I remember it well – we both walked into the interview room, the research participant and myself, and immediately noticed we had the same shoes. We instantly bonded over being ‘shoe twins’, praising each other’s taste in footwear, and setting a positive tone for the research interview to come. Conducting qualitative one-on-one, in-depth interviews is one of my favorite parts of being a social science researcher. For me, chatting and building rapport with participants is a highlight of in-person interviewing, which abruptly came to a screeching halt when the pandemic hit in March 2020. Enter: a scramble to develop a Live Televideo Interview protocol.
Many businesses have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the social science research industry is no exception. We do our best work when we can have an up-close and personal interaction with study participants. We shake hands, exchange pleasantries, and get to know them through both verbal and non-verbal (body language) communications. This poses the question: is it possible to do high-quality qualitative work when we cannot have an in-person experience with respondents?
The answer is yes!
Remote video interviews are not the same as live in-person exchanges with participants, but they have turned out to be an excellent (and convenient) alternative. With some thoughtful preparation, we have found that you can perform successful live televideo interviews (LTIs) using a video platform (we prefer to use Zoom) and still achieve the same high-quality results.
Here’s how to prepare to ensure successful Live Televideo Interviews:
Be Flexible on Time
The online nature of LTIs means you could be speaking with people in different time zones, and during non-traditional times to fit around their daily activities. Offer a wide selection of days and times for interview appointments.
Empower the Participant
Use a calendar syncing online scheduling tool that allows participants to choose the time that is most convenient for them. We have used Acuity Scheduling, but there are others. Since people are participating from their homes or other familiar spaces, they may be free to engage in studies during times that were never possible with centralized facilities, so provide options. Give them a link to reschedule just in case something comes up and they can’t make it to the meeting. Let them know how to contact you directly if needed.
Prevent Habitual Reschedulers
While it is nice to offer the participant the flexibility to reschedule, some participants will abuse the rescheduling option. Participants who repeatedly reschedule are not likely to participate in the end. We recommend limiting rescheduling to once per participant.
Do everything you can in advance to make sure the LTI goes smoothly. Technical difficulties, for example, can throw off the momentum of an interview, add frustration for the participant, or even cut it short. Test your materials or surveys on all possible platforms (Mac, Windows, Chromebooks, tablets, etc.) to confirm the functionality is flawless prior to going live. Be aware of how Zoom may perform differently on different platforms.
Prep the Participant
Give participants resources for a successful Zoom meeting. Send them an email that includes links to the Zoom Help Center and on how to test a Zoom meeting, and where to go to download the app.
Provide clear instructions and set expectations for the interview to prevent erroneous assumptions by the participant. Email appointment reminders in advance 𑁋 several days before, 24 hours before, and one hour before their scheduled interview. Outline when you expect them to log on, when they are considered late, and how long the interview is expected to last, so they can clear their schedule for the duration of the interview. Be explicit about what type of technology is required for the LTI. If a computer is required, they should not be logging in to the meeting on a cell phone or tablet.
At SoundRocket, we have conducted hundreds of LTIs over the past year, and can confidently say, if you follow these tips𑁋prepare yourself and the participant heading into the research interview, you can create an environment where you can build rapport and get that up close and personal experience, even if you can’t see each other’s shoes. I hope these tips will help you to prepare to conduct top-quality research interviews using the Zoom meeting platform. Stay tuned; next week we will post Part 2: Our best tips for conducting Live Televideo Interviews.