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2019 QRCA Annual Conference: “Charting Your Best Course” – So much more than a slogan

Posted By Annette Esquibel, Friday, March 29, 2019
Updated: Wednesday, March 27, 2019
Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: Step Back to Move Forward: Developing Customer Journey Maps

I came to the 2019 QRCA Annual Conference with diverse experiences, an interest in qualitative research, a love of people, and a lack of direction.  I’m not going to say that attending the 3-day conference at the end of January magically fixed all my professional woes, but I will say that it gave me the resources, a community, and a direction that I had been looking for.

Before attending, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I had undergone a career pivot a year before and had been feeling my way through the research world largely on my own. Don’t get me wrong, I had been networking my booty off, attending workshops, getting certifications and generally making a name for myselfbut it turns out I had siloed myself into one small niche of the research world without realizing it.  Luckily, during this time, I met Janet Standen, an amazing qually and big advocate for QRCA who encouraged me look into the upcoming conference.  Boy, am I glad I did! Participating in the QRCA Annual Conference opened my eyes to the abundance of opportunities in the qualitative research world. I was able to find more in terms of a network, career directional opportunities, and resources in three days than I had found in a year of searching on my own.

Annette Esquibel Meeting

Using the Young Professionals Roundtable to learn from each other's experiences and strategize solutions. Photo by Annette Esquibel

Annette Esquibel Meeting

Another “a-ha” moment in the works courtesy of genuine and ample networking opportunities. Photo courtesy of Babbletype

The conference was chockfull of diverse learning opportunities: 

  • Conference Sessions: There were a variety of conference sessions focused on five themes: honing methodologies, expanding thinking, refreshing convention, building business, and tackling technology.  There were sessions that could be of value whether you were a novice or expert, and with videos and materials from each session available after the conference, you didn’t have to worry about missing out on something incredible. 

  • Roundtables: Presentations not your thing?  There were also multiple small group and roundtable sessions to participate in. The Young Professionals Roundtable, called The Young Professional Exchange: Career and Life Hacks to Super Charge Your Growth, may have been my favorite learning opportunity. Recognizing that my peers face similar concerns and issues in our professional pursuits was reassuring and I gleaned actions from the solution-focused discussion that I am still applying in my day-to-day.

  • Case Studies: Tired of only hearing about things in theory?  Then the case studies presented by the Qually Awards finalists were for you!  With a real-world challenge set, these researchers presented pitches of creative, thorough, and diverse methodologies. 

  • Exposure to Tools & Vendors:  The marketplace was always an interesting place to spend a break.  Seeing all the tools and vendors that are available to us as researchers on exhibit was very helpful in figuring out the most effective way to work. 

  • Structured & Informal Networking: Last but certainly not least: the people! As a Young Professionals Grant winner, we were given multiple scheduled events to get to know each other. And what a great group of professionals to be a part of.  I also learned a ton just through conversations with other attendees. Coffee breaks, meals, evenings out, and even chats in the lobby led to a-ha moments and genuine connections that are invaluable.  QRCA is made up of qualitative researchers of all walks including independent consultants, researchers at agencies and in-house researchers so there was never a lack of interesting people to get to know! Speaking of interesting people - let’s talk about the First Timers program for new conference attendees.  Ambassadors are available for all first-time attendees and help make your time at the conference more productive and less stressful. I was lucky enough to be paired with Kate Wagenlander Watson, a QRCA rockstar and overall amazing human being.  Before the conference, I connected with Kate and we created a game plan to make sure I was able to get the most out of my time in Savannah. 

The beauty is that I know attending the conference is just the tip of the iceberg.  Since the Young Professionals Grant includes a year membership to the QRCA, I have access to all the online archives of past discussions, blogs, and articles as well as current posts, newsletters and webinars. The online community is a welcome and welcoming resource that I am so excited to put to use. I am joining my local chapter as well as Special Interest Groups (SIGs) to continue building my community and engage in learning that I am especially interested in. Plus, I can continue to grow my toolkit and support this great organization through the ample leadership and volunteer opportunities available. Really, the only thing limiting how much I can be involved is myself.


An amazing breakfast for the Young Professionals Grant winners served as a warm introduction for the group. Photo courtesy of Shannon Danzy

In case it isn’t clear yet, the people are what make QRCA and its annual conference so great.  I was absolutely floored by the genuinely collaborative and supportive attitude of the members I met.  One phrase I heard that perfectly describes their attitude is “There’s plenty of room in the sandbox.” While many of my past conference experiences have been tinged by an undercurrent of competitiveness and transactionality,that was not at all the feel of this gathering. I am confident in saying that because of the YP grant, I am now a member of a community.  I have found kindred spirits that are more than willing to act as mentors and friends in years to come.  I am confident that this network will be integral in finding my niche in the wild world of qualitative research.


