Top 3 Technical Problems with Online Focus Groups and How to Solve Them

Just like in-person focus groups can have challenges such as traffic jams, delayed flights or address mix ups, online focus groups are not immune to challenges.  Typically the challenges with online focus groups are technical in nature, but with some preplanning, strategies in place and communications channels set up, fortunately most problems can be overcome to ensure your focus group or interview is a success!  Here are the top 3 technical problems we’ve encountered, and how you can solve them!


  1. Inadequate Internet Speed – What should I do now?

The Federal Communications Commission recommends a minimum download speed (speed that you can access content from the web) between 1 and 6 MBPS for video conferencing. During the initial technical check with itracks Realtime, the system will let you know if there is inadequate internet speed. The upload speed, or speed at which you can send online content is also important. As a user, when you register for an itracks online focus group, the automated tech check with check your internet speed as well as other factors to let you know if there is an issue.  There can be several reasons for inadequate internet speed. Here are a few things that you can check:

  • Type of internet connection. There are many different types of internet connects such as cable, DSL, satellite and wireless services. Different factors can impact each type of connection. Intense weather conditions can impact satellite internet and cable connections may be shared with neighbors leading to slower connection times during peak usage times.  Wireless services require the proper settings on the device to access.
  • Your internet services provider and internet plan. Some ISP’s have policies for limiting or slowing traffic after certain levels of data usage.  There could be a maximum bandwidth on the plan and sometimes the provider’s network capability may be inadequate for the current usage in your area.  This can be especially true during peak season in holiday resorts.  If this is the case, you may want to move onto a different internet source to complete your session (e.g., move to a mobile device which accesses different data from your home plan).
  • Your environment. Wi-Fi signals have limited ability to pass through concrete and stone. The hardware including the modem, router, ethernet cables can require repair and replacement at times.  Check how many people are currently using the internet in your home and if they are placing high demands (e.g. streaming video).  There are times you have heard me call to the kids watching Netflix to “get off the wifi” while I complete an important video communication.


  1. Camera or Microphone not working

When you (participant) first join a group or interview, you will land in a Waiting Room. When the Moderator or Technical Support moves you from the Waiting Room to the Main Room area where you are prompted to join the call, and you join the group or interview, and your camera or microphone are not working then there are some simple checks to resolve this:

  • Look for the Lock symbol to the left of the URL on Chrome, Firefox and Edge. For Safari this Lock symbol is to the right of the URL.
  • Click on the Lock symbol and check if the camera and microphone have been provided access or not. This is how it will appear when access has been switched on: (need to add diagram)
  • Switch the browser and join the call using another browser. Sometimes different browsers on the same laptop/desktop have different privacy settings and the issue gets resolved just by changing the web browser.
  • Go to the browser settings and search using the keywords “camera” and “microphone”. Check if permission has been granted to access the camera and the microphone in the browser privacy settings. If not, enable the permissions for camera and microphone on the browser.

For checking the privacy settings on Chrome, Firefox and Edge – Go to “Settings” and in the search bar, search using the keyword “camera” or “microphone”, go to Site Settings and check the permissions for camera under the Permissions area.

  1. Hearing an echo while on a group/interview

This is a common issue occurring when the microphone on the system picks up the sound from an external source, thereby creating a sound loop and generating an echo.

When you are hearing an echo while on a group/interview, please check the below three things:

If you are using external speakers:

  • Place the speakers far away from the laptop microphone and reduce the volume to a comfortable level.
  • Use earphones or headphones instead of the external speakers so the microphone will not pick up that sound and the sound loop will break and the echo will stop.
  • If you’re using external speakers, the other option is to revert back to your computer’s built-in speakers.

For those who have external microphones, move the microphone away from the speakers.

Check for latency issues –  If you have a poor Wi-Fi signal or connectivity issues, it could result in lag time in your communication and thereby create unnecessary microphone echo.

With the pandemic, many internet service provers have increased capacity and consumers have increased the internet speed available to their home devices.  There are new advancements to computer equipment and browsers to support troubleshooting.  Fortunately, during the itracks user registration process, there is an automated technical check to identify any issues with your system in advance so that they can be resolved prior to your scheduled group or interview. itracks helpdesk team is available via phone, email or livechat to walk you through solving any technical issue.

If you have any questions or want assistance walking through any of the solutions to technical challenges, contact itracks technical support here.