Fun, frolics and food for thought
Stay Curious lived up to its promise, with attendees eager to know, and pencil in, the date of the next conference. Valencia 2018, however, is going to take some beating.
Its 8pm and Im basking in the sun at a rooftop beach club in Valencia with a G&T, with Living on a Prayer serenading me from the karaoke stage. No, Im not on holiday, Im at the 2018 AQR/QRCA Worldwide Qual conference.
Its my first industry conference, and Id assumed it would be like LinkedIn but in real life: everyone in presenting yourself with impact mode, diligently recording key take-outs from each talk and doing lots of awkward networking. But once we arrive, those expectations quickly vanish. Co-chairs Peter Totman and Susan Sweets perfect combination of British wit and American conviviality establish an informal atmosphere and sense of genuine camaraderie.
In classic post rationalisation, I shouldnt have expected any different. Us quallies are known as a chatty, open and inquisitive bunch. We are in market research because were curious, not the other way around. This is a coming together of people who share an insatiable interest in the world around them, and the people in it. And luckily, it just so happens to pay the bills.
The conference programme embodies this perfectly. Talks range musings, to practical applications of methodologies. We start with an interactive session on change vs stability that has us moving all around the room (Missy Carvin) and ends with a challenge to learn to unicycle (Kendall Nash). Pit stops along the way include Brexit (Andy Dexter and Kevin McLean), toy soldiers (Luigi Toiati), Japanese dancing (Tomoko Yoshida and Dorrie Paynter) and robots (Andrew Konya).
While every talk gave so much food for thought, some of the highlights for me include:
- Both Roben Allong and Lesley Croskery shaking up our complacency around cultural awareness and BAME inclusivity. We are not where we should be as an industry, and we need to lead the change.
- Kendall Nashs reflections on the importance of approaching learning from a place of humility, gratitude and open-mindedness.
- Sarah Jane Johnsons look at how people from other disciplines like law and journalism extract information from their clients. Im now much more aware of the different ways we can shape our communication and language with customers clients.
Elsewhere, the explorations continue, from checking out Valencias vegetarian foodie scene, to opting for an hour-long trek home across downtown Valencia. Conversations cover society, culture, politics and ethics,... what brings us together as individuals, not just as market researchers. On the plane on the way home, I cant help but think, this years theme couldnt have been more appropriate: Stay Curious.
Associate Director, Acacia Avenue
This article was first published in InBrief magazine, August 2018
Copyright © Association for Qualitative Research, 2018