Blog Posts
April 12, 2023

Understanding the Basics of Participant Management

Knowing the 4 basic components to Participant Management will help you build a strong foundation for your Participant Management strategy. Dive into each component and learn what to do next.

“You’re always going to need someone at the base of Participant Management,” ReOps leader Danielle Cleaver said in our latest ebook, The Definitive Guide to Participant Management and Recruitment.

If you’re reading this blog, it’s likely you’re the person who has been tasked with handling Participant Management. Congrats! 🤗  You likely have already realized this, but Participant Management is “a lot to get done, especially if you’re a team of one.” Caitlin Faughnan, UX Research Ops Coordinator at GitLab, broke down what she meant by “a lot” in our ebook, which you can download for free.

Participant Management is a crucial step in the User Research process. When done effectively, it ensures that User Research is conducted in an ethical, efficient manner, generates quality insights, and drives affinity with the brand, product, and team.

Basically, a good Participant Management strategy is essential for conducting great User Research with your users. To begin, you must start with the basics. Below are definitions of the terms you should know when building your Participant Management strategy and recruiting internal users.

One way to start on the right foot when tackling a responsibility as large as Participant Management is to understand all relevant terms. This provides a solid foundation for building, testing, innovating, and evaluating the success of  your Participant Management strategy.

What is Participant Management?

Participant Management is the strategy teams use when engaging with and managing their users for research. Participant Management is both a strategy and a job. Here are some tasks that fall under Participant Management:

  • tracking participant info and activity
  • scheduling research sessions
  • sending emails and other comms
  • handling consent
  • paying and managing incentives

You will use your Participant Management strategy to build and manage panels and recruit your users.

4 components of your Participant Management strategy

As we mentioned above, your Participant Management Strategy will guide your panel-building and recruitment efforts. These two tasks are components of your strategy. Let’s dive in.


A panel is a group of users who have voluntarily opted-in to participate in User Research and have been screened to match specific research criteria. Typically, users in your panel will be dedicated customers and individuals who expect to be involved in various research projects over an extended period of time. While panels have advantages and disadvantages, not every research team will require or create one. We discuss how to determine if you should build a panel in our latest ebook, which you can download here.

Panel Building

Panel building is an ongoing, unending process that should prioritize maintaining current participant profiles and regularly introducing new perspectives into your organization’s research process.

To build a panel, you must first determine the following:

  • what type of participants do you want?
  • how will you organize and structure your panel?
  • what tools will you use?

Once you’ve answered these questions, you can begin recruiting.


When you recruit for User Research, you are populating a panel or study with people from your user base who fit specific criteria. The recruitment process can be thought of as a funnel you can optimize to increase response rates and take rates for research. Recruitment involves a range of activities such as:

  • initial outreach
  • screening
  • obtaining consent
  • scheduling (and sometimes rescheduling)
  • sending thank-you notes and incentives

Panel Management

Once users have joined your panel, you begin your panel management process. Effective panel management will accomplish two things:

  1. Keep your data fresh
  2. Keep your participants engaged

By doing these things, the benefits of your panel, such as rapid recruitment of high-quality participants, can be realized.

Now that you understand the definition of Participant Management and what it involves, you’re ready to start building your strategy. Check out our ebook, The Definitive Guide to Participant Management and Recruitment, to find the essentials of a strong Participant Management strategy, how to measure success, how to build and maintain a panel, and more.

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