Comradery was abundant from the get-go with both first-time attendees and long-standing members. Photo courtesy of Babbletype

So, thank you QRCA for welcoming me into your fold and for providing the generous Young Professionals Grant that made it possible for me to attend.  I’m so excited to continue my qualitative research journey as part of this amazing community. If you are questioning the value of joining QRCA, are starting out in the research world, or would like to hear more about the annual conference and funding opportunities, please reach out! See you all in Austin in 2020!

  

Annette EsquibelAnnette Esquibel
Anthropologist turned research strategist, Annette’s global experience is based in people-centered research aiming to do the most good possible. Currently located in Minnesota, she is now an active member of QRCA and invites you to connect.

Website: ThePeoplePerson
LinkedIn: Annette Esquibel

Tags:  QRCA  QRCA Annual Conference  QRCA Young Professional Grant  Qualitative Research 

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Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: Step Back to Move Forward: Developing Customer Journey Maps

Posted By Farnaz Badie, Thursday, March 28, 2019
Updated: Wednesday, March 13, 2019
Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: Step Back to Move Forward: Developing Customer Journey Maps

 

Customer Journey Map

Summary:
Crafting a customer journey – reflecting both practical and emotional behaviors and attitudes – can illuminate more nuanced marketing and product development path for our clients. In this session, Aliza Pollack of Aliza Pollack Consulting, elegantly and patiently unpacked the steps required to create a customer journey.

Key Takeaways:
There are five key steps to creating a customer journey map: Benchmark, Discovery, Synthesis, Visualize and Action Plan.

  1. Benchmark: is essentially a stakeholder's download, in order to identify who the client team is, what they already know, and how they view the issue at hand. This step can be achieved in many ways, including using stakeholder interviews, client workshops, online surveys, etc.
  2. Discovery: is finding out what motivates the customer. This step ideally involves in-depth interviews with current users, lapsed users, as well as non-users of the brand, service, or category in question.
  3. Synthesis: is about analyzing the information acquired during the Discovery phase. The idea is to use the learnings in order to put the customer journey map together in a way that helps the client the best.
  4. Visualization: is about bringing the journey map to life, often using visuals / graphics – the final output could take several forms, e.g. poster, podcast, video, etc. Aliza often uses a designer to create the final map.
  5. Action Plan: is taking the created map and thinking about how to best utilize it. This step often takes the form of a client workshop led by Aliza, where the customer journey map results are debriefed and reviewed, and the client team discusses next steps.

Putting it into practice:
After this session, the creation of a Customer Journey Map is yet another qualitative service that I can now offer my clients, and in doing so, add value to their business.

A-ha moment:
The process of creating a journey map is imperfect, in that we are trying to shore up consumer's memory. As a result, we should do whatever we can to tap into the key journey moments in real time, through utilizing research techniques such as shop-alongs, respondent diaries, ethnographies, mobile research, etc.

Aliza was incredibly generous, precise, open and good-humored in delivering this session. She was able to answer multiple questions and better guide the audience through the process, making sure that attendees walked away with a clear understanding of what it takes to create a Customer Journey Map. Thank you Aliza for a great presentation :)

QRCA Reporter on the Scene:

Farnaz BadieFarnaz Badie
The Thought Bubble
LinkedIn

Tags:  QRCA Annual Conference  QRCA Reporter on the Scene  qualitative research 

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Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: Discover & Deploy Design Thinking

Posted By Liza Carroll, Friday, March 22, 2019
Updated: Wednesday, March 13, 2019
Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: Discover & Deploy Design Thinking

 

Design Thinking

Summary:
During the 2019 QRCA Annual Conference, Sofia Costa Alves of Mindbrand demonstrated how to lead a full Design Thinking Process from Stage 1 of Insights Gathering to Stage 5 of Product Testing. She illustrated the process through real case studies of process in action, from beginning to end. Costa Alves provided each attendee with a toolkit template that we can incorporate into the methodologies we offer to clients.

Key Takeaways:
Throughout the presentation we saw the divergent, integral thinking that characterized the process. Costa Alves shared that there are many different ways to put the Design Thinking Process into practice – it is about understanding the consumer and problems we are trying to solve.

The case study that Costa Alves provided was a great example of how to utilize the Design Thinking Process. The first step that was deployed was to have participants write down what they found “new, interesting, or surprising” in findings from consumer visits prior to the live session. Participants were instructed to lay out their opinions with three different color Post-Its:
Green = What’s Working
Red = Need to Fix
Yellow = Meh

The key to this process is to make sure that every participant is heard. After the Post-It exercise, the information was organized into major themes and then written on blank cards. These cards were placed on the wall and the post-it evidence was put on a flip chart where the team looked for strong evidence that there was something going on. All of this information was then converted into problem statements with priority being given to the key identified problems.

