfully.
  3. Laddering: This is a very common technique used to probe to the core of an insight. Often times respondents have more to say but need a little extra push to get them talking. During the long interview days, it is easy to get frustrated with respondents who are not providing reasons for their arguments. Go back to the basics and use laddering, eventually all respondents will get there.
  4. Avoid “Yes” or “No” Questions: “Yes” or “No” questions have their time and place. However, they can often be conducive towards creating bias. When you get tired in interviews, it is often very easy to slip back into the habit of asking “Yes” or “No” questions which can be detrimental to your research by creating unnecessary bias. Try and remind yourself to ask open ended questions that give the respondent time to think, answer and reason.
  5. Debrief: It is really important to have a brief discussion at the end of each interview if possible. Align on the insights discovered, discuss any amendments to the interview questions and talk about how to improve during each successive interview. Discovering patterns and finding new insights will keep the research fun and exciting.

It is very easy to slip into a rhythm when doing many interviews during research. Rhythm is often good but can sometimes exacerbate bad habits when fatigue kicks in. This is when we need to remind ourselves of the basics to produce the highest quality of research.

Patrick Brunell is a Director at Vivisum Partners. Patrick specializes in market research moderation and project management. Email Patrick at patrick.brunell@vivisumpartners.com