Monthly Archives: September 2012

Secrets of a Master Moderator by Naomi R. Henderson

Secrets of a Master Moderator

by Naomi R. Henderson

This book spans nearly 30 years of Naomi’s experiences as a moderator and a trainer of qualitative researchers. It covers a full range of QRE’s [Qualitative Research Events] from IDIs to extended groups.

There are tools, tips, and techniques for moderators who run the gamut from novice to seasoned and it grapples with knotty questions and concerns that affect those working in market research environments.

The book is organized in three parts – each with multiple sections; the reader can read them in order or randomly, as each article stands alone.


  • Section I: Qualitative Research Factors
  • Section II: The Role of a Moderator
  • Section III: Demystifying Focus Groups


  • Section I: Working Effectively with Respondents
  • Section II: Toolbox: “Power Tools”
  • Section III: Analyzing Qualitative Data & Reporting Results
  • Section IV: The Client’s Role


  • New is Not Always Better
  • Maxims for Moderators
  • Never Too Late to Learn A Good Lesson

The book is not intended to be a training manual. Rather it is a compilation of insights, wisdom, and lessons hard learned over more than three decades. Naomi does not profess to have “the answer” or “the way” when it comes to planning, conducting, or evaluating qualitative research. What she does have are her experiences and she has written about what she found to be of value, based on work in the industry since 1978. By writing this book, Naomi is happy to pass that value on.

If you would like to send comments and/or questions to the author Naomi Henderson you can email her at

To order your copy go to:

Paperback Price 
$30.00 US, plus $7.00 shipping fee per book for US residence $35.00 Canada, international shipping fees apply

Hardback Price
$55.00 US, plus $7.00 shipping fee per book for US residence $60.00 Canada, international shipping fees apply.



Lesson 5 –   Laugh early – it will all be funny later

Of all the lessons learned over the years, this one has been an uphill battle from the beginning.  It has not been an easy journey to learn how not to take myself so seriously, as I navigate in the murky waters of client and respondent comments and behaviors in focus group settings.

In his book, The Four Agreements, author Don Miguel Ruiz states that there are four agreements that govern a happy life:

  1. Be impeccable with your word
  2. Don’t take anything personally
  3. Don’t make assumptions
  4. Always do your best

As a business owner, sister, daughter, wife, and friend; I have struggled with all four agreements through many stages of my life.  Now, well past the half-way point on my allotted lifeline, I’ve learned the value of agreements 1, 3, and 4 and most of the time can honor those agreements in whichever character role I’m in.  The one that can still challenge me is # 2: Don’t take anything personally.

Moderating can be taxing.  It takes a lot to manage group dynamics in short timeframes while getting clients the insights they need from respondents.  It is also taxing because all of it takes place in a “fishbowl atmosphere.” Often respondents will be engaged in the focus group for sometimes two hours straight – placing the moderator in the role of leader/ teacher. The clients who are observing the group through the one-way mirror sometimes second guess what the moderator is doing.  Some of them will say, “I could do a better job of asking these questions than the moderator” or “This is easy, I could do this.” All the while the moderator is looking inward, making course corrections every 30 seconds, and answering internal questions such as: “Do I have enough to write up this section for the report?” and “Should I move on now because there isn’t much in the answers I’m getting?”

  • This process is intense and often, with that level of intensity, comes a component of seriousness. Often when a client doesn’t feel that the questions on the guide will get them the information they wanted, it can feel personal. It is hard to find the humor anywhere in that much intensity.
  • When the group is over and the client says:  “You should have probed more on that concept,” – it can feel personal – especially when you think you could have done so as well.
  • When a respondent says, “How much longer is this session?” because they are bored with the iterative process of a deeper discussion, it can feel personal and can lead to judging yourself for not keeping them “interested.”

Sometimes if you simply take a step back and examine each of the above examples and laugh first instead of judging yourself, you will see, that in fact, it is not personal.

In the first example: The client and moderator may have spent the early conference planning calls going over the many details of the study purpose and what needs to be covered.  There are times where miscommunication and lack of clarity can occur resulting in the moderator drafting a guide that doesn’t cover all of what the client needs. The clients “dislike” of the guide therefore isn’t personal, it simply means there was a lack of clarity on both ends and that the moderator needs to do what they do best; probe the client a bit more too really find out what is needed.