The participants next got into the ideating stage of the process. For each problem, participants were asked to create four radical solutions and then started generating ideas through drawing and writing. The work was shared with the group and feedback was given by all present participants. From these steps, the teams built prototypes and decided how to test the solutions they came up with and present them to consumers.

Throughout the whole process it became very clear to me that the key to successfully utilizing the Design Thinking Process is the charisma and energy of the moderator. Through the key use of energizers, ice breakers and breaks, the moderator can keep momentum throughout the process and find success.

Postits

Putting it into practice:
Personally, after this great in-depth presentation I will be carrying the recognition of how deeply the consumer needs to be understood in qualitative research into all my thinking and dealings with clients.

A-ha moment:
I found it funny and insightful that in the case studies presented, the moderators were able to gain the participation of the executives by giving up their phones for chocolate. Finally, the solutions/prototypes were focus-grouped with consumers. I loved the idea to "create 4 radical solutions" for each problem statement and will use that in my practice.

I was excited by the sheer number of Post-Its used in the various stages of the case study. They vividly conveyed the creative thinking and collaboration that went on throughout the Design Thinking session.

QRCA Reporter on the Scene:

Kendall Nash Liza Carroll
RDTeam, Inc
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lizacarroll/

Tags:  QRCA Annual Conference  QRCA Reporter on the Scene  qualitative research 

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Theater Games in Research and Ideation

Posted By Laurie Tema-Lyn, Tuesday, March 19, 2019
Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: Step Back to Move Forward: Developing Customer Journey Maps

 Laurie tema Lyn

Bring the POWER of Theater Games to Your Next Session!

Let me start off by saying I am not an actor, although I’ve had some theater training. I earn my living as a researcher, consultant and innovation catalyst, and I’ve been doing that for decades.
I like to bring PLAY into my work as I see the results are well worth it in terms of ramping up the energy of a flagging team, developing empathy, encouraging candid, uncensored conversations and triggering or evaluating new ideas.

Using theater games builds on fundamentals that all face-to-face researchers/facilitators should have in their arsenal. They include:

  • The ability to build rapport and have fun;
  • Creating a “safe place” so people feel comfortable expressing themselves;
  • Being able to read your group through attentive listening and observation;
  • Being willing to take a risk, knowing that there are no failures — risks lead to opportunities.

Here are tips and techniques to add to your repertoire:

  • Start with an easy game; I call this one Word Salad. It’s a new twist on the tried-and-true technique of Mind Mapping by adding a pulse — a finger snap — as you capture each participant’s words on a flip chart pad. Breathe and repeat each word or phrase that you are given as you chart. It can be a bit hypnotic. Participants stop self-censoring and by pausing a moment as you repeat the words they listen, reflect and connect. A variation is to use a Nerf ball and throw it to participants to respond. Less time for “thinking,” just gut level responses.
  • Experiment with Improvs to illuminate brand perceptions, product or service use, or to inform creative strategy or positioning. It’s good to do a bit of pre-planning to identify some people, places, things or situations that you might want to see “acted out” in your work session. Position the exercise as an experiment.Ask for volunteers and give basic improv guidelines including the use of “Yes, And…” to accept or build on their partner’s offers. Remind participants that you are not looking to them to be funny or clever, just authentic to the character or situations. After you conduct a couple of improvs, it’s important to review what all have learned.
  • Theater of Exaggeration. Try this out to spice up a concept review. You might begin in your typical fashion and then encourage participants to push the boundaries. What are the Most Outrageous Plusses or Benefits to this concept? Conversely, what are the Most Outrageous Negatives to this idea? You just might end up with some new ideas or identify problems that participants had been too polite to suggest earlier.
  • Mouthfeel: Try this out to help evaluate a name and positioning. This is an improv where participants stand up and have a conversation using a new name or positioning. I recently ran a naming session with a colleague for a social services agency. We had six names in the top tier and were trying to evaluate which were the best. One of the name candidates looked great on paper, but when I asked for two volunteers to improv it (one in the role of a crisis hotline operator, the other a client calling for help) we realized it was a bear… too cumbersome to speak when used in context. We nixed that one from the list.
  • Spontaneity based on solid preparation. These games work when you mentally prepare yourselfas facilitator, prepare your respondent team by providing clear guidelines of what you are asking them to do, and prepare your client team in advance so that they won’t be shocked or worried if you include a theater game to your discussion guide or agenda.

These are just a small sampling of theater games and activities you might bring to your next gig. I encourage you to try them out and make up your own, and feel free to get in contact with me.

