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Group Interview vs Focus Group Interview

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Have you ever found yourself in a position where you need the opinion of a group? I know I have. After all, I try my best to develop Stan’s Gigs into a website that will appeal to as many people as possible.

While it’s true that I also have a particular target demographic in mind, I still make an effort to consider other crowds, especially when I’m planning the type of content that I want to put out.

The Tribe Has Spoken

Fortunately for those of you who constantly need the acceptance of “our tribe”, you can employ several methods to help you gain their insight. In fact, I’ll talk about two of these techniques today.

I’ll explore the differences between a group interview vs focus group interview. I’ll also share with you their pros and cons and give you tips on how to conduct either of them with more finesse.

What Is a Group Interview?

Let’s begin by defining what a group interview is. In essence, it is a research method that is almost similar to an interview. The only difference is the number of interviewees.

For further clarity, an interview is a planned conversation between two parties: an interviewer and an interviewee, or in this case, a group of interviewees. An interviewer’s role is to ask questions that can help shed light on a particular topic or accomplish a certain goal. Meanwhile, interviewees are expected to respond to these questions as best as they can.

The biggest strength of conducting a group interview is its directness. You ask a question, and you get answers. That’s it!

However, it is here where its weakness lies as well. You can expect the answers to be pretty limited in scope since your interviewees will only rely on your questions as their main point of reference.

Aside from that, group interviews limit conversation between the interviewees, a process that prevents participants from expounding their answers. Don’t worry, though. There are a lot of ways to improve the efficiency of your group interviews.

Here are some of them:

  • Give Everyone Their Chance To Shine

It is typical for people to feel compelled to impress others. As such, it is not uncommon for group interviews to have “that guy”. You know, the one who wants to outmatch the other participants? Yep. That one.

As the interviewer, it’s your goal to regain control of the conversation and allow everyone’s voice to get heard. Be aware that those actively trying to go out of their way to please you may not be providing such accurate answers anyway.

  • Make an Effort To Show Your Interviewees You’re Actually Listening

It’s easy to say “uh-huh” in every other sentence. That said, it’s an entirely different thing to summarize an interviewee’s main points and put them into your own words. Doing so will make your interviewees know that you listened to what they were saying.

  • Address People by Their Names

It’s challenging to keep track of people’s voices when you’re recording a focus group discussion, especially if multiple people talk at the same time.

Group interviews don’t pose the same challenge, though. Hence, remember to address people by their names whenever possible.

Doing so will show that you care and make transcription easier later on. You’re welcome!

Pros:

  • More direct
  • Easier to conduct 
  • More convenient to transcribe and analyze

Cons:

  • Ideas can be quite limited
  • Restricts conversation among participants

What Is a Focus Group Interview?

A focus group interview, also known as a focus group discussion or FGD, is a research method that also involves a conversation between a group of people and a person leading the session.

Instead of interviewees, though, the people involved in an FGD are referred to as participants. Meanwhile, the facilitator replaces the interviewer as the leader of the conversation.

They don’t just differ in name, though. There are distinct contrasts in their roles and responsibilities.

Participants are not just expected to answer questions. Instead, they are required to actively take part in the conversation and other focus group activities. Sometimes, this even involves asking their own questions to other participants if it would help them refine their opinion.

On the other hand, a facilitator is not just a person in charge of asking all the questions. Their responsibility is to make sure the conversation stays on track, even if that means allowing the participants to explore the topic further on their own.

I find focus group discussions to be more colorful and complex than group interviews.

No wonder researchers find them more challenging to conduct. Don’t worry, I’ve got you. Here are some of my tried-and-tested tips on how to facilitate focus group discussions like a pro:

  • Make Your Objectives Clear

It is easier for a facilitator to lose their way in an FGD as opposed to an interviewer in a group interview. As mentioned, focus group discussions are not as clear-cut. Conversations can easily branch out to other topics and ideas if a facilitator’s not careful.

Thus, it will significantly help to have very specific objectives written on a piece of paper that you can easily refer to at any time during the session.

  • Recruit the Right People

Make sure that your participants are ideal representatives of your target demographic. Letting them answer a survey beforehand will surely help you determine whether they’re a good fit for your objectives or not.

I also recommend employing the services of an actual recruiter. Doing so will potentially increase the quality of your participants and decrease the number of no-shows.

  • Make It Worth Everyone’s While

Here’s another tip that will significantly decrease the number of no-shows: make your FGDs worth your participant’s precious time.

You don’t always have to pay in cash, though this method is highly preferred. You can consider other perks, such as free tickets, discount coupons, and gift cards as viable alternatives.

Pros:

  • Provides more diverse ideas
  • People enjoy participating in FGDs more

Con:

  • More challenging to manage

Group Interview vs Focus Group Interview: Which Is Better?

We now have a better understanding of what group interviews and focus group interviews are. The question is, which one do you need?

Here are some of the factors that you can consider to determine which of the two is better suited for your needs and preferences.

The Type of Information

The first thing to consider is the type of information that you need. Would you rather get facts, or do you need other people’s opinions?

Group interviews are better for fact-gathering. On the other hand, focus group discussions are great in exploring what people think about a particular topic.

Your Goals

There’s a reason a group interview gets typically conducted for hiring purposes. It gets things done without a lot of drama. However, I acknowledge that there are times when some freedom and creativity are needed.

For instance, suppose you are planning to launch a new startup. You might want to conduct a group interview to get to know potential investors better. However, you will probably find focus group discussions more beneficial when you’re trying to develop or improve a product or service.

Logistics

How many people are you expecting to participate in your research? A focus group’s ideal size ranges from just five to eight people. Any group larger than that would push the limits of your facilitator.

I’m not saying that conducting group interviews involving a dozen people would be a walk in the park because it won’t. It will still prove to be more manageable compared to holding focus group sessions of the same size instead.

Other Factors To Consider

As for other factors such as cost and logistics, group interviews and focus group discussion are almost the same.

For instance, unless you’re holding a group interview for hiring purposes, you will still need to compensate your interviewees for their time. The same goes for focus group participants.

Both will require the same venue size and amount of refreshments.

Finally, both group interviews and focus group interviews can be a nightmare to schedule. Everyone always has something important scheduled when another one is free.

Want to make this logistical nightmare easier? Don’t just recruit participants. Hire a staff to handle your group interview and focus group sessions.

More importantly, hire a skilled recruiter and scheduler who can deal with these inconveniences for you.

This investment will go a long way in increasing the quality of data you’ll be able to collect.

Final Thoughts

In the end, it’s not an overgeneralization to say that the only major similarity between group interviews and focus group interviews is the word “group”. They both involve several people participating in a conversation for research purposes. Thus, they both require the same venue size, amount of refreshments, and compensation.

Aside from that, everything is different between a group interview vs focus group interview. Their procedures, objectives, even the type of information they gather are different.

I just hope that my quick guide was enough to point out these significant nuances that will help you in determining which research method to wield to achieve your needs and goals. Good luck!Group Interview vs Focus Group Interview

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