I attended the AQR’s advanced moderation course ‘Sweating the Small Stuff’ as a refresher to continue my professional development in qualitative insights. I expected to be in a room full of experienced moderators, all asking lots of questions, listening actively and challenging weak statements — and I was not disappointed!

One of several highlights for me was a ‘Eureka’ moment when it dawned on me that the Waiting Room at a focus group venue was a great opportunity to pre-warm up ‘guests’ (as an exercise in semiotics, we agreed that ‘respondent’ was an outdated word, as was ‘moderator’ — ‘hosts’ and ‘guests’ felt much better as quallie terms).

Only one ‘lowlight’, which was more about what was not covered on the day. I would have liked to have heard expert MROC (Market Research Online Communities) moderators talking about the differences and similarities between moderating real-world focus groups compared with virtual online communities.

The most useful takeaways for me were: the Power of Silence, and how moderators can use this effectively in a group dynamic; setting the Rules of the Room out clearly in a group, with added visual stimulus as ‘aide memoire’ e.g. Be yourself, Be honest, Be critical, Be respectful; and the respondent, sorry ‘guest’ journey before and after the group (e.g. invites, postcards, etc).

Overall, I think this was a good course that reflected well on the AQR, but please acknowledge the growth in MROCs and online moderation in training courses!