connections member news

November 2014
Vol. 13, Number 9

QRCA Management News
Conference News
Chapter News
Committee News
SIG News
Member News

Welcome New Members!

Please welcome QRCA’s newest members. Feel free to email new members directly and help them transition to our association. See someone from your home state? Consider reaching out to say “welcome” — one click and one minute of your time brings immense value to a new member.

Joe Anderson

Lighthouse Research and Development, Inc.
1292 W 12700 S
Riverton, UT 84065-6794
United States

Rachel Epley

Epley Research and Consulting
1 Quail Creek Cir North
Liberty, IA 52317-9571
United States

Ryan Fisher

BluePrint Research Group
5 Vaughn Drive, Suite 303
Princeton, NJ 08540
United States

Kimberlie Harmon

Listen Research
1 Joliet Dr
Trabuco Canyon, CA 92679-3629
United States

Debbie Katz

5 Marine View Plz, Ste 401
Hoboken, NJ 07030-5722
United States

Brad Martin

Brand Riffs, Inc.
635 S Kennicott Ave
Arlington Heights, IL 60005-2249
United States

J. Carlos Maya

Self Employed
2100 W. Flagler, Suite 101
Miami, FL 33135
United States

Mehdi Najari

Office 7&8, No.106, Atefi st., Vali Asr st.
Tehran 1967933667

Nate Pagel

18 Bernice St, Suite 103
San Francisco, CA 94103
United States

Anisha Shetty

1832 Biltmore Street NW, Apt 41
Washington, DC 20009 
United States  

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marc engel
Marc Engel

QuickTips: “Coalescing Vapor: Taking a Comedic Perspective”

Marc Engel,

QuickTips is a monthly column for Connections, providing members with quick and easy (and cheap or free) ways of doing our work and living our lives. Give us your favorite shortcuts, high- to no-tech! Email

“I coalesce the vapor of human experience into a viable and logical comprehension.”

Many of you are probably racking your brains going, “I know that line…. Wait…. Oh, come on, who said it?”

Well, I just did. (Were you not paying attention?!) Fans of History of the World will also recognize it as Mel Brooks’ (as Comicus) explanation of his job in the Roman Empire as a “Stand-Up Philosopher” to which clerk Bea Arthur retorted, “Oh. A bullsh!t artist.”

Comedy can indeed be a cover for b.s. But it is also one of the most powerful ways to connect with others. (SnapChat is the other.) More than anything I studied as a business major in undergrad or in law school, or my jobs at research companies, or the minimal formal moderator/QRC training I’ve had, my experience writing and performing stand-up, improv and sketch comedy is my most valuable asset as a researcher. (For those of you in Nitpickers Anonymous, no, I don’t write improv…and no, there’s no hyphen in “nitpicker”…nose-picker, yes; nitpicker, no.)

Like any good art form, comedy is about observation and reflection — taking the world around us that we so often take for granted — and looking at it in a new way. With comedy, it’s a way that makes us laugh. To wit (one of my favorite pretentious expressions I learned in law school, but since here it actually pertains to wit, I’ll use it), George Carlin’s observation: “What is tennis but ping-pong where the players stand on the table.”

Comedy is also about connecting things that weren’t connected before. Robin Williams was masterful at this, drawing from an incredibly broad and deep well of knowledge and cultural reference points and spontaneously linking them in a frenzy of warp-speed brilliance.

Comedy, like research, is based on empathy and perspective.

As a comedian, I harness everything I’ve learned about human behavior over my nearly 45 years and look at the world from the perspectives of my audience. I ask myself, “What are they thinking? Where are they coming from? Where can I get great coffee around here? (I get distracted easily.) What do we have in common that I can latch onto so that I can carry them with me? What will they find incongruous, ironic, paradoxical, ridiculous, hyperbolic – i.e., funny?” There is a tremendous degree of analysis that occurs, but it occurs instantaneously and almost subconsciously. Basically, I try to coalesce the vapor of human experience into a viable and logical comprehension. (Hmm, that Mel Brooks may be onto something.)

Comedy puts people at ease, especially at the beginning of a focus group. It razes the walls some people erect to protect or distance themselves, and shows them that it’s a safe environment in which to explore. Of course, it has to be managed so it doesn’t spin out of control. (I will whip out the Comedy Whoop-Ass and gently yet assertively put someone in their place if they try to commandeer the group.) Having studied the masters like Bill Cosby, Billy Crystal and Ellen DeGeneres, I know where the line is.

