Yes, you can run a focus group in a pub!

Matthew Kaye, Consultant writes…

Si is currently doing a piece of work for Marie Curie evaluating their Information and Support service. Part of this has involved focus groups with those found to be the least likely to access Marie Curie support. One of these demographics is older men. We got in touch with a London-based Men in Sheds organisation so that we could explore issues around accessing support, Marie Curie’s materials, as well as why older men are less likely to use Marie Curie.

In an interesting development, we were offered the chance to run a session at their fortnightly Pub Club meeting. So, we turned up, rather ambivalent, and ran a focus group in a pub. It turned out to be a success, whilst also presenting several unique challenges and opportunities.

Given that we were with a group of people in a pub, we did have to adapt how we ran the focus group. Usually we would find ourselves in a large meeting room at council offices, whereas this time we were in the pub’s library. This meant we did not hand out as much printed material, focusing instead on generating discussion around the broader issues of men’s health and why they may be more reluctant to seek advice. We had to work with a louder environment, as well as the possibility that group members might nip off to buy a drink.

However, this also brought opportunities. Given that we were discussing a sensitive topic, terminal illness, being in a pub environment with a group of friends meant that people were less reserved, generating a more fruitful discussion. Nothing felt forced, and I am sure that was because the pub atmosphere meant everyone was more relaxed.

I would not be surprised if running focus groups in pubs (or similar) becomes a more regular occurrence. Given the rising costs of room bookings, particularly in London, pubs provide a cheaper alternative for getting groups of people together, in an environment they are comfortable with. You should be ready to adapt how the session is run, but that does not mean the discussion will be any less insightful.

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