7 months on, 7 great things

7 months on from lockdown 1 and the mad dash to make everything virtual overnight, as we head into lockdown 2 we find ourselves settled in a ‘new normal’ of online qual. 

We cannot tell a lie: we do we miss face to face work. But we have to be realistic: doing qual online is going to be the norm for a while, and in the current environment it’s way better than expected. In fact, it’s pretty bl**dy good

Yes, there are challenges. For maximum participation it’s best to keep groups small, so we do more of them. It’s more work to set up and manipulate the stimulus. We have to manage the conversation more, as people can’t always pick up on visual cues to help them bounce off each other as they would together a room. And it I can be harder to improvise (though we’ve learned how to make the stimulus more flexible to allow us to go with the flow).

But there are great things about it too. Here are just 7 of them:

  1. Top of the list, results are not compromised. We may have to work harder and it might be a bit less fun to watch, but the outcomes are robust
  2. With fewer opportunities to meet new people, the chance to do so in an online group is a welcome thing so the ‘joining in’ factor is good – and since everyone’s now used to Zoom, Teams et al it’s also a normal thing (not just for the tech savvy) so we’re reaching audiences we hadn’t believed would get involved
  3. People can be from anywhere, which helps with recruitment – especially hard to reach targets
  4. We can work in progressive stages with far less effort – great for concept development work or innovation
  5. We may not be able to get people lining up on imaginary lines or joining ‘camps’ around the room, but we can still use movement, gesture, video and images to create variety and keep the energy up
  6. More, smaller groups means we can make recruitment splits more subtle – and create a more intimate atmosphere 
  7. And, though you might think being online would create emotional disconnect, we find the ‘safety’ of being in their own home – plus the sheer ease of ‘getting there’ (compared with, say, catching the tube in rush hour or struggling to find a parking space) – makes some people almost more relaxed, engaged and honest than they might otherwise be

We still look forward to the days when we do face to face again. But in the meantime, online groups? Bring ‘em on…..