The Rise of Virtual Focus Groups: How Remote Videoconferencing Platforms are Changing the Traditional Focus Group and How to Leverage These Technologies to Our Benefit

Covid-19 and the resulting global pandemic brought about significant changes to the way people and institutions conduct business.  Although typically slower to change than some other industries, courts and litigators across the country have rapidly adopted and leveraged new technologies including remote videoconferencing platforms.  This topic will discuss the use of such platforms for virtual focus groups and how the defense bar can leverage the same platforms to its benefit.

Focus groups and mock trials have long been used by litigants to gauge the strengths and weaknesses of their cases, test issues, evaluate responses to key evidence, and obtain feedback on damages arguments.  Traditionally, a typical focus group format would involve 6-12 people meeting in person in a conference room to discuss the facts and evidence of a case and provide their opinions on the same.[1]  Prior to Covid-19, some litigants had already begun adopting online platforms to conduct virtual focus groups or had engaged consultants specializing in online focus groups to do so on their behalf.  Social distancing requirements resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated adoption and use of such platforms to conduct focus groups.[2]

How to find and pay focus group participants

Potential focus group members can be found via social media advertising, including Facebook ads and Craigslist.[3]  These advertisements can be targeted to specific geographical areas, allowing you to only pull participants from your venue or similar areas.  Advertisements typically indicate individuals are wanted to provide feedback about a legal case and include the requirement that panelists have access to a computer or other device with a camera and microphone and reliable internet service.[4]

Information provided by interested applicants can be inserted into a spreadsheet or a Google Form/Google Sheet.[5]  One particularly effective method is to use Google Forms to collect information from interested applicants via a survey, the results of which can be automatically inserted into a Google Sheets spreadsheet.[6]  You can then review the information provided and select panelists in an effort to obtain a cross section of potential jurors in your venue.[7]  At the conclusion of the focus group sessions, jurors can be paid via check, PayPal, Venmo, or other similar online platforms.[8]

Platforms for virtual focus groups

There are multiple platforms available that can be used for virtual focus groups.  These include the following:

Google Hangouts, which allows users to participate in text, voice, or video chats in either a group or a one-to-one setting.[9] This platform is compatible with most devices, including iOS and Android devices, provides for screen sharing, and supports video recording.[10]  It is free but requires every participant to have a Gmail account.[11]

Zoom provides full HD video and audio capability for any sized Zoom room, as well as co-annotation and whiteboarding features.[12] Users can access it via desktop or mobile device, it allows screen sharing, and supports video recording.[13]  Tech support is also provided.[14]

Adobe Connect is a web conferencing service that supports multiple devices, including iOS and Android.[15] Users can also access it from a desktop without having to download anything.[16]  It allows users to securely send and store documents and notes and offers recording and editing tools.[17]  However, this is not a free service.[18]

Other platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Skype offer similar features and functionality.

Conducting the virtual focus group.

Once you have identified your preferred platform, selected your focus group members, set a date, and coordinated payment, it is time to conduct the focus group itself.  The actual process of conducting the focus group is essentially the same when conducting it virtually as it would be in-person, with the exception being that it is more difficult to read body language virtually.[19]  However, the virtual focus group does provide an advantage insomuch as it allows you to keep all of the focus group members’ faces in view at all times and supports easy recording and playback of the session.[20]  Many of the platforms also allow your clients to observe the session remotely.

Recording virtual focus group sessions is strongly recommend as it allows litigators and their clients to go back and conduct in-depth reviews as many times as they want.[21]  It also allows the footage to be shared with clients for a firsthand view of how the focus group members react to various issues or evidence.  Finally, recording provides an opportunity to share the content of the litigant’s choosing with the mediator or opposing party during mediated settlement conferences.  Such video clips can be a powerful negotiating tool if used properly.


Although virtual focus groups such as those described above are not appropriate for every case, and will not replace the more intensive focus groups conducted by various vendors with additional analytics and metrics offered for evaluation of the results, they do have a place in the litigation world and their use is increasing.  The defense bar needs to understand that many plaintiff attorneys are conducting multiple such focus groups for each case and that we can do the same.  Moreover, by gaining a better understanding of the process, we can better understand the strengths and limitations of these focus groups which should allow us to use them, and respond to their use, more ef

[1] Jury Analyst, Types of Focus Groups and Their Purpose (May 11, 2020),

[2] Id.

[3] Dan Cote, Conducting Focus Groups in a Post-Coronavirus World (last visited August 10, 2021),

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Brady Gavin, The Beginner’s Guide to Google Forms (August 6, 2019),

[7] Dan Cote, Conducting Focus Groups in a Post-Coronavirus World (last visited August 10, 2021),

[8] Id.

[9] Lisa Boughton, Three Tools to Revolutionise Your Online Focus Groups (last visited August 10, 2021),

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

[14] Id.

[15] Id.

[16] Id.

[17] Id.

[18] Id.

[19] Dan Cote, Conducting Focus Groups in a Post-Coronavirus World (last visited August 10, 2021),

[20] Id.

[21] Id.