Keeping the Focus: How to Manage an Entertaining and Friendly Participant in UX Research

2023-09-05T17:34:30+05:30By |UX Research|

In this article, I want to share some tips on how to deal with a participant who is extremely entertaining and friendly.

You might think that having a participant who is entertaining and friendly is a good thing, and it can be. After all, you want your participants to feel comfortable and engaged during the session. However, sometimes a participant can be too entertaining and friendly, to the point where they distract you from your research goals, take up too much time, or make inappropriate jokes or comments. This can affect the quality and validity of your data, as well as your rapport with the participant.

So how do you deal with such a participant? Here are some tips based on my own practice as a UX researcher and the book The Moderator’s Survival Guide by Donna Tedesco and Fiona Tranquada (2014):

What to do or say

  • Acknowledge and appreciate the participant’s enthusiasm and humour. You don’t want to make them feel rejected or discouraged. A simple “That’s very funny” or “I’m glad you’re enjoying this” can go a long way.
  • Use gentle redirection techniques to bring the participant back to the task or question. For example, you can say “That’s an interesting story, but let’s get back to what we were doing” or “I appreciate your feedback, but I’d like to hear more about this other topic”.
  • Set clear expectations and boundaries at the beginning of the session. Let the participant know how much time you have, what you want them to do, and what kind of feedback you’re looking for. You can also remind them of these throughout the session if they get off track.
  • Use non-verbal cues to signal when you want the participant to move on or stop talking. For example, you can nod, smile, or make eye contact when they say something relevant or useful, and look away, or check your notes when they say something irrelevant or inappropriate.
  • If the participant makes an inappropriate joke or comment, don’t laugh or encourage it. Instead, ignore it, change the subject, or politely tell them that it’s not appropriate for the session.

What not to do or say

  • Don’t be rude or impatient with the participant. You don’t want to damage your rapport or make them feel uncomfortable. Remember that they are trying to help you and may not be aware of how their behaviour affects you.
  • Don’t let the participant take over the session. You are the moderator and you need to maintain control of the session. Don’t let the participant dictate the pace or direction of the session.
  • Don’t encourage the jokes or stories too much. You may be tempted to laugh along or share your own anecdotes, but this will only encourage the participant to continue and take more time. Stay professional and focused on your research goals.
  • Don’t ignore or dismiss the participant’s feedback. Even if they are entertaining and friendly, they may still have valuable insights or opinions that are relevant to your research. Listen carefully and probe for more details when needed.

How to avoid that situation

  • Screen your participants carefully before inviting them to your session. You can use pre-screening questions, surveys, or phone calls to get a sense of their personality and communication style. Look for signs of being overly talkative, humorous, or outgoing.
  • Prepare your tasks and questions well in advance. Make sure they are clear, concise, and relevant to your research goals. Avoid vague or open-ended questions that may invite tangents or stories.
  • Be flexible and adaptable in case the session goes off track. You may need to adjust your tasks or questions, skip some parts of the session, or end the session early if the participant is too distracting or time-consuming.

Have you ever had an entertaining and friendly participant in your UX research? How did you deal with them? I’d love to hear from you. Thank you for reading and happy moderating!

About the Author:

Atul holds a masters degree in Design & Research from National Institute of Fashion Technology. He comes from a diverse background of Design and Engineering with experience of working in startups as well as large organisations such as Samsung Electronics, IndiaMart & HCL. Today, Atul works closely with clients helping them create user-centric products and services. He is actively involved in research, storytelling, brainstorming and sketching.