Comedy makes me seem less high-maintenance than I actually am; strengthens my relationships with clients, recruiters, facilities and partners; and is integral to the success of the ideation sessions I run called, “Out of Focus Groups™.”

Not everyone feels comfortable trying to be funny, nor should they try to be. I’m sure we’ve all experienced the vicarious pain of watching someone who tries to be funny but isn’t…not that that’s ever happened to ME! (Tongue almost cemented in cheek. Hey, you don’t get hits if you don’t swing — something our World Series Champion San Francisco Giants know well!)

It’s much more important to have a good sense of humor than to be funny oneself. Having a good sense of humor is about being open to different perspectives and understanding how and why other people find certain things funny. It helps elucidate how they see the world, which helps explains their attitudes and behaviors. In laughter are research insights. Are we open enough to see them?

Many fellow QRCA-ers utilize their backgrounds in comedy or other theatrical and performing arts: Mark Sumpter, Pascal Patenaude, Liz Van Patten, Horacio Segal, Steven Appel, Diane Harris, Marty Johnson, Len Ferman, just to name a few. (I realize that I’ve run the risk of leaving off many more of us who have similar backgrounds and employ humor in their work — so I make a pre-emptive apology. I also welcome you to join the discussion on the QRCA Forum titled, “Non-Research Backgrounds, Anyone?” under the “Social Networking” section.)

How can we all incorporate more comedy into our lives and our work? Here are a few suggestions, which also apply to being more creative generally and have been said by many others before me:

  • Think like a child. Be curious. Recapture that sense of wonder and fascination with everything.
  • Become a polymath. And realize that word has nothing to do with math (at least not specifically).
  • Go beyond your comfort zone.
  • Don’t take anything for granted.
  • Improvise. Do NOT deliver canned jokes (unless you like the sound of crickets).
  • Be like improv actors and jazz musicians, who “offer” things to each other to riff off of (that’s a lot of ending F’s and two prepositions at the end of a sentence, I know). Run with it and see where it takes you. Also know when to rein it in.
  • Look at things differently from the way you normally do. Physically turn them — or yourself — upside down or sideways or diagonally. Take it apart, reassemble it.
  • Pat your tummy and rub your head — and imagine what that feels like from the perspective of your tummy and your head.
  • Let your guard down and laugh…a lot. You’ll soon start to feel the vapor coalescing.

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  terah farness
Terah Farness

2014 Annual Conference Reflections

A Taste of My Own Medicine

Terah Farness,

On my way home from the QRCA Annual Conference in New Orleans I experienced a major “duh!” moment.

Two things collided, literally and figuratively. I was at a standstill on the freeway, and all I could see were blue flashing lights a bit ahead — never a good sign. So, I had some time to think about all I had learned in the past three days, and my mind kept returning to this one theme — a thin thread running through almost every presentation. In order to successfully grow my research consultancy, I needed to “pick a pigeonhole before someone else picks it for me” (thanks Anne Hooper!). Or, as Martha Guidry put it, “find my sweet spot and make it sticky.” Even during the keynote panel discussion, Benny Thomas suggested that we need to have something that was both distinctive AND memorable. Basically, what I heard is I needed to specialize, something I had railed against until that moment. My thinking has always been, “Why limit my potential? Why limit the size of my prospect pool? Why not do a bit of everything as the opportunity arose, keeping it interesting? Certainly, it’s beneficial to highlight all the things that I can do.”

Then BAM! It hit me. I was guilty of the infamous trying-to-be-everything-to-everyone sin — something I had so often counseled my own clients against. I knew I was in trouble. Suddenly I found myself on the other side of the intellectual fence thinking, “How could I have missed it? How did I fall into the same quagmire that I had fought so hard to pull others out of?” I knew now that I needed to heed my own advice and create a single-minded, crystal-clear, telegraphic positioning platform for my own brand. This activity would serve as the filter through which I ran all new initiatives, communications, promotions, and basically all aspects of my business. I was immediately excited by the prospect of arriving at a pithy statement that would sum up all that is distinctive and relevant about my company. I was also just as immediately overwhelmed by the challenging journey to that destination. The truth was that I wasn’t sure I was willing to let it go (I hope a soundtrack didn’t just start playing in your head).

So I decided then that I needed to stand for something, or I would end up standing for nothing. I took solace in knowing that other brands I had worked with had these distinct, targeted, positioning “North Stars” and had not been limited by them, but instead had achieved success because of them. So I took a spoonful of my own medicine (luckily the beignets at Café Du Monde that morning had more than enough sugar to help it go down).

