• Work With Small Groups 
    Our experience is that consumer closeness sessions work best with groups of 2 or 4 "creative-thinking consumers", working with 2 internal moderators and up to 4 observers watching on.  However, you do need to use a screening tool to recruit target consumers who are comfortable talking with strangers and who are happy to share their ideas and opinions, 
  • Have a Simple Discussion Guide 
    Have a discussion guide to provide structure, but keep it simple.  Most sessions we run last for 45-60 minutes with at least 10 minutes for warm up questions plus one or two further sections to explore feedback to early ideas or to look for insights linked to agreed innovation pillars. Don’t have too many questions and keep them open-ended with time to “dig deeper” and “tell me more”.
  • Don’t Be Afraid of Silence
    As a moderator, try to say as little as possible during the session – give the instructions and ask the questions and then keep quiet.  Give time for the consumers to think and respond.  Resist the urge to jump in if you feel that the silence is too long.  And rather than jump in, use good eye contact and body language to encourage them to talk, especially for quieter respondents.
  • Body Language and Active Listening
    Be aware of body language, both the consumers and your own. Look for signs and respond accordingly, and really consider the impact that your body language might be having on the session – how you are sitting and how you appear when the consumers are talking. Concentrate and adopt an active listening posture to encourage the consumers to talk.
  • Encourage Maximum Participation
    Use creative facilitation techniques to ensure that all consumers have an “equal air time”, even if you are talking to two consumers.  Pose the questions and give time for each consumer to think, and then ask for their response in turn, as though you are running separate interviews.  This will ensure that you hear the views of all the consumers and help manage any "Chatter Boxes”. 
  • Listen and Go Deeper
    Really listen to what the consumer says and encourage them to keep talking with a simple “uh huh” or “tell me more”.  And then ask simple open-ended questions with lots of “whys” to encourage them to go deeper.  Meanwhile, ensure that your 3 or 4 observing colleagues are taking notes or record the session so that it can be typed up later.

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In addition to the above Top Tips, do remember to take the time to get the consumers relaxed and comfortable, and be honest and open about who you are and the process that you are following. Think carefully about the environment for the session although it doesn’t have to take place in a focus group room. Get in touch if you want to know more about when and where to use consumer closeness sessions as part of an innovation project.  


Ideas First® are a specialist creativity and product innovation agency. We are passionate about helping our clients develop innovative new ideas and concepts that are truly creative, stand out from the crowd, and that drive business growth.



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