The future is now

Yesterday I attended the Febelmar Conference in Brussels where I helped run a workshop on Data Impact. There are several observations I’d like to make on this thoroughly interesting event, so here goes.

Heroes Tintin & Snowy greet Mustard arriving in Brussels for Febelmar.

Heroes Tintin & Snowy greet Mustard arriving in Brussels for Febelmar.

Shorter and more frequent formats work well.

Rather than having to spend two or even three days away from the office the Belgian insights community event started at 2.30pm and ended with a party at 8pm. Within that seemingly tight time bracket there was ample opportunity to have several really strong plenary sessions, as well as three parallel breakout workshop sessions, twice over. And of course, time to party and network.

I really think associations like the MRS and other local MR organisations can learn from this. Have two or even three mini-conferences a year – still with the high standard of content and key notes but giving more people the chance to attend (and of course the tickets would be less expensive so small and growing businesses are more likely to be able to come).

Having a clear, strong theme works well

It feels sometimes that the ‘themes’ sought by some of the larger conference organisers are consistently searching for ‘more’ hyperbole and impact without actually thinking enough about what exactly that means. So you get a lot of words like total inspiration or ‘ insert fulsome overstatement’ here whereas what you get when you go to the conference is just more of the same – often interesting projects and new methodologies but nothing really ground breaking. By sticking to the theme of Create Tomorrow Today (#CreateTT), Febelmar only talked about the future and what it will bring research. This included genuinely interesting things that I had not seen – robots launched two weeks ago, instant wearable translation devices, selfie research and in-home robots and consoles who you chat to…all of which have incredible implications for the research industry and which are already here, now.

Make workshops truly interactive

I know I am blowing my own trumpet a bit here, but the workshop that I ran with Christine Tresignie from GfK had the participants dancing, singing and reciting poems in teams that had met 15 minutes before. It was an invigorating and exciting experience that was also great fun and very memorable. I will long remember the sight of BV Pradeep from Unilever dancing sort of African bum-wiggle in a suit and tie along with the rest of his team (all doing different dances), communicating the idea that although the world has different cultures (dances) the same message can resonate with all….I am really, really fed up with workshops that are just an excuse for a presentation. If I had my way there would be no PPT in a workshop at all. Ever.

So there you have it. My only criticism? Being a Brit I’d have liked a nice cuppa at some point, but of course the Belgians only do coffee (which they do well, along with yummy cakes…but that’s another story).

Thanks Febelmar for a very enjoyable afternoon.