QRCA 2019: Inspiration and Connection

Once again, the QRCA Annual Conference delivered. Situated in the lovely Hyatt Regency Hotel on the riverfront in Savannah, GA, the conference was jam-packed with member presentations, roundtable discussions, and a dynamic keynote speaker. Many thanks to Anya Zadrozny and Sidney Clewe, Conference Co-Chairs, for a job well done!

This year we had over 80 first-time attendees who were embraced by the membership in typically warm, welcoming fashion.  They were each assigned an Ambassador – a returning member to show them how to get the most out of the conference and to be a friendly face to check in with periodically. Additionally, new attendees were treated to a speed-dating event to introduce them to a broad range of members, and they were encouraged to participate in a bingo game during Thursday night’s social event, overseen by the inimitable Pascal Patenaude in his French bullfrog hat, that required them to interact with other attendees in order to complete the game.

Beyond the fun of networking at the event, there were three sessions that were personal highlights for me:

1. The keynote presentation —The Neuroscience of Memorable Messages— by Carmen Simon, a consultant with doctorate degrees in instructional technology and cognitive psychology. With increased emphasis in our industry on communicating insights, she made the point that audiences typically remember only 10% of the content you share after just two days, so it’s critical to control that 10%. Some suggestions include:

  • SIMPLIFY your message; avoid jargon and unnecessary words.
  • Frame your message with something FAMILIAR before launching into new insights (we pay more attention to what we already know). But twist the familiar slightly to keep your audience from tuning out.
  • Create ANTICIPATION – when you take away anticipation, engagement plummets.
  • Throw in a tiny bit of UNCERTAINTY to increase the anticipation.

2. Easy to Use Theater Games for Energy, Insights and Ideas, by Laurie Tema-Lyn. Laurie thoughtfully makes the case for incorporating role play, improv and other theater games into your qualitative practice to:

  • Energize the group (or clients) midway through a long session, or series of groups.
  • Get people out of their comfort zone.
  • Enhance teamwork.
  • Engage system 1 thinking.

Laurie demonstrated a variety of games using audience volunteers and showed how each approach helped get below surface/expected responses and to a deeper level of insight both quickly and entertainingly. Laurie is the consummate professional and sets up her games with great intent and unconditional positive regard for the participants. Laurie has written a book, Stir It Up!  Recipes for Robust Insights and Red Hot Ideas, available on Amazon.

3. Let’s Cut the Judgment! Tricks and Tips for Helping your Clients Connect with Respondents, by Rob Volpe. Rob talked about the need to prepare clients (and ourselves) for our very human tendency to be judgmental of others (in this case, research participants) simply because they do not look or sound like us or like who we envision as our customers.  Judgment is like putting on a blindfold, something that can be very detrimental to the research process and the ability to glean truly powerful insights.  In order to practice empathy, and withhold judgment, it is important to respect and embrace your respondents’ stories.  Humanize them by referring to them by name, by recounting stories about what made them real, and by helping your team to make a “heart connection” that will help build empathy and make room for the powerful insights that come from empathy.

While these three sessions were standouts for me, I learned a lot from each and every session I attended.  I walked away from the conference feeling energized and with a renewed sense of pride at the professionalism, creativity and dedication of the qualitative research community.