Links to more articles on this topic:

 

Laurie Tema LynLaurie Tema-Lyn
Practical Imagination Enterprises
laurie@practical-imagination.com

Tags:  QRCA Digest  Qualitative  Research Methodologies  Theater Games 

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Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: Easy to Use Theatre Games for Energy, Insights and Ideas

Posted By Ben Grill, Thursday, March 14, 2019
Updated: Wednesday, March 13, 2019
Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: Easy to Use Theatre Games for Energy, Insights and Ideas

Moderator's Preparation

Summary:
At the QRCA Annual Conference, Laurie Tema-Lyn of Practical Imagination Enterprises took the opportunity to teach quallies new playful ways to engage research participants and clients. In her presentation, Tema-Lyn gave us the tools and the confidence to overcome the barriers of expense and the daunting nature that comes with learning new techniques and taught us to use roleplay, improv and other theater games in our work for fun, energy and results!

Key Takeaways:
There are a lot of different games that we can utilize as researchers to engage our participants including

  1. Word Salad: A finger snapping game where the moderator asks a questions and people toss in their thoughts. QRCA participants admitted that when we tested this game, they felt more relaxed, focused, less stressed and able to answer honestly.
  2.  “Yes and…”: A technique used to build on the other participants’ ideas by saying “Yes and..” We learned that it is a good idea to run this exercise for two minutes maximum and then the moderator should end the process and debrief on what was said/acted out.
  3. Theatre of Exaggeration: As a group, we were divided into two teams (i.e. one side against idea X and the other side is pro idea X) and each team says what the extreme benefit or risk of the product or service is to identify potential issues.

I left the session with actionable tips for successful theatre games including making it okay for participants to fail and laying out some rules of play. The key to the success of these tactics are to build trust and comfort among participants early so they can let their hair down. Lastly, I learned that it's important to also debrief on the methodology/process:

  • Did the client find these innovative techniques useful?
  • Inspiring?
  • Better than the usual approach?”

Putting it into practice:
I greatly enjoyed Tema-Lyn’s session and I plan to use some of these tactics in my research. Anytime a group is low energy, the Word Salad would be a great way to energize and get latent ideas out of people. Also, when groups are quiet in the beginning, a few of the improv games could be used to create a more playful and sharing atmosphere.

A-ha moment:
I realized how impactful these tactics can be as I was watching the researchers in the room test the theatre games and agreeing they actually help them relax and engage in the question being asked. 

This session was great to experience live, seeing the games in action really drove home their impact. I am excited for Laurie’s upcoming post on the Qual Power Blog post on utilizing these tactics further!

For more information check out Laurie's book "Stir it up!  Recipes for Robust Insights and Red Hot Ideas" and look for her upcoming Qual Power Blog post on bringing the power of theater games to your next session!

Ben GrillQRCA Reporter on the Scene:

Ben Grill
The Insights Grill
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/bengrill
Twitter: @bengrill

Tags:  QRCA Annual Conference  QRCA Reporter on the Scene  Qualitative Research 

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The Beautiful Human Contradiction

Posted By Kendall Nash, Tuesday, March 5, 2019
Updated: Wednesday, February 27, 2019
Untitled Document

Practical and thoughtful, but a walking contradiction. She made it clear that every decision she made had a purpose, and every item she bought met well-defined criteria. As she described her grocery store trips, she recalled the price associated with each and every item. In order to even make it into her cart, the items on her shopping list had to fall within an acceptable and narrow margin. And yet, her eyes lit up and you could see her lost in her memories as she described the unique metal bracelet on her wrist that she had bought on a whim for 250 euro during a trip to Barcelona. She smiled again and told me about how it was made.

Scratching Our Heads
That moment when the consumer tells you something totally incongruent with the story you’ve crafted in your mind of who they are and how they live…

Those comments that seem to contradict each other within a span of minutes…

We formulate clear pictures in our own minds of who a person is and what matters to them, only for them to turn around and tell us something that leaves us scratching our heads.

In my early years as a Qualitative Researcher, I’d find myself frustrated. Seeking patterns and convergence of themes, I was always challenged when things didn’t line up. Sure, I understood things would vary from person to person, but I was caught off guard and perplexed by the number of things that didn’t add up within the perspective of one individual.

Bracelet

Humans Are Messy
Of course, it didn’t take me long to realize what many before me had contemplated – that humans are, in fact, messy. We don’t follow a logical path down the road. There’s not always a reason – or at least not a consistent, or “good”, one. We don’t always make linear decisions. Sometimes we struggle with opposing internal forces that shape our mindsets and behaviors.

But then something beautiful happened.

When I looked more closely at those incongruencies within a single person, there were valuable opportunities for my client to step in and meet the consumer in the midst of the messiness. We identified opportunities for innovative products and delivery, discovered more meaningful ways to connect with those not yet using their brand, and found unique ways to give someone a great customer experience worth talking about. It was actually in those messy places we were finding our most disruptive learning – you know, the insights that make your team say “whoa, yes.” It’s exhilarating to experience those moments when you are onto something that you know will significantly and positively impact your business.

