2012 QRCA Conference Reflections

First firstExhibiting
The decision to exhibit at this year’s conference was not one that was made lightly.  For one, it is obviously a large expense and there were many unknowns about the process that made it a bit daunting and confusing.  We wanted to demonstrate our professionalism and capabilities, but we also wanted to stand out, both locally and across the many borders.  We wanted to interest fellow QRC’s in our services and in us as individuals, but we didn’t want to be pushy sales people. It was a fine line to walk at all times.
Rewards: We got to meet, speak with, and get to know so many fantastic people and learn about the conference process from a unique point of view.  Our fellow exhibitors were gracious and supportive, and the opportunity to chat with the QRC’s who visited our booth was invaluable.
Takeaways: When it comes to providing promotional items, think small.  Physically small.  Travel costs have skyrocketed and affected us all, and the less people have to travel home with, the better.  Big ideas can be packaged in a way that doesn’t cause extra baggage fees.

Second firstSpeaking
I was really excited about my initial foray into conference speaking.  It was a bit bumpy at first due to some confusion about who was presenting about what, but with gratitude to many Conference and Speaker Committee members, and my fantastic Field Committee Chair Judy Langer, we were able to put together an informative and fun workshop discussing the use of social media for qualitative market research recruitment.  Rewards: It was an honor beyond measure to partner with my amazing panelists: Jim Bryson of 20|20 Research, Ben Smithee of Spych Research, and Jeff Henn of Baltimore Research.  They were insightful, gracious, and a joy to work with.  I also felt privileged to present on the efforts made by the QRCA Field Committee and to share with fellow QRCs the information we’ve gathered on their behalf.
Takeaways: Although it does at times take you away from other parts of the conference, and it can add a layer of stress to an already whirlwind few days, I would definitely be willing to speak again at a future QRCA conference and would recommend doing so to others.  To reduce stress levels, plan and prepare ahead of time as much as possible.  And don’t forget to consider room set-up, Internet access, and other logistics when planning.

Third firstBringing a Wing Man
The 2012 Conference was the third one I’ve been able to attend over the years, but the first one for which I wasn’t flying solo.  Our CEO Chris Spara joined me this year, and as he usually spends much of his time focusing on our quantitative projects and operational logistics, this was his first time fully jumping into the world on the other side of the one-way mirror. Rewards: I loved introducing Chris around and getting to share this part of my professional self with him.  We were also able to divide and conquer a bit by attending different workshops and coming back together afterwards to share all that we had learned.  Both of us returned to the office feeling energized and enthusiastic about our projects. Takeaways: It was great to be able to really sit down together and talk about the business without being distracted by the business.  However, business still had to take place and it was sometimes challenging to have both of us out of the country at the same time.  We had to pull some late shifts and work at off times in order to benefit from attending the conference while also making sure it was business as usual back home. Definitely make sure all is ship shape in the office before senior staff members set sail.

As we all know, firsts can be as intimidating as they are rewarding.  Each of our QRCA firsts was an adventure.  Fortunately for us the conference was in a beautiful city and we had the support of (if I may) the best market research colleagues one could ask for.  And as conferences go, the 2012 QRCA Conference was definitely first-rate!

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