By Annie Pettit, Chief Research Officer, Peanut Labs
Annie Pettit, PhD is the Chief Research Officer at Peanut Labs, a company that specializes in self-serve sample, surveys, and polling. She is also Vice President, Research Standards at Research Now. Annie specializes in data quality, sampling and survey design, and big data. You can read more of her posts on the Peanut Labs blog.
Confession time! What do I remember most fondly about last year’s MRIA National Conference? Yes, the candy buffet where mature, professional adults clustered together and giggled like little children as they picked out their favourite sweets. Obviously, I was just there for the networking opportunity.
Last year’s conference focus was storytelling. In his keynote address, Paul Smith explained that every presentation, whether at a conference or to a client, needs to be a story, and that doesn’t mean beginning your talk with a fun story (like adults choosing candies). We need to make sure that every presentation has context, action, and a result. We need to take the time and effort to ensure we don’t butcher important parts of the story along the way, like who the hero is and what the hero wants and needs. Paul also mentioned that the story needs to come from us speaking and not from our slides, or there is really no point in showing up (note to self for my own presentation). Given the conference theme, it was such fun to watch a talented artist illustrate the keynote talks in real time! You can watch three of them on MRIA’s Facebook page.
Attendees also enjoyed a talk by Kristin Luck who took a very personal stance to sharing her thoughts on how to create connections with people. If you thought you knew Kristin before she spoke, you probably were surprised by her stories. Her final advice was to never ask a yes/no question because it won’t push the conversation forward. Ask ‘what’ questions which can turn any discussion into a form of storytelling. She encouraged everyone to use storytelling as a business strategy as well.
Another highlight from the conference was the student competition for which I was a judge. It was heartwarming to see so many students eager to take on a difficult case study and come up with innovative ways to solve the problem, with only hours to work on it. I expect to see some of those students taking the stage in the coming years. I am delighted there will be a student competition at this year’s conference as well!
Finally, I’ll mention the amazing gala dinner we enjoyed where brand new CMRPs were welcomed into the fold. I love to see so many people taking a giant step forward in their career and committing to the high standards set by our organization. I hope that their first year as full-fledged professional researchers proved to be challenging and exciting.
This summer, the MRIA national conference will be in Montreal, Canada, the home of smoked meat, beaver tails, poutine, 32 kilometers of underground city, Saint Joseph's Oratory which is Canada’s largest church, and the beautiful Mount Royal park (did you notice that, Mount Royal…. MontReal). The conference theme this year is embracing the future which means I expect to see some heated debates about privacy, neuromarketing, and using ever advancing technology to our advantage.
I’m betting there will be bacon for breakfast. If you’d care to chat, you know where to find me!