My mind then began to race with my own answers to the familiar key questions: 1) who would be my most advantageous target; 2) what do they really want and need at a core level; 3) what is my emotional benefit; 4) what about my functional benefit; and 5) what is my unique selling proposition (USP)? I toyed with ideas about what might be the most relevant frame of reference. I was energized and excited by the prospect of noodling the language, context, implications, tone, and imagery. I reminded myself that the most classic, loved, and iconic brands all clearly stand for something distinctive and memorable, and who doesn’t want to be like them?

As I neared home, my mind wandered to other areas of our organizations that might also benefit from this line of thinking.  

We implore our clients to get into their consumers/customer’s shoes — are we taking our own advice?

  • Have we tweeted, snapchatted, instagrammed, skyped, pinned, liked, followed, blogged, posted, tagged, hashtagged, and do we know the ins and outs of these of-the-moment trends?
  • Have we taken a survey (on our mobile)? Or been in (or observed from the backroom) a focus group ourselves?
  • What could we learn by approaching these situations as a participant and seeing what it is like to be in their position?

Have we ever seen the world from our client’s perspective? What are we doing to better understand our client’s business objectives and how the output of our research project will be applied?

  • Do we know a client or partner who would be willing to let us shadow them during a day to see what their day-to-day is like and better understand their needs?
  • Have we ever spent enough time in an advertising, packaging, or design agency to truly understand what they do, how their process works, and how they use our deliverables? Or where they see our deliverables falling short?

Are we asking the same of ourselves that we expect of others?

  • If a client asked us to put together a research proposal to better understand their customer’s web experience on their site, what would we recommend? What steps would we undertake? Looking through that lens at our own websites, what are our opportunities?
  • Are we aware of and leveraging changes and trends in the same purposeful way we help our client partners to? Is that new expertise evident in our own marketing communications?
  • Are we customizing and targeting messaging to the unique needs of our varied client audiences? Have we given careful consideration to how our offering mix may need to be adapted to these different needs?

I hope that my epiphany experience has sparked a thought for you as well, maybe even a desire to create a positioning platform for your brand. If so, reach out if you ever want to chat more about the positioning process and how to build a compass for your company.


diane harris
Diane Harris


A Time of Remembrance for Lloyd Harris

Diane Harris,

Early Thursday morning at this year’s conference, many QRCAers gathered for a Time of Remembrance for our brother, Lloyd Harris, who passed away this past May. Dozens of colleagues who were unable to attend the conference this year sent tributes and remembrances that were read out loud by those in attendance. A slide show and remembrances of Lloyd were shared with the group and those who wanted to give their own tributes to Lloyd were encouraged to do so. 

diane and lloyd harris

Diane Harris and J.R. Harris hosted nearly 40 members attending the event, which honored and remembered Lloyd as the larger-than-life person he was.  
Lloyd was the Secretary of the Board of Directors in the late '90s and later received the Maryanne Pflug Spirit Award.

lloyd harris

diane and lloyd harris

Top: Lloyd Harris accepts the Maryanne Pflug Spirit Award

Lloyd, his brother J.R. Harris, and his “sister” Diane wrote and produced QRCA’s 20th Anniversary Program for the 2003 conference. The trio also hosted a celebration for the 20th Anniversary of the QRCA Conference, with a game show format challenging QRCA chapters against one another in a trivia contest.

Bottom: Lloyd, Diane, and J.R. Harris emceed the 20th Anniversary of the Conference

Lloyd will be greatly missed and forever in our hearts. 


janet standen
Janet Standen


Top 5 Insights from the QRCA Annual Conference

Janet Standen,

Reprinted from the QRCA Forum. Click here to access the thread.

I wanted to make sure I thought about the value I got from attending this year's QRCA conference, apart from reveling in the enjoyment of being with such great people in such a great location — thanks to all those who made it happen! My list had over 20 insights I took out of being there, so clearly it was great value! Here are my top five to share — did anyone else go through this process and want to share their top five?

