In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic transformed the way we work and interact, forcing us into a virtual realm of endless Zoom meetings and remote collaboration. But after three long years of “you’re on mute,” we’re excited to announce that in-person focus groups are making a comeback!

Viewpoints hosted our first in-person focus groups back in February, and it felt good to reconnect face-to-face. While the return of in-person groups is a cause for celebration, there remain compelling reasons to continue using online platforms for research. In this post, we’ll explore the advantages of both online and in-person focus groups, helping you determine the best approach for your research needs.

The Case for Online Groups:

While online focus groups have robbed us some of the in-person interactions we’ve become accustomed to, we have learned that online groups offer distinct benefits as a research tool – and we plan to keep that tool handy. Here’s some clear benefits:

  1. Broad Geographic Reach: With online groups, geographic limitations have become a thing of the past. You can easily bring together participants from diverse locations, eliminating the need for them to travel long distances to a central location. Imagine covering the entirety of a Province, or an inaccessible northern region – online, we can bring those people together.
  2. Cost-Effectiveness: Conducting research online reduces expenses associated with facility rentals and travel time for both participants and observers. This cost-saving advantage allows for more flexible budget allocation in other areas to help advance your campaign.
  3. Comfort and convenience: Online groups offer participants and observers the convenience of engaging from the comfort of their homes. This relaxed setting can actually help foster open and honest discussions, leading to valuable insights.

The Case for In-Person Groups:

While online groups have their merits, there is something unique about talking to someone face-to-face. Conducting research in-person has some pretty clear advantages too:

  1. Organic Dynamics: In-person focus groups provide an opportunity for participants to interact naturally, unencumbered by technological limitations, poor connections or misinterpretation of facial cues. The absence of video lag or muting and unmuting allows for seamless, free-flowing conversations, enabling deeper exploration of topics – conversations can take on a life of their own.
  2. Non-Verbal Communication: Body language plays a crucial role in communication, often conveying emotions and reactions more effectively than words alone. In an in-person setting, researchers can observe participants’ non-verbal cues, gaining valuable insights beyond the words spoken.
  3. Real-Time Debriefing: In-person groups offer the advantage of immediate debriefing sessions with the client and Viewpoints’ research team. The ability to have spontaneous discussions and share insights right after the sessions enhances the overall value and collaboration within the team. You never know what you’re going to forget the next day.

One caveat about in-person focus groups is that the availability of in-person facilities may vary due to the impact of COVID-19, with only a few regional centres currently offering this option. However, as popularity grows, we can anticipate more facilities becoming available.

Finding the Right Fit:

The return of in-person focus groups marks an exciting milestone in the world of research. As we move forward, a hybrid approach that leverages both online and in-person methods will likely become the norm, providing researchers with the flexibility to adapt to varying project requirements.

At Viewpoints, we understand the importance of tailoring research methodologies to suit your project’s needs. We are happy to guide you through the decision-making process, discussing the best fit for you. Whether it’s the flexibility and cost-effectiveness of online groups or the immersive dynamics of in-person sessions, we’ll help you make an informed choice. Let’s discuss how we can help you design a research strategy that aligns with your goals and maximizes the tools at our disposal.