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QRCA’s Elevate & Cultivate: The Experience & The Learnings

Posted By Amye Parker, Northstar Research Partners, Friday, February 9, 2018

Amye Parker is a 2018 QRCA Young Professionals Grant recipient. First launched in 2014, the Young Professionals Grant recognizes promising qualitative researchers aged 35 and younger with free passes to the QRCA’s Annual Conference.

Upon receiving the news that I was one of 15 people to receive a Young Professionals Grant from the QRCA to attend the annual conference ‘Elevate & Cultivate’ I was immediately excited — because I never win anything! However, the qualitative researcher inside me began to ask questions:

  • How should I prepare for Elevate & Cultivate?
  • What would the conference involve?
  • How would I avoid awkward networking situations?
  • What would I learn? 

Preparing for Elevate & Cultivate
Every first-timer gets paired with a seasoned conference goer who helps prepare for the conference. I quickly received an email introducing me to my ‘ambassador’, Kate Wagenlander Watson. She sent me lots of tips, answered all my questions, and even met me at 8 am on the first day of the conference. Kate was genuinely invested in making sure I had a good time.

The Conference
The conference contained the perfect balance of big-thinking seminars, participatory round-table discussions, and practical frameworks with highly applicable tips. The biggest surprise I had was how collaborative everyone was. Despite theoretically being competitors, everyone was forthcoming in offering advice and best practices.

Avoiding Awkward Networking
Everyone at the conference was welcoming and several social events also helped me meet others. A ‘speed dating’ session for all 55 First-Timers and their ambassadors was a great way to connect with people quickly. The dinner sponsored by the YP SIG attracted 30+ young researchers, resulting in fun times with great people. I left Phoenix with new friends, and renewed excitement about research.

The Learnings
The conference gave me a lot of inspiring thoughts and practical tips that I could apply right away. Here are six key things that stood out to me from Elevate & Cultivate:

  • Recruit Via Social Media

Recruiting high-quality research participants is becoming harder due to overly targeted criteria and professional participants. Tony Gentes of The Palmerston Group demonstrated the value of using social media outlets like Instagram, Meetup.com and Tinder. Using these outlets, recruitment is based on behavioural data and participants are less saturated with research.

  • Tri-angulate Insight Streams

Our research doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and our clients are inundated with information. Tamara Kenworthy of On Point Strategies showed the value of using secondary and quant data to complement qual in designing buyer personas. The Qually Award finalists also included expert insight in their proposals to complement consumer findings. By looking beyond our own primary research, we gain a holistic view, and can thus provide more strategic and nuanced insight.

  • Leverage Behavioural Economics Frameworks

A well-planned methodology is critical but insights can fall flat without the right questions. Lauren McCrae of Lux Insights shared a case study on using the COM-B framework to generate hypotheses and research questions. Behavioural Economic approaches can even be used in client workshops and ideation sessions. These frameworks offer great value in unpacking the sub-conscious drivers of behaviour and can help us understand the barriers

  • Lose Yourself in Moderation

We hear from people how ‘easy’ moderation seems, but anyone who’s in the job knows better. Naomi Henderson of RIVA Market Research engaged us in a highly relatable keynote speech on this topic, revisiting fundamentals and sharing encouraging (and hilarious) anecdotes. The power of System 1 thinking was another hot topic, and there were many sessions on projective methods offering case studies on activities like personification, deprivation and visual sorting exercises.

  • Create Experiences, Not Projects

In our overly-stimulated, attention-starved society, we are researchers and entertainers. Qually Award winners Lauren McCrae and Nicole Aleong of Lux Insights stood out by injecting videos and personality into their pitch. Daniel Berkal of The Palmerston Group inspired us to look beyond our industry for inspiration to elevate our research. For example, could we emulate the high-energy fun experienced at amusement parks? Crafting research that people want to be part of allows participants to open up, researchers to gain richer insight, and clients to be more engaged in the research.