  1. Being a good QRC is as much about gaining insights from my own primary qualitative research as it is about applying my "qualitative skills" to interpret any data (big or small), no matter where it comes from.
  2. We need to be careful. In the interests of trying to add value to our presentations when we share our learning with clients through videos and selfies of our respondents, we must not compromise recruitment in order to have mostly potential "reality TV stars" as our participants, leaving our clients with the impression that all their consumers are confident, extroverted, articulate, good looking, and, yes, entertaining. Our primary job is to bring a dose of "truth and reality" to their world, not "entertainment and hyped-reality."
  3. I should get an expert Community Manager to run my MROCs, so that I don't need to be an expert in "rewards/payment systems," "communication co-ordination," "authenticating community members," "tech advising,” etc., and can stick to being a good moderator and to extracting great directional and informative data!
  4. If cost and time involved in travel are two of the greatest barriers to diverse location in-person qualitative research, then work with other great QRCs on the ground in different locations. Use technology to share learning between the QRCs immediately following fieldwork (ideally synchronous) and to turn around a fast and insightful debrief, rather than necessarily using technology to do the research itself. I’m interested to know if others have had good experiences working this way.
  5. The main benefit of Google Glass is that you can store them on your head rather than needing a hand or a pocket to store your smartphone, and they are right there in an instant on your nose, ready to use!
  6. Sorry, I had to have a sixth. It was inspiring and energizing to have such a great bunch of younger QRC professionals at the conference — it had a significant impact on the overall vibe and my enjoyment. Thank you to Steve Schlesinger and Merrill Dubrow for helping to make this happen.

Thanks, Babbletype, for some great photos that captured the spirit of the event; attached is a collage of some San Francisco Chapter attendees (and friends!) having a great time.

conference 2014 photos

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Personal Connections — QRCA Annual Conference Chronicles — Selfies and More!

Michelle Finzel,

QRCs Show their Glow!

chris kann patrice
Patrice Wooldridge and Chris Kann!
kendall and shaili
Kendall Nash and Shaili Bhatt!

missy michelle allison
Missy Carvin, Michelle Finzel, and Allison Rak
foster winter
Foster Winter
maricel dominguez
Maricel Dominguez-Watson, Mike Courtney, Marta Villanueva, and “a Dancing Queen!”
jim bryson
Jim Bryson


QRCs on the Go!

group dinner
Antoine's on the Friday night Dine-a-Rounds. At the table are, clockwise from left, Alicia Menanteau, Caroline Volpe, Graciela Braniff, Mark Wheeler, Horacio Segal, Deanna Manfredi, and Tarquin Moore. We had a phenomenal meal of shared appetizers (including Oysters Rockefeller which were invented at Antoine's), fresh seafood entrees, and shared desserts. Also enjoyed was a lovely Malbec. According to Deanna Manfredi, “When we left the restaurant around 10pm we walked back to the hotel via Bourbon Street (on a Friday night) and were treated to some very colorful and risqué antics (and were quite happy to have the mounted police keeping an eye on the festivities).”

jayce treible
Jayce Treible enjoying Mr. B’s Bistro.
kelly heatly
Kristin Schwitzer and Kelly Heatly at a jazz club on Frenchmen Street.  Photobomb compliments of Bill Fanning.
sidney clewe cafe
Laurie Quercioli, Karen Dovey, and Sidney Clewe on an early morning sugar high at Café du Monde during Healthy Connections on Friday.


A New QRC Bombs a Photo

casey curry photobom
Missy Carvin, Marta Villanueva, Susan Thornhill, and first-timer Casey Curry


QRCs Who Had to Miss the Show 

Mary Aviles with her business partner and fellow QRC, Sandra Bauman, from this year. Mary told us, “We have worked together for 10 years, but I live in Michigan and she lives in New Jersey so we hardly ever get together in person. This year, though, we had a strategy session in January in Chicago during Chiberia weather (-13 degrees) so one picture is of us taking a picture of ourselves in the Bean in Millennium Park and there were literally NO OTHER people outside b/c it was so cold. The second one is of us from this July in Hudson, NY at a Wine Bar in the art district on Warren Street — MUCH warmer visit!”

mary aviles

mary aviles

Mary Aviles with her business partner and fellow QRC, Sandra Bauman

And as promised...
beignet shot! MMMMM….

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QRCA Members Get Published!

Editor’s Note: QRCA has established many content partnerships that provide a platform for sharing the knowledge and expertise of our talented members, and QRCA members often contribute articles to industry publications. Each month, Connections would like to recognize those who have recently been published and share their articles with all members. Information provided by Laurie Pumper,

Recently published member articles:

AMA Marketing Insights E-Newsletter: “A Millennial Researcher’s Tips for Researching Millennials”

Katy Mallios, lead insights and intelligence consultant at SPYCH Market Analytics and a QRCA member who co-chairs the QRCA Young Professionals SIG, writes that compared to generations past, millennials represent a highly engaged and vocal consumer base, which makes them a lot of fun from a research perspective. Katy’s tips for working with millennials include establishing rapport, driving mobile optimization, and fitting within a millennial’s inclination toward digital expression.

