This year, SW&A earned a top 3 finish at the Qually Awards at the annual QRCA conference. The Qually is a unique award in format and judging. In phase I, we were asked to respond to a hypothetical RFP for research for a franchised national gym. Our proposal was well-received and consequently shortlisted for a live presentation at the conference where our peers (fellow qualitative researchers) would vote on which presentation would “win the business.”

Reflecting on this process, I crystalized some valuable lessons learned.

  • We approached both the written proposal and live presentation as we always do, as a team. And therein lays my first lesson learned. We harnessed our collective brain power, our #BetterTogether mission, and mapped out our solution to the hypothetical RFP. We combined our creative problem solving skills with real life experience in this category and came up with a methodology that would yield actionable results. We also brought in colleagues who have expertise in visual communications, delivering presentations, and even leveraged internal training on communicating information through storytelling. Though myself and Meredith Morino were named on the submission, a large group of us worked together as we always do, making any recognition we received something for the entire team to be proud of.
  • The format of the award response requires you to “sell yourself” in the way that you would respond to any RFP. This required some very specific articulations of our expertise and past experience. While we have always been, and still remain, a very humble company, it was very satisfying to gather all our case studies and inject real life examples of how we help solve our clients solve business problems every day. It was a great reminder that we can toot our own horn once in a while.
  • The most important lesson I learned was about being brave. I can’t begin to tell you about how nervous I was presenting to my peers. This was a room full of smart, talented, capable professionals who know qualitative methodologies forwards and backwards. Knowing that, we took a risk and instead of preparing a presentation that just explained our methodology, we decided I would role play during my presentation. The audience would be the client and I would present our pitch directly to them. We used an image and video heavy PowerPoint presentation as a backdrop for the storytelling focused pitch. I’m so glad we were brave and tried this new format of presentation because it got people talking and stirred up the status quo. In an age of disruption, this small act of “pitching” disrupted the awards process and I’m SO proud we were brave enough to try it.