  • Socialising Insight & Delivering Compelling Results

Clients are time-strapped and attention-poor. Therefore, our research needs to work hard to find longevity. Jennifer Spainhour and Martha Gordon led a heavily attended session on analysis and report writing hacks full of practical tips. In his masterclass, Berkal advised on the importance of keeping output top-of-mind throughout research design to ensure you deliver compelling insights. As a socialising tool, video cannot be under-estimated – it’s quick, visual and immersive, which drives results more deeply into our clients’ minds.

Visit qrca.org/YPG to learn more about the Young Professionals Grant.

Tags:  QRCA Annual Conference  QRCA Young Professional Grant  qualitative research 

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Change is the New Normal: Insights from the 2018 QRCA Conference

Posted By Kathleen Doyle, Doyle Research Associates, Inc, Thursday, February 8, 2018

If you are a qualitative researcher and have not attended a QRCA Conference, you owe it to yourself to add it to your list. QRCA members are hands-down the most generous, forward-thinking and collegial people you will ever meet, and the conference itself is unlike any other.

As usual, this year’s conference was full of educational and inspirational sessions, great exhibitors, and some excellent and thought-provoking roundtable discussions.

Here is a recap of my key takeaways:

  1. Social media and AI technology are rapidly becoming the next generation tool for qualitative recruiting and data collection. Shapiro & Raj discussed their social adaptive recruiting, which accesses forums, online communities, and public social networks to “find the hard-to-find”; and Tory Gentes discussed some decidedly non-traditional techniques for using tools in our socially connected world (some sites this Boomer had never heard of before!) as a means to find quality recruits.
  2. Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are poised to explode as a qualitative tool. David Bauer, of Hemisphere Insights, led a great session on this topic. As home VR equipment becomes ubiquitous, and programming costs are reduced, the ability to create more engaging experiences will become a reality. Use VR/AR to test concepts in-home; to simulate an in-store shopping experience; to create truly engaging virtual ethnography; to facilitate co-creation; and to allow stakeholders to understand the customer experience in a way not possible before.
  3. The traditional qualitative report is slowly but surely going the way of the dinosaur. The momentum continues to grow for shorter, more visual, non-traditional reports that tell a story that can persuade and influence decision making. While PPT is still most common, reports may also take the form of podcasts, photo books, full video reports, magazine reports, talk shows, or any number of other creative deliverables.
  4. The line between qualitative and quantitative is continuing to blur. Any survey can now be combined with qualitative feedback via video open-ends or qualitative “pull outs” — where a select number of respondents (based on their survey responses) are asked to participate in follow up qualitative interviews, to expand upon the learning from the survey and address the “why’s” behind their responses. Where once qualitative and quantitative were distinctly different beasts, hybrid projects are becoming increasingly common.

It’s an exciting time to be in the market research industry. Hold on, and enjoy the ride!

“This is a new year. A new beginning. And things will change.”

― Taylor Swift

“The pace of change and the threat of disruption creates tremendous opportunities…”

― Steve Case

Tags:  QRCA  QRCA Annual Conference  qualitative market research  qualitative research 

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A First-Timer's Perspective: QRCA Annual Conference

Posted By Leigh Wright, Bad Babysitter Productions, Thursday, February 8, 2018

Leigh Wright is a 2018 QRCA Young Professionals Grant recipient. First launched in 2014, the Young Professionals Grant recognizes promising qualitative researchers aged 35 and younger with free passes to the QRCA’s Annual Conference.

“Funny thing is, we have no social lives,” said a lady at my lunch table. Everyone laughed heartily, but I did only slightly. I am emerging into the qualitative field and as a research consultant. I’ve worked as a Director of Brand Strategy for six years, building internal marketing departments, looking through ad stacks, etc. The QRCA 2018 annual conference was one of the best — if not the best — places for an introduction.

All conferences are about teaching and education and professional accolades and training. QRCA is different because attendees come for the people and education is lagniappe (New Orleans’ slang for “an extra little gift”) or to support their peers’ work. As consultants, we do not get out and about to see one another during the year, so the QRCA holds a dedicated, sacred spot on the calendars of many.

Needless to say, I arrived in Phoenix with little knowledge of the QRCA, its benefits, the people, or the structure of the conference. To say I am blown away by the supportive structure of the community is an understatement.