Quote 1

Unveiling the Mess with Qualitative Research

As a fan of both quantitative and qualitative research, I respect the ways both serve in delivering the information we need to make good decisions. Yes, enough people will tell you that quantitative tells you the what and qualitative tells you the why, but it’s so much more for me. Quantitative offers us sound decisions, confidence in direction before we set sail, and a big, delicious slice of the world. The beauty of qualitative is our ability to get in the nooks and crannies. To discover the mess and bring things into the light that just might unlock something truly magical for the brand. The rapport we build with consumers allows us a richer glimpse into what matters to them, so we can become brands that matter to them.

Quote 2

Embrace the Mess
Knowing that the messiness of the human heart and mind can be where the greatest potential lies for brands, we can see those moments through an entirely different lens. The next time in research you find yourself with a consumer who doesn’t seem to fit into a perfectly shaped box in your mind, celebrate! When things don’t add up exactly the way you expect them to, celebrate! You are probably onto something really good. And we go after good things.

What about you? Where have you found gold in the messiness of incongruent, inconsistent, yet beautiful human beings?

Kendall Nash Kendall Nash is a Vice President at Burke, Inc. in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is an instructor for the Burke Institute and a past president of QRCA. Kendall’s curiosity drives her closer to consumers and their experiences. Her thrills come from uncovering what people truly want and need, and translating that so brands can win.

Twitter: @kendallnash
LinkedIn

Tags:  QRCA Digest  qualitative  qualitative research 

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Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: Using AI for Quantitative Analysis of Qualitative Data

Posted By Michelle Finzel, Thursday, February 28, 2019
Updated: Wednesday, February 27, 2019
Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: Using AI for Quantitative Analysis of Qualitative Data

Using AI

Summary:
Shamaa Ahmed and Cal Zemelman from Customer Value Partners, gave us a snapshot of the process of using machine learning Artificial Intelligence (AI) to automate large amounts of qualitative data at the 2019 QRCA Annual Conference. Cal went through using AI to summarize the data and assess the emotional state of the respondent through natural language processing. He also gave all of us an opportunity to analyze the data provided from AI into tables and graphs to discover themes.

Key Takeaways:
Through experiencing this process, I discovered that I was able to rapidly classify responses into sentiment buckets and identify outliers easily for more focused review and analysis. I really like that you can create cool charts for the clients (who always want graphics) and you can continuously train the computer model to improve. I was shocked at how easy some of these platforms are to learn and use, most of them are inexpensive or even free, and that it only takes about 100 responses to train a model.

Putting it into practice:
I was really excited to learn about using AI in my practice, especially since it seems like this is the direction our industry is heading! Now that I know that platforms and models are relatively inexpensive, I plan to learn how to program a model for my own research.

A-ha moment:
I always thought, like many of those in our industry do, that AI was something that would be beyond my comfort zone, but I am thrilled to have found out how accessible and easy to learn the platforms and models are and can’t wait to put them into practice. This is the beginning of something and I am intrigued to follow the process of its development!

Michelle FinzelQRCA Reporter on the Scene:

Michelle Finzel
Maryland Marketing Source, Inc.
Twitter: @MichelleFinzel

Tags:  AI  Artificial Intelligencen QRCA Annual Conference  QRCA Reporter on the Scene  qualitative research 

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The QRCA Conference: Why I Loved It & Why You Will, Too

Posted By Vidhika Bansal, Monday, February 25, 2019
Updated: Monday, February 25, 2019
Vidhika Bansal is a 2019 QRCA Young Professionals Grant recipient. First launched in 2014, the Young Professionals Grant helps advance promising young qualitative researchers’ careers by providing access to networking and educational sessions via a free pass to the QRCA’s Annual Conference plus a one-year membership. Visit qrca.org/YPG to learn more.

What often makes quallies like us different from the rest of the world is our collective curiosity, empathy, and ability to transform our knowledge of people’s needs and experiences into strategic direction. Given that the QRCA’s Annual Conference is run and attended by quallies, it’s no surprise then that it’s not your average conference.

My week in Savannah at the 2019 Conference, Charting Your Best Course, was jam-packed and enriching in so many ways. As if the delicious Southern food and relaxing river views weren’t enough, here are three reasons why the QRCA Conference stands out in my mind:



Dessert

Dessert following a scrumptious meal at a local Savannah restaurant, seconds before I devoured it



Networking Made Palatable

As consultants, networking is not just an add-on marketing strategy; it’s practically a necessity. Quite unfortunately though, for many—myself included—networking has almost become a dirty word. It tends to conjure up flashbacks of awkward interactions with strangers, insincere exchanges of pleasantries, and general anxiety and dread. Thankfully, the QRCA conference helps change that.

