ESOMAR’s 21st Global Qualitative Conference was held in Oporto, Portugal, in partnership with AQR. The theme was ‘Back to the Future’, which enabled insight specialists to show us how to use qual’s heritage as a springboard for future inspiration.

Starting in the ‘past’ with ‘Fail again, fail better’ — a session where Peter Totman shared lessons and advice from both client and agency-side adventures with humour and humility — it provided a timely reminder of the constant need to innovate and improve. Unsurprisingly, this won the Best Presentation Award.

Innovation was another theme that underpinned this two-day event. How technology helps brands to connect with their consumers, thus enabling better decision making, could not have been better summarised than by the captivating paper ‘(Wo)man vs machine’, presented by Samantha Bond from SKIM. This session gave very practical insights for those qualitative researchers needing to identify if, how and when to use Artificial Intelligence, and the paper was the deserving winner of the Peter Cooper Excellence Award (sponsored by QRi Consulting).

As always, we had lots of opportunities to network, share thoughts and meet partners and clients from more than 30 countries….and a very special surprise was provided by Blue Opinion. It hosted a unique Porto experience, offering port-wine tasting with a spectacular view over the city and Duoro river by night.

I believe this, the 21st conference, was one of the best. With its light touch workflow, high quality papers and keynote speakers, its friendly and warm atmosphere, I was pleased to see, hear, and share in, the very positive reactions from all the delegates. We were inspired and energised with lots of ideas and contacts to bring back to our businesses, still rooted in the traditions of qualitative research and psychology — yet open to the future’s best and brightest opportunities. See you next year!