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!