The AQR Hands-On Mod Skills course was a truly valuable experience. The tutors opened with some great icebreakers (as any good moderator should!), which put us at ease from the outset. This meant we went on to have fruitful Q&A sessions with the tutors, hearing practical examples of difficult situations they’d encountered in their own moderating experience and discussing how best to handle them in a real-life setting.

The course felt well-paced, and the structure seemed to suit all skill levels. Since most of the theory took place online beforehand, we could make the most of our time with tutors, receiving tailored and actionable feedback on our pre-prepared discussion guides and during hands-on trial of moderating itself.

Tutor groups of four made this all the more effective: it was intimate enough to allow for insightful feedback, but we also benefited from watching varied approaches to moderating and learning from one another’s feedback as well as our own. Equally, as a relative newcomer to moderating, I was relieved to find out that I was matched with others who had similar levels of experience.

One segment of the morning session was spent trying our hand at projective techniques that many of us had not encountered before. This included everything from brand personification to thematic collage exercises, demonstrating first-hand how these techniques can tease out key insights and encourage participants to articulate abstract impressions and concepts that were initially hard to pin down.

After easing us into ‘moderator mode’ through shorter practice sessions in the morning, we launched straight into moderating our own groups after lunch. Each of us had been assigned a segment of a full-length study to prepare in advance, complete with a mock client brief. We then took turns observing others and moderating ourselves, as well as acting as participants in groups on a different topic.

As someone less used to leading groups, this full-blown moderating experience was something I’d been anxious about beforehand. The supportive atmosphere was really reassuring though, while the tutor’s feedback afterwards was both sensitive and highly constructive. I’d definitely recommend the course to any researcher learning the ropes, whether you’re comfortable commanding a room of thousands or have never spoken in a meeting!