High friendliness quotient: One thing I learned in almost no time is that QRCA folks are among the friendliest you’ll meet. Perhaps it’s because most of us talk and listen to people for a living, but striking up conversations with fellow conference-goers was refreshingly easy and felt far more authentic than I had expected. The various ribbons added to everyone’s name tags made finding common ground and making connections even easier (especially as a first-timer and YPG recipient). And if you’re shy, have no fear—it’ll just be a matter of time before someone approaches you and breaks the ice!

Stress-free socializing: The organizers orchestrated events that further facilitated pain-free networking, especially if you’re a “first-timer” who has never attended before. First-timers are paired with “ambassadors”, who are QRCA conference veterans that can serve as familiar faces and guides throughout (shout out to my wonderful ambassador, Regina!). There was also a “speed dating” event for first-timers where we got to meet with other ambassadors, and as YPG recipients we were able to connect with fellow early/mid-career quallies at the fun, laidback, young-professionals-only breakfast and dinner events.

(Pro-tip: Remember to bring stacks and stacks of business cards with you—you’ll need them to give to all the new people you’ll meet in quick succession as well as for the vendor raffles!)

Conference Badge

My conference badge, adorned with a couple of colorful ribbons that helped break the ice



Stellar, Actionable Content

One of the main goals of attending any conference is usually to leave with takeaways that you can apply to your work immediately—and the sessions at this one definitely did not disappoint.

Insights about insights: There were so many fantastic talks that it’s not practical for me to list them all right now, but these were some of my favorites.

  • Carmen Simon’s very memorable keynote on using learnings from neuroscience to craft content that sticks, especially by relying on familiar mental models
  • Lisa Lipkin’s engaging anecdotes depicting how to best elicit honest stories from others to learn about them, and how to find “magic in the mundane”
  • Allison Rak’s uber-practical hacks for boosting research and reporting efficiency
  • Liz George’s window into using role-play to glean rich insights when ethnographic methods are not an option due to ethical and logistical constraints
  • Laurie Tema-Lyn’s entertaining workshop on improv exercises as a research tool

FOMO no mo’: With so many intriguing sessions going on in parallel (and without a Time-Turner allowing us to be in multiple places at the same time, a la Hermione Granger), it can sometimes be a challenge to choose which presentation to attend. Luckily, starting this year, all presentations were recorded so attendees could go back and watch them even after the conference was over. On top of that, there were “Reporters on the Scene” taking notes during each session, and those curated notes will be published for those who would prefer reading summaries of sessions they missed over watching full videos. Knowing that I would be able to watch the talks I couldn’t attend in-person saved me a ton of indecision.

(Pro-tip that a few kind members shared with me: If you’re struggling to decide between talks, check out the downloadable presentation decks in advance to give you a sense of which one of the alternatives might be most up your alley.)

Something for everyone: There were talks on a vast variety of topics, including proposal writing, storytelling, recruiting methods, journey mapping, projective techniques, usability testing, and even behavioral science. In addition to the breadth of subject matter, I appreciated the mix of formats in which content was shared, ranging from informal roundtable discussions to vendor exhibits to structured presentations of tools and frameworks.


Dinner Group

Being silly at the Young Professionals Dine-Around (Thank you to Shannon Danzy for the photo!)



Finding Your Tribe

Last, but certainly not least, if I had to sum up what makes the QRCA Conference unique, it would be the unmatched sense of community. Cheesy at it sounds, attending the conference felt more like joining a big, happy family than just congregating with a group of like-minded professionals.

Come for the learnings, stay for the people: Valuable content is no doubt important, but the people you meet at the QRCA Conference are just as important, if not more so. Even though technically attendees could view each other as competitors, I noticed that the environment was overwhelmingly collaborative, with knowledge-sharing and camaraderie aplenty. There are even special interest groups (SIGs) to further hone in on people who share your specific interests (for me, it was the Ethnography, Creativity + Ideation, and UX SIGs). With the QRCA, one thing seems to be true: you get as much as you give.

Hugs, not handshakes: “We’re huggers,” I heard someone say on my first day at the conference. I looked around and—lo and behold—it was true. Not only did people greet each other with a genuine excitement to reconnect, but the good vibes weren’t confined to conference hours. Pre-conference mornings began with “healthy connections”, where passionate QRCA volunteers led dance and meditation sessions to get us started for the day. How cool is that?! Similarly, conference evenings ended with group “dine-arounds”, where we got to reclaim the calories worked off in the morning by indulging at local restaurants—a great way to continue conversations, meet new people, and ensure you always had company for dinner. This personal touch is what makes the QRCA such a special organization.

Needless to say, I’m truly grateful and honored to have been a recipient of the QRCA Young Professionals Grant. Without it, I likely would not have attended this year’s conference, and in turn would have missed out on all of these amazing benefits.