From a beginner’s standpoint I found the talks from Naomi Henderson, Susan Abbott, Marta Villanueva, et al., all very enlightening and critical to understanding where I will find my niche in this industry. There were a lot of moderating tools discussed and quite frankly the point of creative flashcards was hammered home. Tory Gentes’ presentation on online recruiting was spot on. I’ve only done bespoke recruitment and have used online platforms to do so. (You would be surprised at how many preschool teachers are part-time babysitters through Care.com.)

The sessions I found the most insightful were about client presentation, online recruiting, business development, and behavioral economics. This is partly because I have done little moderating, but I believe presenting a variety of sessions is impactful. As Jim Bryson said one day during the conference, “It’s not ‘do we need another moderator.’ We need another good researcher.” So, let’s stick with the holistic approach. I believe it is working.

The roundtable discussions were fantastic and I enjoyed Peter Totman’s talk on Failure. There were so many going on at once and I did find it hard to choose which to attend.

In terms of the Young Professionals Grant, I am forever indebted to the sponsors of this program. Without them I would not have known about the QRCA, I would not have attended this year’s conference, and I would not have met the other YPs who I now consider friends. I will consider that week in Phoenix as a career milestone and springboard.

I’m sure others have tried to convey what makes QRCA special, and my words will fall short just like all the rest. The only thing left to say is thank you, and see you in Savannah.

Visit qrca.org/YPG to learn more about the Young Professionals Grant.

Tags:  QRCA Annual Conference  QRCA Young Professional Grant  qualitative research 

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Confessions of a GenX Researcher: Insights from the 2018 QRCA Annual Conference

Posted By Meredith Morino, Sklar Wilton & Associates, Wednesday, January 31, 2018
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Cat’s out of the bag! I guess I can no longer pretend to be a Millennial. 

I’m just back from the 2018 QRCA annual conference (Qualitative Research Consultants Association) and I’m feeling inspired but also humbled with a touch of GenX insecurity.

This was my fifth conference — yet I’ve never felt this way before. Five years ago, the majority of attendees seemed like seasoned veterans and you could count the number of individuals under 35 years of age on two hands. This year, perhaps due to a great initiative from the QRCA to include young people via the Young Professionals Grant, there were many younger people (aka Millennials) in attendance. Their youthful presence was exciting and also a reassurance that our profession will continue to grow and thrive.

However, part way through the conference, it dawned on me that I was the middle child. I was sandwiched between two great generations each making a significant mark on the qualitative research practice. Two fantastic speakers best brought this to life: Naomi Henderson is a qualitative guru who has practiced research since 1964, and Tory Gentes is an experiential researcher sure to become legendary in her own time.

Naomi Henderson is an impressive bundle of energy and one of the greatest teachers of qualitative research. In fact, as a founder of RIVA, it’s possible she taught half of the people in attendance. The keynote speaker, Naomi presented on Moderating Effectively to Elicit, Identify and Report Meaningful Insights. She shared the skills of what it takes to be an effective moderator and, trust me, there are many. Pearls of wisdom like SQLA (Short Questions yield Long Answers), tips for avoiding leading stem questions, mirror your participants for the desired response, and don’t analyze while moderating. I was in awe of her wealth of knowledge and her ability to deconstruct her experiences in order to help elevate all of our skills as researchers.

The title of Tory Gentes' presentation, 10 Tinder Dates in a Week? In a World of Social, Who Needs Traditional Recruiting Methods?, really illustrated how our practice is evolving. Tory, an Immersive Ethnographer at The Palmerston Group, is smart, vibrant, and courageous! She inspired me to think about using social media tools to help with/supplement recruiting or just to learn about your target audience before you interview them. Tory took us through a series of case studies where she used tools like Tinder, Couchsurfing, Meetup, and Uber to find and research her participants and their environments. I was impressed by her ingenuity and the authenticity of this approach. I also learned there’s a whole world beyond Instagram and Facebook and felt like I needed to dive back into social media and see what else had popped up since last I checked.

Two generations: A pioneer and a trailblazer. One practicing longer than the other’s age. One representing the classic method our practice stems from and the other evolving it for the future. I’m squeezed by greatness on both sides, swinging between both worlds. On the bright side, I’m lucky to be learning from both. It’s an exciting time for qualitative research!

