Monthly Archives: February 2014

The Power of an Emotional Handshake

By Naomi Henderson

If a business professional goes to a meeting, the first thing they do on entering the meeting is to shake hands with the meeting leader and often with the other professionals attending the meeting. Real handshakes make a “connection” with the others in the meeting.

Focus group respondents need an Emotional Handshake to connect with the moderator and with each other.

The space of the Emotional Handshake has a number of elements:

  1. Moderator can calibrate who talks a lot and who talks a little by noting responses to introduction questions.
  2. Respondents hear their voices in the room and form their own relationship with the moderator.
  3. Respondents have an opportunity to find who else in the room shares a common theme, usage, or belief system.
  4. Moderator can calibrate participant’s speaking volume before asking key research questions.
  5. Moderator makes an individual bond with each respondent which can be relied upon later when questioning becomes more intense

To create a successful Emotional Handshake requires some planning and good time management. Most moderators start off a focus group with an introduction of themselves, the topic and how long the session will last. That is followed by a review of the key disclosures (mirror, taping, stipends, etc.).

At some point, groundrules or guidelines for participation are given and then respondents are asked to introduce themselves. A good moderator posts, on an easel board, a set of three or four points that respondents should cover as they introduce themselves. By posting the introduction points on an easel, respondents can check the board without prompting from the moderator and can more easily focus on what others are saying rather than trying to remember what they are going to say when it is their turn. Some sample self intros include delivery of data like these:

 2.18.14 Table 1

The idea is to have something that humanizes the self intros and at least one question that is content related but not deep data specific.

As the respondents are answering any of the 3-4 self intro questions, the moderator is listening for a hook – something the respondent says that can lead into a probe question to get more data and build the relationship between the moderator and a respondent.

A good moderator waits until they have answered all the 3-4 questions on the self intro list and then the moderator asks them follow up questions to make the Emotional Handshake.

Think about a real handshake. Person number one grasps person number two’s hand. They shake once (larger handshake) and then another pump (smaller handshake) before their hands separate. Some words they may say to each other in the handshake:

“My name is —-, what’s your name?”

“Good to meet you.”

“Thanks for coming today.”

“I’m looking forward to what you have to say as the speaker today.”

“I’m so glad to meet you after all our email correspondence.”

The chart below outlines how the two “handshakes” (larger/smaller) look in the context of the self-introductions. While the chart below only shows what three respondents would say, the moderator in a six or eight person group will need to find a different hook for all the respondents at the table. The chart below outlines a sample flow of the conversation:

2.18.14 Table 2

What does a good Emotional Handshake buy a moderator in a focus group? A number of benefits occur when the “emotional handshake” is in place:

  1. Moderator has “money in the bank” to use later on in the group.
  2. Moderator knows where to go to pull specific data to forward the probing process.
  3. Respondents are likely to talk more if they think the moderator really cares about what they have to say because of the relationship built in the introduction section.

Moderators who invest a few minutes in the introductory phase of a qualitative event and are careful to have an Emotional Handshake with each respondent will usually find that they will receive a lot more below top-of-mind responses and, thus, better data.

Naomi has been a researcher since 1964, and has led more that 5,500 focus groups, interviewed more than 60,000 people in groups or individually and is a nationally recognized Master Moderator. Learn more about her book Secrets of a Master Moderator here


KID-TASTIC: So, You Want to Moderate with Kids & Teens?

By Pam Goldfarb Liss

Have you heard about Generation Z (aka iGen) and the wonder of their multi-leveled relationship with technology?  Do you know about the exciting collaborative relationship happening between kids and their parents?  Are you one of those people who wonder at the unfiltered way kids and teens react to new ideas? Is this a group of consumers you’d like to learn from?

Kids are now part of the important consumer conversation with family purchases like food, electronics, and even cars because they can more easily “research” brands and ideas online than their parents. Their influencing opinion is often weighed more strongly by mom and dad because they know more. Kids and Teens are important consumers, but different from adults, requiring additional skills for moderators.

Interestingly enough, kids and teens are often part of a typical purchase dynamic that goes like this:


Translate the above for almost any family purchase decision – groceries, electronics, vacations, etc. – and you will understand the importance older elementary-age kids and teens play in your company or client’s business decisions. This new parent-child dynamic changes the whole process of parent as the “gate keeper” to parent as the “gate opener.”

With younger kids, the purchase dynamic surrounds a well-honed discussion about child’s desires that result in a smart series of presented choices for a child to insert opinions. Mom and dad hope this discussion will prevent any potential dislike.

Consider this process with younger kids looking more like this:


Moderators looking to navigate this new active kid and teen consumer will want to take into consideration the differences that moderating with young people requires.

These differences affect everything from your screener – identifying the kids and teens who fit with your client’s objectives AND uncovering the knowledgeable kid or teen who can articulate this subtlety —to a rhythmic discussion guide varying the pace of individual-to-small group-to-big group exercises to dig deeper. Additionally, the adept kid and teen moderator will understand nuances to keep kids and teens engaged throughout the qualitative event from stocking the lobby area with appropriate low-sugar, allergy-free snacks to keeping the ever-watchful mom or dad involved and supportive of your project.

The new course: RIVA 205: Moderating with Kids and Teens was created to encourage moderators to shape their practices around this evolving new family consumer dynamic. The course offers a series of best practice ideals with room to grow with one’s own style.

The new course is in its second year, tailoring itself to student’s own practice needs, by offering:

  • Age-by-age cognitive capabilities in typical qualitative research environments (QREs)
  • Practical advice for recruiting and engaging articulate kids and teens with well-honed screener, homework, projective exercise tools and discussion guide examples
  • Opportunities to shape your individual styles with kids and teens through moderation opportunities with real-life kid and teen respondents
  • Evaluations from experienced professional moderators focused on ways to move your practice into winning-experience

RIVA 205 is scheduled for an June 9-11, 2014 3-day course. This is a limited class size to encourage more hands-on experience. Act now and become the kid-and-teen friendly moderator you’ve always wanted to be!!!

Contact Emily at to for more information or to register.

RIVA Webinar: Getting the Most Out of Online Focus Groups

By Emily Branchaw

This webinar is being led by Jeff Walkowski, a RIVA Master Training and the principal of Inc. who provides traditional and internet-base qualitative research services. He has 15 years of market research industry experience behind him.

Everything taught by RIVA about moderating in-person focus groups applies to online focus groups as well. In text-based online real-time chats and asynchronous message boards, moderators need additional techniques and skills because they don’t have the benefit of seeing and hearing their respondents. In this webinar, attendees will gain an appreciation for steps that can be taken before, during, and after online focus group sessions to make them as productive as they can be. Some of the topics to be covered will include:

How to manage expectations of respondents and make your chats or boards run “smooth as butter.”

  • Tips on “translating” in-person guides for the online environment.
  • Interventions that work well in online groups, and those that don’t.
  • Overcoming one of the most difficult aspects of moderating online message boards – getting respondents to interaction with each other.
  • Dealing with all of that data – approaches to data analysis of online focus groups.

This webinar will be held March 14, 2014 from 12:00-1:30pm EST. To register, email Registration closes at 12pm EST on the Thursday prior to the webinar date.

Learn more about RIVA Webinars on our website.