Most people attend a work conference with the expectation that they will be operating as an ambassador for their employer and that the primary opportunity before them is to network and develop mutually beneficial relationships with their peers. Being relatively new to the MR world, when my COO invited me to attend the QRCA Annual Conference in San Diego, I expected this to be fundamental to my experience. And while I did meet many peers and I was able to network and hold many conversations relating to Qualitative research, what I could not have predicted was the amplification of camaraderie and community the conference supplied to its attendees.
There were quite a few speakers who warned against the limiting factors of allowing your personal biases and prejudices to inform your decisions. This is why I found it so fitting that I fell into the trap of expecting a simple networking event and was met instead, with some of the most robust presentations, from a group of incredibly eclectic and magnetic speakers who all traveled such different walks of life and yet landed in the same spot, Market Research. Whether it was Marta Villanueva, opening up the entire event with a powerful and personal experience of being othered, or Mark Engle who took us through a journey of the peaks and valleys of life and how ultimately, laughter and humor tie us all together - I continued to be floored by the rawness of connectivity we all shared despite the myriad of topics discussed and experiences lived.
My time at the QRCA conference completely reshaped my perspective on Qualitative Research. I have spent so much time laser-focused on the granularity of screeners, quotas, and the “ideal respondent”, that I seem to have minimized the fact that what we do in Qual goes far deeper than demographics and purchasing preferences. I came to the realization that our limitation as researchers is directly proportional to the time it takes to untangle ourselves from our preconceived notions. Once we can step away from the noise, only then we can enact our most powerful tool - our ability to listen!
If you are looking to revitalize and broaden your MR purview, don’t walk but run (!) and go register for the event next year. You will not be disappointed but maybe, just like me, you will be shocked to learn just how limiting your mindset really is.