Running a conference call group discussion
Last night Claire and I ran two group discussions using Why Pay? We had set these up because they were a cheap option and a complement to an on-line forum that we were running, but given the current ‘lock-down’ situation facing us/ already on us I thought it might be worth sharing the experience and some dos and don’ts for people considering ways to keep research going. (It’s a vital public service, after all).
Get to know everyone beforehand…
We already knew something about our people before we started. We’d seen videos of them doing stuff, and that helped – it meant we could recognise their voices on the call. If you don’t know people before you do the group call, I’d suggest a briefing call to individuals would be useful.
Set up some rules about where they are/ what they are doing
The temptation is for people to do this group ‘where they are’… changing the baby’s nappy, walking back from the shops… it only really works if they are sitting down, in a quiet place, on their own, no distractions and somewhere where they know they have good phone signal. If people have landlines they should be encouraged to use these to dial in as you will get better quality outputs.
We had 5 participants and that felt like the maximum, partly because I felt the need to get an answer from everyone if I was asking for an opinion or experience everyone could comment on – this is obviously different from a face to face experience…
Allow more time
Related to that we had set up one hour sessions as I had thought this would be a mop up session asking a few questions, but needless to say, there’s always more everyone wants to know… so I’d allow more time than you think you might need…
Do a warm-up
We got people to log on to the service 15 mins beforehand to check out that their phones were OK, and to play around with the mute function (to help with noise) and to give stragglers a chance to turn up. That was a good call! We had clients listening in, but we asked them to join ‘on time’ and that was great.
We used whatsapp for client questions
Which worked for us, although strictly speaking you shouldn’t use whatsapp for commercial purposes. This was because I was doing a ‘free’ dial-in group – but if you set up alternative ways of doing a phone group then you might be able to host questions live…
Good but not great
I would also set clients’ expectations at – ‘this is useful but not going to deliver deep insight’. I would think carefully about what kinds of questions/ answers you are looking for. It worked really well for our ‘feedback on your experience’ and ‘any additional advice’ objectives…
Good luck with your phone groups – I’d do this again! Do give me a call if you’d like help with this/ want us to moderate you some phone groups!