The Best Way to Recruit Users for User Research

Macadamian Technologies | February 16, 2018 | 5 Min Read

“I want to do some user research, but I can’t get a hold of my users.” This is a challenge we often hear expressed by our clients who are interested in doing user research. Let's explore why events are a perfect opportunity to recruit users and provide some success stories of our own using this tactic.

“I want to do some user research, but I can’t get a hold of my users.”

This is a challenge we often hear expressed by our clients who are interested in doing user research but are having trouble connecting with their users. This can be a frustrating roadblock when you understand the value well-executed user research can bring to a project. But don’t stress, there are effective ways to recruit users so that you can involve them in your design and development processes, and the one that we’ve found to be the most successful is recruiting at events.

Why Can’t I Reach My Users?

There are various reasons why you might be struggling to connect with your end users, but these are some of the most common reasons we have encountered:

  • They are geographically dispersed.
  • They have challenging schedules.
  • They are expensive to compensate.
  • There is no immediate clear and successful way to find or recruit them.
  • They are outside your customer-base.
  • They are a small target population.
  • You have limited time.

Whether it is managing conflicting schedules or constraints due to time or budget, one of the most effective ways to connect with participants for your user research is face-to-face at events.

Tactics for Recruiting Users at Events

Recruit Before the Event

Create a list of events, conferences, symposiums, and/or meetups of interest to your end users that you are likely able to attend. If you can get access to contact information of attendees, members and speakers before these events, reach out to them to gauge interest in participating in your user research. This will allow you to coordinate with them and allocate a set time in your schedule to meet during the event. You will also want to ensure that they have your contact information too (in case rescheduling needs to occur).

Seek Assistance from Others Attending Events

Take advantage of events where another team in your company, or even a client, may be showcasing a product or giving a talk as there maybe potential participants for your research attending too. This will allow you to piggyback on booth space (which is much more secure and comfortable than a bench or standalone table) or other space resources that they may have, and you may also be able to seek the team’s help recruiting users.

Pitch at the end of a Talk

If members of your company, or you, are giving a talk at a customer conference or your own trade show, ask at the end of the talk for contact information of individuals who might be interested in supporting user research. This helps to make a direct connection between you and them.

Recruit on the Spot

If you are not in any of the above cases, you can also recruit attendees on the spot when you attend an event. Keep in mind that a complimentary cup of coffee, treat or some swag can go a long way and increase your chance of getting people to stop and talk with you.

You Might Also Like: Conducting UX Research to Obtain Meaningful Data.

Our Success Using These Tactics

We used the tactics listed above for two of our healthcare projects:

  1. For one of our clients (Vitera Healthcare Solutions now part of Greenway Health), we were their design and research team tasked to improve the user experience (UX) of their entire electronic health record (EHR) system. By accessing contact information ahead of time for attendees to their company summit, we were able to recruit and schedule time with the correct participants (physicians in this case) in an effective usability test schedule. Outside of the summit, this would have been difficult, as physician schedules can often be unpredictable and their attention may be elsewhere. Since it was our client’s summit, we were able to take advantage of temporary meeting rooms set up in the conference center to conduct our research activities (i.e. formative and summative usability testing).
  2. For another client (Sun Nuclear Corp), we were also their design and research team with the objective of creating a meaningful UX for their new integrated platform of radiation measurement instrumentation and software. Our client had some hardware and other product teams attending a medical devices conference as exhibitors, so we were able to use their conference booth for conducting formative usability testing of early-stage design concepts. We recruited our research participants in a similar manner to that listed above. The opportunity to participate in this type of research resonated so much for conference attendees, that some returned to the booth to provide further insights and feedback after their research sessions.

Why These Tactics Work

Conducting user research at these types of events is a great idea because:

  • There are plenty of people with similar profiles available to connect with during the event, and so there is a high probability of successful recruiting.
  • Attendees are usually focused on the same problem space and context.
  • Conference attendees spend a lot of time listening so may enjoy taking a break from the conference and do some of the talking. This means that they will be more engaged in your research and provide you with better insights.
  • Attendees may participate in your research for free!

Once others in your company see the success and better understand the process of user research, they may start helping you recruit. This is a great scenario because if you are already there at the event and people may be willing to participate without any or little compensation, the cost of additional participants is marginal and the additional data can be very worthwhile.

Navigating participants’ busy schedules and disparate locations can certainly be a challenge, so if you find this applies to you and need some help with user research we would love to chat.

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