Sharpen Your Voice Through Focus Groups

Cheryl Dore expands on a recent Write Start session with the first of a two-part post. See link at end of post for her upcoming workshop at NCWA’s Renewal Conference.

Are you convinced of your point of view, but wonder if it’s enough? Would your writing and speaking be more impactful if you broadened your perspective? Haddon W. Robinson, author of Biblical Preaching says, “To preach effectively, expositors must be involved in three different worlds: the world of the Bible, the modern world, and the particular world in which we are called to preach.”

Our writing is the spoken word in written form. By gathering perspective we visit opposing points of view and sharpen our voice. By doing our research we approach our thesis with greater effectiveness and actually make a difference.

Intentionality is important. In our eagerness to help people we draw too close to the world in which we are called and easily lose perspective. When there are no parameters around what we want to say the tendency is to say what our audience wants to hear. There is no greater betrayal of our calling than to divert from what the Bible says to meet felt needs. We end up hurting people instead of helping them.

Focus-groups provide additional perspective. This is not the world of the Bible, but the modern world. It is people who help communicators build bridges between opinions separated by raging rivers. They help us cross into a schizophrenic demographic and capture firsthand the needs of our audience.

What are Focus-groups? They are informal, one-time gatherings of six to ten people who offer perspective and comment from personal experience on questions posed. Let’s say you want to do a better job in your writing of addressing the needs of twenty first century moms who struggle to carry the load. What exactly is that load? Perspectives vary. They are like the multi-colored rocks on the bottom of the river you’re hoping to cross. Each woman’s cry is urgent. Her felt needs as vast as the sand that secures those rocks.

Focus-groups provide face-to-face research. You physically enter the world in which you are called. You leave the internet and interact with people. You look into their hearts, draw from their understanding and capture quotes or testimonies that are not copy- written.

To facilitate my first Focus-group I gathered women who attended our first annual Inspiring Women by Intentional Design Conference, www.womensleadershipadvantage.com. We asked, “What are your passions or goals? What would you do if time and money were not an issue and you knew you could not fail?” Our ministry objective is to create avenues for women to live intentionally. With the soil stirred we probed a bit deeper.  “In what way have opportunities been missed to equip you for those goals?”

I was after truth, as they saw it and shared from personal experience to get there. “I learned as a new believer I had the gift of teaching. I was not encouraged or equipped to function in that gift, but judged for trying to build my own platform. Years later, I discovered avenues to get equipped. Today, I am functioning in the sweet spot of God’s purposes for my life.”

Participants began to open up. One said, “It seems my gifts are used to fill a need. I’m never approached on the basis of my personal passions. No one makes room for me to step out and grow in areas where I’d like to be equipped, but to satisfy their need of help.”

Another said, “No one wants to share the platform or make room for underdeveloped gifts. They want you to have already arrived. How will I ever arrive without mentorship or the opportunity to try and fail?”

The benefits of a Focus-group are far reaching. You gain awareness and information that energizes you in writing and speaking.  Pastor Robert Lewis said, “I can’t spot an opportunity if I don’t know what’s really going on.” Focus-groups help you know what’s going on and see into the heart of the world in which you are called.

In the next blog post, I’ll offer practical steps to organize a Focus -group. You’ll find seven types of questions to ask with tips to reflect on feed-back. You won’t want to miss it. The time to make a difference is now. Increase your awareness. Probe the voice of a demographic whose evaluation of a situation might not agree with yours. Go after perspective that throws you for a loop, makes your skin crawl or tests your faith. You’ll need the perspective of people whose life experiences differ from yours to be effective.

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Cheryl Dore will co-teach a workshop on public speaking at NCWA’s Renewal Conference on May 20-21.

She has been a member of NCWA since 2008. Cheryl is NCWA’s Speaker Connection Coordinator and Women’s Leadership Advantage, Executive Director.  A growing network of peer mentors empowering women to live a life of intentional design and purpose. It’s our conviction that every woman is a gift and every gift counts. To hear her weekly audio tweets visit her website: www.womensleadershipadvantage.com

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One thought on “Sharpen Your Voice Through Focus Groups

  1. Interesting to see how by being transparent about the blockage to using your gift brought others out in to the open with the same dilemma. When will we listen to the gifts a person brings and make a way for her to shine? When will we get past our own pain and do for others what we wish others would do for us? Cheryl, you are a great example of a leader making room for others to shine in their giftedness! I think you told me that the Lord told you to be the mentor you so ardently desired. Way to Go!

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