In the second example: It is the job of the moderator to get the information needed during the focus group and there may be times that the client feels like they did not get all the information they needed based on the questions asked and depth of probing. If you feel you probed all that you could and to the best of your ability, then just say to yourself: “Oh well, the client and I see this differently,” and I know that it is not personal.” If you agree with the client that you didn’t probe as much as you could have, it still isn’t personal. Good time to use the Dali Lama’s mantra:  “It is what it is.”

In the third example: It is not the moderator’s job to “make respondents happy,” but to collect key data so clients can hear perceptions, opinions, beliefs and attitudes from this population.

My Advice

Learn to truly understand everyone has their own opinions and beliefs and when they are expressed it is not a personal attack on you or your abilities.

If you are able to laugh in the moment of the insight – make sure you are not the only one laughing aloud, and if you are, hide that smile behind a hand or a cough cherishing the inner wisdom you have found.




What Every Researcher Should Know About

Friday, September 21st

QRCA DC Chapter Logo

Date:          Friday, September 21st 

Time:         11:30am to 2pm (includes lunch)

Cost:          $25~QRCA Members  $35~Non-Members

Place:         RIVA Market Research  

                  1700 Rockville Pike, Suite 260 Rockville, MD 20852


RSVP:         Barbara Gassaway, 410-332-0400 

About the presenter:Cory Lebson, Principal of Lebsontech LLCC, is a qualitative user-experience consultant in practice for the past 18 years.  Cory is the president of the User Experience Professionals Association (UXPA) DC chapter and on the Board of Directors of UXPA International as the Director of Strategic Partnerships.  Cory enjoys sharing his skills and expertise and regularly teaches on topics related to user experience and technology.   He conducts monthly seminars, is a frequent speaker at national conferences, and can be heard a featured guest on many radio programs.Learnmore about Cory on Twitter @corylebson and via LinkedIn at

We look forward to seeing you there! 

Barbara Gassaway

QRCA DC Metro Chair

RIVA Webinar Topic: “Topline Reports – How to Speed up the Writing Process”

This session we will be discussing the following related to “Topline Reports –“How to Speed up the Writing Process” October 19, 2012 from 12-1:30 EST.

Most clients/observers think that the moderator is “actively listening” to each and every moment of a qualitative interview. In reality, the moderator is listening at about the 60% mark with the other 40% of his/her attention devoted to an internal conversation along these lines:

a. “Am I getting the data my client needs?”
b. “Do I have enough on this topic area to write insights for a report?”
c. “Given what I’ve heard so far — what should my next question be?”
d. “How am I going to take everything I’ve heard on this topic and reduce it to a few pages in a topline report for my client.”

This webinar will provide participants with some tools, tips and techniques to use while moderating to capture key points needed for a topline report and how to use the post QRE client debriefing session as the lynchpin for writing that report.

**Webinar registrations are non-refundable and non-transferable

To register email Registration closes at 12pm EST on the Thursday prior to the webinar date. 

INTRODUCING RIVA 205 “Advanced Moderating: Youth and Teen Qualitative Sessions”

RIVA is excited to announce a new course related to moderating with Youth and Teens. This is a 2-day hands-on course for the experienced moderator who wants to add kids and teens to their practice; this new course will help expose new tools to develop for this younger population.

Course Prerequisites: Moderators who have taken RIVA 201, 202, or 303; or have received the approval of RIVA’s Training Director, Amber Tedesco. It is expected that participants in this class have been moderators for a period of time and want to upgrade their skills to better work with youth and teens in qualitative sessions.

In addition to the intensive 2 Day course in Rockville, students will also participate in a bulletin board process online about a week before the class, and also, in a 90-minute webinar. These pre-class sessions will allow some basics to be covered so that time in class can be specifically tailored to class needs.

The class will build on the core strength of a trainer with a long history of working with this population and she will bring not only her experience but her expertise in setting up and managing projects for youth and teens. . By participating in RIVA 205, one will gain an understanding of how to interview youth and teens in individual and small group settings, troubleshoot problems and acquire a strong set of insights from children and teenagers by using age-appropriate expectations, proper recruiting methods, and child-friendly exercises.

Unlike other RIVA classes, the in-person portion of this class will take place on a Friday and Saturday to ensure recruiting of youth and teens as mock respondents. This class is limited to 4 students and registration is on a first come/first serve basis.

RIVA will be offering a RIVA 205 Pilot training from November 30th-December 1st. As this is a Pilot class, we will be offering a $500 discount on the public course rate. The standard course fee is $3,895 and the fee for the pilot will be $3,395. 

For more information or to register, please contact Amber Tedesco, Director, at 301-770-6456×101 or via email