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The restaurant is stunning, the menu mouth-watering, and the service impeccable. But your date is asking irrelevant and hard to understand questions, and they seem only vaguely interested in your answers. How's the date going?

So let's try again. The setting is the same, only this time your date is talking with you, not at you. They clearly want to get to know you and they are listening well, giving cues they understand, respect and really appreciate what you're saying. That sounds more promising, doesn't it?

We all know what separates a good date from a bad one. Exercising that same level of judgment in our relationship to research participants - and especially, community panel members - is essential to doing good research.

Over the next two weeks, we'll share a series of posts on best practices for participant engagement, all of them inspired by what makes for long-lasting love. Also, watch for our on-demand webinar, "Engagement: 4 Ways to Romance Your Respondents", featuring Forrester Research, Inc.

In this blog series, we'll cover:

User Interface Design
Your interactive elements offer the equivalent of eye contact: a good-size target gives your respondent something to lock onto, while smaller or more distant elements become increasingly difficult to acquire with a pointing device like a mouse.

Discussion Forums
A discussion forum can do the same thing for your relationship with respondents: by bringing members of your community together you can help them feel invested in their relationship with you and with your research.

Respondent Fatigue
You can battle respondent fatigue and increase engagement over the long run if you commit to closing the feedback loop and giving back to your members.

Mobile Research
While potential respondents are standing in the store or staring at their virtual shopping cart, you can push a mobile survey that gets in their head at the moment of decision-making. That kind of in-situ research enables fruitful insights that retrospective questions may not provide.

We will be unpacking these points and more as we cover the many facets of respondent engagement over the next two weeks. If you have comments, questions or suggestions for what you'd like to see, leave us a comment below or send us a tweet. And by the time Valentine's Day arrives, you'll know how to make your research participants love you.

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