Tips for Conducting Formal Discussions

Formal Discussions

  • Usually take the form of a guided discussion or focus group. Discussions are based on a series of questions that are developed before the group session.
  • Can help you identify important issues and generate ideas for improvement.
  • Can be a way of testing assumptions.
  • Take one to two hours.

There are three phases in conducting a formal (guided) discussion or focus group:

Prepare for the Discussion

  • Identify the purpose of your discussion.
  • Think about what you are trying to learn.
  • Determine your timeline.
  • Identify participants (ideally 6 to 10 per group). Develop a list of attributes for participants, depending on the purpose of your discussion.
  • Consider a variety of participants with a range of:
    • driving experience.
    • time employed by your organization.
    • type of vehicles driven for work.
    • job descriptions.
  • Invite participants to attend.
  • Determine who will facilitate your discussion group. You can use an internal or external resource. It should be someone who is seen as neutral to the participants. The facilitator will need to:
    • Guide the discussion.
    • Deal with outspoken group members.
    • Keep the discussion on track.
    • Ensure all participants are heard.
  • Select a recorder. Recording can be done:
    • In writing.
    • Using a computer or tape recorder.
  • Generate the questions:
    • Questions should be open-ended, not ones requiring a yes/no answer.
    • Ensure the questions will help you get the information you need as specified in your purpose.
    • Order questions so that they go from general to specific.
  • Develop the discussion group script including:
    • An introduction to welcome the group.
    • The purpose.
    • The process.
    • How the information will be reported and used.
  • Select a location for the discussion group. It should be a comfortable space with a setting that encourages conversation. Participants will need to sit in a circle, U-shape or around a large table so everyone can see each other.

Conduct the Discussion Group

The facilitator should:

  • Arrive early, making sure the room is set up and the equipment is available, including:
    • focus group script.
    • flip chart and pens.
    • masking tape.
    • refreshments.
    • a clock or watch.
    • name tags or cards if appropriate.
  • Welcome participants as they arrive.
  • Introduce themselves, any co-facilitators and the recorder.
  • Have the participants introduce themselves.
  • Explain:
    • How the information will be recorded and reported.
    • That individuals’ responses will be kept confidential.
    • That participants' responses will not be identified in any reports summary report.
  • Conduct the discussion group according to the script.
  • Ask follow-up questions that arise from the discussion to probe deeper into the topic.

Analyze and Report on the Discussion Group

  • Immediately following the discussion group, the facilitator(s), recorder and any other observers should review the session to capture any immediate impressions.
  • If a person recorded the session, as soon as possible following the session, they should organize their notes to make sure they are clear and accurate.
  • Write a summary of the session.
  • Review the summary to identify:
    • Major themes.
    • Common feelings, beliefs or opinions.
    • Strongly-held feelings, beliefs or opinions.
  • Write the discussion group report, including:
    • An introduction stating the purpose.
    • Details of the session.
    • Findings and conclusions.
  • Ensure that discussion group participants are not individually identified or identifiable in the report.

The discussion group report will become part of the data that you can use to help plan for action to reduce your organization’s occupational road safety risk.

Sample questions

  • If you were the CEO, what changes might you introduce at _________________ (your organization) to improve the safety of employees who drive while they are working?
  • How would this change improve the safety of employees?
  • How do you feel about the policies and procedures at _________________ (your organization) relating to driving on the job?
  • How effective and appropriate are these policies and procedures?
  • What additional policies and procedures would you like to see?
  • How well are these policies and procedures communicated?
  • How appropriate are the communications to employees relating to safety and driving?
  • What improvements would you make to these communications?
  • When you make suggestions, how are they treated by managers?


Build Your Road Safety Program