Tags:  Naomi Henderson  QRCA Annual Conference  qualitative research  Tory Gentes 

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"Numbers and Narratives" Build a Bridge, Fill in the Blanks

Posted By Laurie Pumper, Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The following post was written by Alice Greene of Campos, Inc. Alice is one of our speakers at the 2018 QRCA Annual Conference in Phoenix, Jan. 24-26; her presentation is titled, Using Data Visualization to Overcome the Customer Experience (CX) Memory Barrier. Alice's presentation is just one of many reasons to attend the conference! Register now: http://bit.ly/QRCA2018

As consumers, employees, students, and Fitbit-wearing human beings, we are being provided with more and more information every day about ourselves and how we benchmark against others—seemingly to no avail. We all know why: Data alone is never enough. But I have been obsessing about how data, in combination with an individual’s own interpretation of, or story about, that data, has the potential to unlock significant personal growth and societal change.

Let’s take the state of education in the United States, which continues to decline despite measurement of every kind. These days, there is particular panic about kids needing to develop the hard skills that will be needed to prepare them for the jobs and technology of the future, as well as the soft skills, like problem solving and leadership, that often depend on self-awareness and confidence.

A friend of mine who is a local elementary school principal sees a solution to these challenges in not only sharing students’ data with them, but in asking them to explain it, also. Knowing that students often learn best when they can relate a topic to their own experiences (known as constructivist learning theory), what kind of self-actualization could come from learning about themselves by relating their own data to their experiences? Rather than sharing discrete data points with students—test scores, attendance and awards numbers, detention and extra-curricular engagement statistics—what if we present these data back to students in a visual, time-series format and asked them to describe their journeys? How would they tell their story, and what could we learn that the data simply can’t say? What was happening at home, for example, or with friends, with teachers, with their health? Imagine if we could aggregate that unstructured data into actionable, system-wide insights—with benchmarks!

Consider the case of one boy (we'll call him Danny) at my friend's school, whose data was showing fantastic performance in his words-per-minute reading score. It wasn't until reviewing Danny's results with him that she learned he was developing a speech impediment–which was bad for Danny and producing a misleading measurement. In a powerful testament to asking kids about their view of benchmarks, as well, Danny was shown different types of stuttering and immediately identified his own. He covers his stuttering by avoiding the "Sh" sound, which he can say correctly, but it makes him anxious. He was able to articulate all of this which, the principal noted, was "pretty amazing." She added: "He is now enrolled in speech and his reading is much better." 

So, we all know that data can’t tell us everything we need, but we don’t all appreciate how it can be used to trigger memories or sharing that can, in collaboration with the person whom the data represents, fill in a much more complete story.

This idea of “numbers and narratives” holds equivalent power in the healthcare arena. What happens when we show patients a visualization of all their touchpoints with doctors, pharmacists, and facilities over the past ten years? What will they remember? How will they fill in the blanks? And how can these insights start to solve some of the biggest challenges facing healthcare today?



Tags:  customer experience  data visualization  QRCA Annual Conference 

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The Future Is Virtually Here: Virtual Reality and Research

Posted By David Bauer, Hemispheres, Monday, December 11, 2017

Researchers spend much of their time exploring the future in collaboration with consumers and idea creators. From product concepts to environmental experiences to communication ideas, we work to understand how people react to these new creations and how to improve upon them.

With the advent of virtual reality, we now have the ability to send people into worlds where they can experience these new ideas in more realistic settings. In #VR, consumers can more authentically interact with these ideas, modify them, and explore how they would use them in their own lives.

Virtual reality, along with augmented reality and mixed reality, will soon have a powerful effect on many aspects of the research field. Researchers will be able to share experiences with consumers even though one may be at home in one country while the other is in her office in another country. Consumers will be able to manipulate and build concepts in collaboration with researchers and design teams. Clients will be more engaged as they observe and interact with their consumers in these virtual experiences.

