Since the summer holidays, I’ve begun to attend conferences & seminars again as both delegate and speaker.

My partners nudged me into sharing this post on why I’ve been doing this, and what can be learnt by presenting to, and listening to, others.

The world is constantly evolving, and beyond keeping up to date on trends & new techniques on behalf of some clients in our Friendly Review arrangements, it was clear earlier this year that our research profession was ‘doing’ a lot more than usual. Our clients largely don’t have time to attend events, so I reckoned it was a good investment for Insight Engineers to show we keep up to date with latest thinking, and to check how and what we are doing remains valid.

  • At the UK Representatives Esomar evening in London on November 7th I heard from Finn Raben, the Director General, how Esomar had been working to deliver a new code of practice with the regulatory bodies in Brussels, and saw 3 great papers on how emotions and context are important.
  • The first paper by Luke Sehmer from Research Now, ‘Clipboards, Calls and Focus Groupies’ was about public perception of our industry, how old associations of clipboards linger and how we have not been marketing ourselves positively enough.
  • The third paper by Alex Wheatley, Lightspeed, ‘Head or Heart – The Conflicts of Political Polling’ shared exploratory work into how Implicit Association Testing was helping to reverse engineer why pollster predictions were wrong for Brexit and how to improve predictions. (Given this morning’s news from the US, I imagine this is even more relevant now.)

2 weeks earlier, I spoke at the CEX (Customer Experience) Summit at Lords – great for a cricket coach in his spare time. I delivered a paper with my Swedish Pharmaceutical client about how small data and ‘classical’ strategic thinking can solve the issues of who, why and how to communicate in order to successfully re-launch a more expensive product into a low price and price sensitive market – a gentle counterpoint to a full day about the large ocean of big data analysis & behavioural science.

Also speaking at the event were Ordnance Survey, who shared how immersive techniques had driven their product development. We also saw great papers from Swiss RE, Go Ahead, Virgin Money and M&S on their thinking and processes around target groups and the Customer Journey and how they are dealing with pain-points, operational weaknesses and innovation.

I learnt some companies are making a great living out of processing surveys from people who respond online via websites shown on their till receipts.

It was a very engaging day. The Chair, Alan Pennington, had us moving cuddly toys around the room (the elephant in the room and the monkey on your back were real!) and a presenter from Detroit, USA, got us all to stand up and do a yoga exercise before sharing his work on creating a new online university.

I’ve additionally watched webinars around:

  • social media harvesting & sentiment analysis
  • presentation and story-telling techniques. (I’ve been reminded bad news takes longer to debrief, and more visits to explain, than good news, and that around 10% of the world has some form of colour blindness, so we should all think about colour testing our charts)

But I think the real return has been to re-energise myself about our profession and the work Insight Engineers do. I’m proud to specialise in helping to solve the tricky business question, engage the low involved, innovate to the hard-to-reach and to be an agency where clients recognise 3 decades of experience amongst each of the owners has tangible value in a faster, cheaper, Millennials world.

I like what I’ve seen in our world and feel happy to be looking forward for more of the same for another 10 years to make it to our 25th anniversary.