The Baqmar conference team talks about pushing the Reset button for the MR industry. I can't see that happening, at least not among the global giants, but these enthusiasts are surely about resetting a lot when it comes to conference organising. This is not your average conference and still it has everything you are looking for in a traditional conference.
Most of all, this is a conference for the ordinary researchers. Those who are collecting the data, struggling with analysis tools and writing the report two minutes before deadline. Here are the people who are not allowed to go to fancy conferences in expensive hotels far away. These delegates come straight from work and are here because of work. Most of all, they are young and when they talk about the future, as they do here, it is their future.
Tom de Ruyck brought the conference up to speed when the evening session started.
All this is possible because attendance fees are kept ridiculously low, down to 30EUR for a university student. It is also possible because everything is so smoothly arranged and easily accesible. Four capitals are within two hours of driving distance - and people do come from the neighboring countries as well as from Brussels and other parts of Belgium. If you can't come for the entire conference, you are welcome to join in just for the evening session. The presentations are not always very special or pathbreaking, but they are hands on and relevant to the listeners everyday life.
The Gent bell-man was one of many innovative fancies at the conference. Whoever ran over time got to hear his scaring bell (and no one heard the speaker anymore).
With all this easy-to-reach and relevance, you could argue that 170 persons on the attendance list is a poor figure in such a densely populated corner of Europe. Then you must remember that competition increases when there are more people around. Belgium alone has two major market research associations arranging conferences and it is never far to events in Holland, France, Germany and the UK. Furthermore: 170 persons means sold out and this is the largest conference venue in Gent so there is nowhere else to move in the city.
Yes, attendance figures did pick up considerably in the evening.
Not more people than this also means a chance to interact with most people present and to have a good overview of the event. The event is not a giant elephant you couldn't master!
Baqmars own photographer took far better pictures than I did, but I am pretty sure I posted mine quicker! For whatever that is worth...
As I said in the outset, the Baqmar team is pushing the Reset button for conference arranging and they are doing it by refusing to see limitations. Long complex serious sessions are intertwined with 60 second-short farcical sponsor presentations. They gladly mix the live conference with a frenetic twitter acitivity. A week ago they came up with the idea of recording all sessions on video and today the presentations are live-streamed to Baqmars 50 volunteer bloggers around the world. Next year the entire conference might be broadcasted live over the internet for paying virtual delegates.
Rijn Vogelaar demonstrated why face-to-face meetings and conferences are still needed. His appearance at the NewMR virtual festival last week was okay, but not much more. At Baqmar he was glowing from the stage and had the audience eating from his hands.
This option could be good to have at hand if the worst nightmare of the organising committee comes true again: snow! Last year, delegates from Brussels got so surprised and frightened by a sudden snowfall, that they forgot to come to the conference. Luckily, this year it rained.
Niels Schillewaert spoke mostly about movies but still made it relevant to MR somehow. The man's a genius.