AMA TV: The Secret Weapon of Research: “Using Win/Loss Analysis to Assess Valuable Consumer Feedback and Strengthen Your Marketing Mix”

AMA TV did a segment based on a white paper written by Jennifer Berkley Jackson, owner of The Insight Advantage and co-chair of the QRCA San Francisco Chapter.

GreenBook: “Accessorizing Your Research Project: Amp Up the Value for Your Clients”

Julie Medalis leads Brain Pot Pie, an ideation and marketing research consultancy, and is an active QRCA member. In the article, she shares ways to think about accessories in the world of qualitative research: they could be the techniques used to elicit the most insightful feedback form respondents, the efficiency tools that make life easier for heavy travelers, or the resources that help us share results most effectively with our clients.

Survey Magazine: “Taking a Page (or Two) from the Financial Service Industry’s Toolkit”

Jenifer Hartt, president, Hartt & Mind Market Research and a QRCA member who serves as a managing editor of QRCA’s VIEWS magazine, managed corporate investment portfolios in a previous career. She explains a few techniques that easily translate to other industries and work well across research platforms. For example, an insurance colleague of hers recruits agents for focus groups based on actual purchase rather than reported behavior. During the interviews, purchase data are used to identify and explore incongruities between actual behavior versus what the agents say and think they are doing.

Survey Magazine: “Facebook, Inc. Ethical Dilemma: What happens when a research study has 689,003 participants?”

Jim Bryson, CEO, 20/20 Research and a QRCA member and past president, has an opinion column about the ethics of conducting a study among participants who have agreed to participate in research but do not know they are participating in a particular study.

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Kudos Corner

Editor’s Note: The Kudos Corner appears occasionally in Connections – whenever members want to publicly salute others who do good things for the organization.  If there’s somebody in QRCA that YOU would like to commend for any contribution (large or small) to QRCA, please let us know at  All submissions will go to the Editor-in-Chief of Connections and will be published anonymously.

This month’s Kudos...

Two amazing Board members recently stepped down from the Board and were recognized in New Orleans with plaques.

kendall nashKendall Nash is the Immediate Past President of the Board and a smart, strategic and politically-savvy leader who will be missed. Board members commented:

“Kendall applies her considerable skill, natural brilliance, and cheery disposition to every problem with the goal of finding a smart and accessible solution. She goes the distance to be the best leader, friend, parent and employee possible. What she may not realize is the influence her generous nature has on others. Certainly, I am more patient and tolerant through my association with Kendall. How wonderful that she can gift others by her very presence!” Susan Saurage-Altenloh

"Kendall is a great leader; calm and kind, she leads by example and always has the nice words to make you want to help and do more”. Marc-André Leduc

"A thoughtful and strategic thinker. She has a quiet strength that earns the respect of fellow leaders.“ Mark Sumpter

liz and markLiz Van Patten served on the Board for four years and was known and appreciated for her strategic thinking, visionary leadership, deep insights and sense of humor.

"Liz is a synonym of wisdom; she is calm and poised and knowledgeable — you can always turn to her for advise which she gives from the bottom of her heart”. Marc-André Leduc

“What I've learned about Liz over 12+ years: She's thoughtful, inspiring, witty, and downright fun. If Liz takes something on she commits to it fully with her whole heart... a new dog (Dash!), a presentation in desperate need of aesthetic love, a perfectly poured Manhattan (cheers!), a professional organization and its board, or a 20-something young researcher in need of a mentor. Thank you for all that you've done for QRCA, but most of all for being an incredible mentor and friend.” Rachael Krupek

"Liz is extremely thoughtful and methodical in her approach to issues or questions she’s presented with. She is seldom the first to speak as she absorbs the 'situation'. When she does, I find myself thinking 'I want to be like her!'" Mark Sumpter

A big thank-you to volunteers who have stepped into and away from leadership positions! Your dedication and time toward QRCA is greatly appreciated.

  • Susan Saurage-Altenloh stepped down from IRCom Co-Chair and Liz Van Patten stepped in
  • Freddie Williams ended her Sponsorship Chair role in New Orelans and Katrina Noelle stepped in
  • Judy Riggs left her San Francisco chapter co-chair position and Allison Rak stepped in
  • Marc-André left the Eastern Canada chapter co-chair position and Maryse Hudon stepped in
  • Batool Batalvi left the Pharma SIG leadership and Colleen Welsh-Allen stepped in
  • Katy Mallios left the Young Professionals SIG leadership and Grace Rickman stepped in

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