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The Conference Arena: Catalyst for change?

As an industry newbie, it’s fair to say my mind is open and eager to learn but I would happily throw that all away for some experience at this point.

Getting to know a new field is always a serious undertaking and I find myself at the proverbial coalface of an industry which is meeting some serious challenges head on.

Call it naivety if you like but whilst those challenges are certainly daunting, I am filled with optimism! The relative objectivity I have now, tells me that every industry periodically experiences friction in trying to thoughtfully adapt to new technologies. Taking the road less travelled can be difficult, but as an industry Market Research seems not to have veered off course, choosing instead to create a new map as a community.

Rather than seeing individual companies muddle around in the dark, the field finds itself guided in the right direction by many of its leading lights. And through the concept of the innovation conference, much of the industry is taking the journey together.

The value of these conferences is obvious. Their ability to bring together creative minds from all over the field, and stimulate debate, is as yet unparalleled. Even experienced conference organisers continually look at new ways to freshen up what they do.

So what makes a successful innovation conference?

For Leonard Murphy of Brandscan360, a conferences’ success, especially if it aims to innovate, relies on a host of core concepts.

These types of events require top networking opportunities, engaging debate and most importantly the event must to go about the execution differently:

“If the DNA of the organization is about doing things differently, of abandoning the norm and charging ahead with the new, different, and disruptive while working with the foundational business that support us all, true innovation can occur and actually grow.” – Leonard Murphy

The organisation I work for experienced the innovation conference in the flesh this year when Managing Director, Alison White attended The Market Research Technology Event hosted in Las Vegas. This fantastic event and others like it taking place across the world are leading the way. There’s still more to come in 2012 with events like ‘Market Research in the Mobile World’, Cincinnati’ on July 18th-19th. While on this side of the pond our team will be trying our hand at innovating with a one day conference, Redefining Research 2012.

But what’s different about #RRMR12, in Twitter vernacular, is that it has been designed to be accessible on every level. Firstly it’s affordable, really affordable. Innovation doesn’t suffer boundaries, so it makes sense to break them down wherever possible, especially when it involves cost.

By enabling those smaller companies, start-ups and independents to rub shoulders with industry giants, effective innovation can begin to happen at a grassroots level, not just the upper echelons of the industry’s multimillion pound goliaths.

Secondly, inspiring change does not have to be boring! We’ve worked on a programme that mirrored our favoured conference moments from the past couple of years; a programme which seeks to entertain as much as it educates and innovates.

Personal experience has informed the teams’ approach to planning a conference and I can happily say we think we’ve found a formula that will work. Naturally the event, promises all sorts of innovation in the way it is presented with debates, speakers, and even a game show presented by Vision Criticals’ Ray Poynter making up a varied line-up.

But only time will tell as to whether or not our plans have come to fruition. I am again optimistic but also know that no one of our team has ever attended a flawless conference.

Perhaps the biggest lessons we can learn about ‘the innovation conference’ is that, you cannot please all the people all the time; that the road towards true innovation is fraught with challenges which you will not always conquer immediately; and most importantly that innovation does not mean perfection. It is by its very nature a process of trial and error, an experiment in life, experience and persistence.

How do you feel about ‘the innovation conference’ concept? What keeps you from attending events like that? What are your favourite conferences and why?