Thanks to the generosity of the grant sponsors and dedication of the event organizers, I left Savannah with fresh insights, a renewed view on networking, and even some new friends. Looking forward to next year’s conference in Austin and hope to see you there!


Vidhika Bansal

Vidhika Bansal is a UX strategist with a background in behavioral science, brand marketing, and human-centered design. She’s passionate about using the power of words and people’s stories to make product and service experiences the best that they can be. You can connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Tags:  QRCA  QRCA Annual Conference  QRCA Young Professional Grant  Qualitative Research 

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Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: Catch and Release

Posted By Melanie Brewer, Friday, February 22, 2019
Updated: Friday, February 15, 2019
Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: Catch and Release

Recruit 2.0:  Online Marketplaces

Summary:
Do you want to save time and money on recruiting?  So do I.  That’s why I was really excited for the presentation “Catch & Release: Applying My Experience Learning to Fly Fish to Using New Recruiting Tools and Services” by Ted Kendall of TripleScoop Premium Market Research. New platforms for recruiting respondents are disrupting the marketplace, similar to the ways that Uber and Airbnb disrupted the car services and hotel marketplaces. These platforms put the power into our hands, but as Ted put it, how do you decide whether these new platforms fit your recruiting needs and if they do, how do you adapt all your recruiting skills to the new medium?

Key Takeaways:
While acknowledging that no system is perfect, Ted extolled some of the advantages (big) and challenges (modest) based on his several years of experience with Respondent.io and Userinterviews.com, two platforms that are making it possible to easily recruit for qual studies – sometimes filling a study within just a few short hours and at a significantly lower cost.  Benefits include the ability to authenticate users via LinkedIn or Facebook profiles, 80% or higher show rates, easy screening, and access to diverse groups, professions and geographic locations.  While there can be a learning curve, Ted argues it's well worth it for the benefits.  In addition, the platforms are rapidly evolving and are likely to just keep getting better.  Each offers unique features, so they're both worth trying.  One twist is the need to "market" or "pitch" your study to participants, so be prepared to make your project sound awesome and exciting to motivate them to respond – but ideally without totally giving away your screening criteria.

Putting it into practice:
I plan on exploring the tools Ted presented, along with the new features that are being rolled out on a regular basis, after the conference.

A-ha moment:
The observation that these platforms are disintermediating the marketplace similar to other software tools like Uber and Airbnb, and – just like those tools – are likely to become an increasingly important part of the landscape going forward – meaning we should all learn to use them so we don’t get left behind.

I will leave you with this final pro-tip courtesy of Ted: you can use the tipping feature in Respondent to pay for extra tasks you may wish the participants to complete, like homework or pre- or post-tasks!  

Melanie BrewerQRCA Reporter on the Scene:

Melanie Brewer
Santa Barbara Human Factors, Inc.
Twitter: @melanieinsb
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/melaniebennettbrewer/  

Tags:  Conference Recap  QRCA Annual Conference  QRCA Reporter on the Scene  qualitative research  Recruiting 

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My Experience at the QRCA Conference as a First Timer and Young Professionals Grant Winner

Posted By Sonya Shen, Thursday, February 21, 2019
Updated: Friday, February 15, 2019

Forsyth Park, Savannah, Georgia

Forsyth Park, Savannah, Georgia

Sonya Shen is a 2019 QRCA Young Professionals Grant recipient. First launched in 2014, the Young Professionals Grant helps advance promising young qualitative researchers’ careers by providing access to networking and educational sessions via a free pass to the QRCA’s Annual Conference plus a one-year QRCA membership. Visit qrca.org/YPG to learn more.

Conference Swag

Selected Conference Swag

I won a QRCA Young Professionals Grant to the 2019 QRCA Annual Conference, “Charting Your Best Course.” I just returned from spending three packed days in Savannah, Georgia learning from and connecting with other qualitative researchers.

Young Professionals Grant (YPG) Winners Received VIP Service
In October 2018, I learned that I had been awarded a YPG. I had been wanting to focus my career more on qualitative research, and winning the grant was the impetus that I needed to start making my ideas a reality. I immediately felt taken care of: YPG winners received communications leading up to the conference about events geared towards First Time Attendees and Young Professionals. I was also paired up with my own conference ambassador, Susan Sweet of Sweet Insight Group, who helped me prepare for and navigate the conference by sharing tips and introducing me to other attendees. I felt welcomed and prepared even before setting foot in Savannah.

The Conference Schedule Was Packed with Events and Sessions
I recommend planning out which sessions to attend before heading to the conference. The conference app was also helpful in the moment in figuring out where to go next (always a challenge at conferences!). A nice bonus I appreciated is that all sessions are available for viewing after the conference so attendees have less angst about missing a presentation. My FOMO turned to JOMO when I realized I could take a guilt-free break outside to recharge. I treated myself to a walk to Chippewa Square, made famous by the movie Forrest Gump (spoiler alert: there is no bench in the square, it was just there for the movie).

