James and I put in an appearance at the Market Research Society Conference in London yesterday. We gave a short talk about Blogging and listened in on an earlier session on Word of Mouth chaired by Mark Earls of Ogilvy.
There were some interesting ideas and insights from panel and audience and I was struck how much of the discussion was about “losing control”. I found this interesting and frustrating. It’s so easy to get into rather abstract notions of losing control that lose any contact with specifics. So simple suggestions for engaging customers get lost amid a more rambling discussion about semi-articulated anxieties.
At the end Mark acknowledged that what really mattered was not what the panellists has been saying, but what people had to say about the session afterwards. Very true. But it begged an emormous question: what the hell were we doing discussing word-of-mouth in the tired old format of five “experts” talking a lot, and an audience of hundreds not talking at all? Except to chip in the odd question.
I would say the same thing about the later session when I was on the panel. I find I don’t enjoy being the “expert” panellist much more than being the attentive schoolboy in the audience. However, I did enjoy the conversations I had afterwards, especially where I got some intelligent pushback on some of the ideas I’d been articulating. (For instance, contrasting the cost of focus groups with getting customer feedback free from blogs.)
I had a nice chat with blogger Paul Hutchings, including me having a go at the conference format. I said I found my chat with him much more satisfying than being a panellist.