Watch David's video

I will be speaking about research and VR at #QRCA2018, the Qualitative Research Consultants Association annual conference in Phoenix, Arizona, on January 26. You can learn more about the conference at the link below or reach out to me if you would like to discuss the possibilities of VR and research.

More details about the conference: http://www.qrca.org/event/annconf2018

Tags:  augmented reality  mixed reality  QRCA Annual Conference  qualitative research  virtual reality 

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#steampunk and Qualitative Research: The Future Is Now

Posted By Michelle Finzel, Maryland Marketing Source, Inc., Wednesday, December 6, 2017

steampunk imageI am loving the theme of the upcoming QRCA Conference: Elevate and Cultivate. The promise of a consortium of professionals – each representing different phases and ways in to their qualitative research careers – eager to share their varied experiences and knowledge. It immediately brought to mind imagery of sophistication and refinement, enlightenment and growth, artistry and execution, all grounded in hard work, solid skills development, and a willingness to get one’s hands dirty.

It immediately made me think: steampunk.

Steampunk is an aesthetic portrayal of retro-yet-futuristic stories, fashion, and ideas. A “subgenre of speculative fiction...It could be described by the definition: What the past would look like if the future had happened sooner” (urbandictionary.com).

Blade Runner image
Movie still from original Blade Runner

What would the past look like if it were happening now? What would the present look like if it were in the future? What does any of this have to do with qualitative research?

Pretty much everything.

Qualitative market research is also a sub-culture within a sub-culture. It boasts its own language, its own unique sets of tools and techniques, its own artisans and inventors. Qualitative researchers access the past and join it with the present as a means to craft a variety of possible futures. And we do it with our own flair and personal style.

Hugo movie still
Movie still from Hugo

And if we are to be the leaders of our industry and for our clients, then we definitely need to make sure that we are getting our education from all different directions and decades. Our more tenured researchers have seen and done it (almost) all – they planted the seeds of what we do so that we can benefit from their fruits. We must learn from them. Millennials look at society and seek to humanize our automated methods. We must learn from them. Our younger professionals are masters of life at our fingertips and simplifying what used to be convoluted and complex. We must learn from them.

This is why I am so excited to attend the QRCA Annual Conference. These three days in Phoenix, AZ, have been artfully designed so that anyone who still has something to learn about qualitative research (namely, all of us) will have the opportunity to benefit from what happens when qualitative vets engage with qualitative next. All to elevate and cultivate us into the gritty elegance of qualitative now.

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Tags:  QRCA Annual Conference  qualitative research  steampunk 

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I Underestimated the QRCA Annual Conference

Posted By Maria Virobik, ResearchScribe, Monday, November 13, 2017

I was a first-time attendee at the 2017 QRCA Conference in Los Angeles. Although I have been an independent QRC for 20 years, it wasn’t until the QRCA bylaws changed last year that I was finally (finally!) able to join the organization. I joined QRCA the day the expanded membership guidelines were announced and signed up for the conference soon after. The fact that it was taking place practically next door to me (I live in Pasadena) was just gravy.

Although it was my first QRCA conference, I was pretty certain what to expect: There would be interesting speakers and presentations, I would meet other QRCs, I would learn new things, and, of course, there would be dine-arounds. (Even though I had spent the preceding years being QRCA-adjacent, I knew about dine-arounds!)

I certainly wasn't wrong, but I definitely underestimated the magnitude. I expected “good,” even “great,” but the conference was AMAZING.

I attended presentations that filled my brain with tons of fantastic information, given by QRCs whose names I recognized as rock stars in qualitative research.

I learned new techniques and approaches and ideas. We were encouraged to approach and think about qualitative research in novel and surprising ways, and it all made me more excited about a field that I am already pretty darned excited about.

Perhaps the best part for me was connecting faces with familiar names as I finally met the colleagues “IRL” with whom I have worked with for years via phone and email. I also met many more QRCs that I only knew by name and reputation. In many cases, all I had to say was, “Wait, you’re So-and So?” and a fun and energetic conversation would take off from there.

And yes, I “dined around” and that was fabulous too – another opportunity to connect with colleagues and talk about anything and everything. Not just qualitative research or business or client issues or “work stuff,” but everything else under the sun. Dogs, favorite travel destinations, restaurant recommendations, you name it.

