Why this qualitative researcher pushes to debrief

Eight discussion groups across two markets means sixteen hours of consumer insights to process. And really, that’s sixteen hours interrupted by back-room conversations, mandatory conference call participation and distracting emails, texts and, let’s be honest, social media notifications. Add to all that typical road warrior woes like time zone changes, altered sleeping patterns thanks to hotel living, cab rides, airport security line hassles and the myriad of stressor caused by potentially delayed, canceled or missed flights, checked bags, overhead compartments, turbulence.

Debriefing should be mandatory after qualitative initiatives Quite frankly, how could you expect yourself to retain AND make sense of sixteen hours of consumer insights? You couldn’t. You shouldn’t.

Debriefing a qualitative research initiative should be mandatory. It is for my projects. Here’s what a good debrief does: A good debrief enables team members to articulate and therefore verbally process the findings, what they personally heard – which is what leads to greater personal insight that the team can harvest for brand planning. Sharing those insights aloud leads to builds and collaboration and co-creation of usable marketing strategies.

A good debrief allows everyone on the team to recall important insights that might otherwise get lost in the (literal) shuffle. This is critical because viewers walking away on the same page are more confident and effective implementing any forthcoming initiatives. A good debrief provides a forum to discuss next steps in a way that gets everyone on the same page. This is SO important because very often next steps are taken well before a final report can be produced and distributed.

Here’s a standard debrief format I use after qualitative projects

Here’s where we capture and review what participants actually said and/or what we actually saw happening in the groups. The language they used. The body language. I encourage clients to share what they noticed, what facts from the research stood out to them. Here’s where we identify what everything on the client team thinks or feels about our learnings. We discuss insights, patterns or conclusions we are drawing. We take all that we heard and add our own background information to make the findings USEFUL. Here’s where we apply all that we heard and conclude and determine what projects or initiatives need to happen next, what actions make sense and what the next steps are. Try it now to debrief this blog post. What did you read? So what does it mean? Now what do you want to do?

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