Qually Award Finalist Presentations
The three finalists for the Qually Award presented their proposals and took questions in front of a live and discerning audience. It was clear that a lot of preparation went into the proposals. I was impressed by the amount of camaraderie and openness to sharing that I saw.

Keynote
Dr. Carmen Simon of Memzy delivered a keynote presentation on “The Neuroscience of Memorable Messages”. We learned about memory and the fact that people only remember 90% of what was shared with them after two days. Dr. Simon discussed how to make messages more memorable and how to get people to act on a message (such as if you offer a slight twist, it will bring the brain back to the present).

Sessions
Laurie Tema-Lyn’s session on the topic of “Using Theater Games in Research” demonstrated how to use different techniques to meet a variety of research objectives. I learned how to set the stage so that researchers, respondents, and clients are all comfortable using more out-of-the-box methods such as World Salad, Improv/Role-play, and Theater of Exaggeration. The session allowed me to think creatively, practice my active listening skills, and give myself permission to try new things.

Lisa Lipkin presented on the topic of “Go from Facts to Truth with Neuroscience and Storytelling,” where she encouraged us to “make magic out of the mundane” when we are eliciting stories from respondents. Her tips included seeing the story in everything because what we store in our memories is most meaningful, and everything and everyone has a story. Lisa also encouraged us to dig deeper and be an “emotion detective,” as fact is not truth. Start with the emotion, then hang the facts on it.

Zebra Strategies’ Denene Rodney and Sharon Arthur’s session on “Ensuring Real Diversity in Qualitative Research” examined the role of the researcher as clients’ stewards to educate, guide, and safeguard them, and to better customize marketing messaging that consider cultural nuance. It shared actionable tips of how to ensure personal and collective accountability, accounting for bias, and ethical considerations. I walked away with strategies on how to exemplify this topic by being honest about what I do and don’t know, figuring out how to get answers if I don’t know something, expanding my network, developing empathy and curiosity, and to not run and to not hide.

“Opening Closed Doors with Role-Play” by Elizabeth George of Market Strategies was a deep dive into how to use role-play in research. While ethnography is the gold standard, barriers abound, such as in doctor/patient interactions. Liz walked us through the logistics of a particular type of role-play in which doctors are the respondents, actors are hired to play the patients who interact with the doctors, and the researchers are the facilitators. There was a great deal of information, and I felt like I was equipped to implement this strategy if I wanted to.

Networking Was Plentiful
I highly recommend attending a conference where most attendees are great at asking questions and where organizers are skilled at facilitating experiences. This conference checked both boxes. There were plenty of opportunities to meet other attendees and connect over shared interests. Highlights Include:

  • The First Timers Event: This was set up like a speed dating event where First Timers meet non-First Timer attendees. All the fun with none of the awkward rejection!
  • The Young Professionals Dine-Around Dinner: I connected with other Young Professionals at a restaurant in downtown Savannah. Topics of discussion were varied – from career to food, to kangaroos (friend or foe?).
  • Thursday Night Event at Kevin Barry’s Irish Pub: A giant get-together for everyone at the conference which included First Timers Bingo (Tip: maximize your time in the food line by asking passers-by if they can help you cross off a bingo square).
  • The Young Professional Exchange: Career and Life Hacks to Supercharge Your Growth (Roundtable): Young Professionals convened to discuss solutions to problems they commonly face. One of the many takeaways I left with was to lean into what sets me apart as a researcher.
  • Optional Chapter Meetings: I got the opportunity to meet other qualitative researchers in my area over breakfast.

As a First Timer, I felt completely at ease while networking. The conference size was manageable, and it felt heartening to see that so many other attendees knew each other and were catching up.

There are Many Opportunities to Stay Involved After the Conference
As a winner of the YPG, I was also awarded a one-year QRCA membership. I am already signed up to attend the next SF QRCA Chapter Meeting and plan on volunteering in some capacity. There are many opportunities to stay plugged in through the QRCA forum, through a SIG (Special Interest Group), or with a committee.

Bonus “Wow” Moment: Doing chair yoga with a view overlooking the Savannah River.

The 2019 QRCA Conference was a wonderful learning and networking experience. Thank You to the QRCA and Young Professionals organization for organizing the conference and awarding me a YPG. Hope to see you next year in Austin!

Sonya ShenSonya Shen, Independent Research Consultant

Sonya is a Researcher, Storyteller, and Yoga Teacher located in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Linked In

Tags:  QRCA  QRCA Annual Conference  QRCA Young Professional Grant  Qualitative Research 

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