I came home every night too excited to sleep and couldn’t wait to get back the next morning. At the end of the conference, I had collected a stack of business cards from all the people I met, and had heard so much to inspire me and make me a better QRC. But the best part by far was the feeling throughout the entire three days that I had found “my people.” Working independently can be isolating and leave QRCs feeling like we are on our own with no backup or support, even just to commiserate about difficult projects or clients or respondents. For me, the conference was three solid days surrounded by nothing but support, collaboration, commiseration, and conversation with smart, friendly, interesting people who “get” what I do. I went expecting to meet colleagues but left with a lot of new friends as well. Needless to say, I am already booked for Phoenix in January 2018 and I can’t wait!

Tags:  QRCA Annual Conference  qualitative research 

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QRCA Annual Conference: Not Your Typical Event

Posted By Jennifer Dale, InsideHeads, LLC, Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Every year, all members of the Qualitative Research Consultants Association (QRCA) are invited to convene at the annual conference. With so many research industry conferences to choose from, why is the annual QRCA event always top of my list?

Because it’s worth it.

The cost of my annual membership and the one-time conference fee is nominal compared to the value I derive from the experience, both personally and professionally.

Since becoming a member of QRCA in 2006, I’ve missed only one annual conference and have no plans to miss another. Each year, I joyfully eject myself from the office and immerse myself in a pool of peeps whose interest in how people think is equally piqued.

The QRCA conference is not your typical annual bash, with a slew of pushy sales presentations. Instead, topics and speakers are heavily vetted, ensuring each conference includes the most relevant, useful, and inspiring learning sessions. Dedicated vendors support the conference by displaying and demonstrating the newest tools and technology for qualitative research. And members open their arms to welcome friendly hugs and share life stories.

For all who are QRCA, see you in Phoenix this January!

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Tags:  QRCA Annual Conference  qualitative research 

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Millennials and Video Ethnography: So Happy Together!

Posted By Isabelle Albanese, Consumer Truth Ltd., Thursday, October 26, 2017

Using video ethnography with Millennials is a big win for researchers and marketers. Lately Consumer Truth has done a few video ethnography projects among Millennials in three different categories. They've all yielded tremendous insight and in-depth discoveries. An interesting finding about the "marriage" of the target and the methodology is that Millennials are more than willing to share their lives via autonomous video capture and perceived self-direction. What researchers and marketers can potentially get in return is a wonderful glimpse into their homes, their personalities, relationships, interaction with friends, family members and pets—and ultimately, their truths—who they are, what matters to them and why, which is our ultimate end game.

In fact, I've found this group much more willing to share feelings, concerns, wishes and desires via self-made video stories than they are in more traditional qualitative settings. And why not? Screens are a second-nature connection to them. Screens have been their preferred conduit to communication most of their lives. Screens are familiar, controllable—their friends! And what we as marketers get back are well-crafted, casually communicated stories about how they interact with products and services—and importantly, how they feel about brands. What's real. Their truths.

In a recent project we did with Millennials, one person—after having completed the assignment—contacted us and asked what more we wanted her to do. Are we satisfied with her feedback? Did we get what we were looking for? Was there anything else we wanted her to capture on video? While I appreciated the over-achieving effort, like any qualitative researcher, I asked why she was so willing to continue contributing beyond our initial "ask." The answer shed a lot of light on the relationship this demographic has with screens, video and technology overall—and what we as marketers can learn relative to successful methodologies.

"It seemed too easy! Like I should be doing more for the money you paid me!" Understand, this was after having her complete a three-pronged exercise spanning 3 days and submitting 15 minutes of self-made video. In 17 years of researching consumer behavior, I've never once had someone contact me after an in-person ethnography (or any other methodology, for that matter) to ask if there was something else I needed to ask them or for them to do. No. That did not happen. Ever.

"It's ...easy!" And if it's "easy," isn't it also more authentic, more natural and real?

Read the full blog post, and join me at my presentation at the QRCA Annual Conference in January 2018!

Tags:  market research  Millennials  QRCA Annual Conference  video ethnography 

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